Hooking Up, Making Love and Messing Up

Posted: April 28, 2015 in Masculinity, Relationships

We chose to begin our exploration of hegemonic masculinity and our attempt to reimagine manhood by critically looking at the mainstream, at where many of us are at. We also chose to focus on what many of us often view as intimate and individual behavioral patterns, and think about them as part of generalized societal scripts.

On our first meeting we read two book chapter on Hooking Up. The first, by Carlos Andrés Gómez, a poet, actor, and writer  and the second by  Michael Kimmel, a leading scholar on men and masculinity.

Gomez, Carlos A. (2012) Sex: Hooking Up, Making Love and Messing Up. In Man Up: Reimagining Modern Manhood. Pp:97-138. New York: Gotham Books.

Kimmel, Michael. (2008) Hooking Up: Sex in Guyland. In Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. Pp: 190-216. New York: Harper.

And talked about an inspiring first kiss  🙂

 

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Comments
  1. 3d67jonathan says:

    Kimmel is always a pleasure to read, of course. He is practically the single pillar upon which healthy masculinity and male behavior is standing. Gomez, however, is a very good writer, and although his writing is not academic, it is nevertheless a very powerful example of what Kimmel is talking about. Then again, I feel as though any man, young or old, will be able to relate to at least some part of what he discusses.

    Healthy intimate relationships hinge on a clear understanding of one another, on clear communication, respect and a mutual desire to make the other person happy. I have seen so many unhappy relationships where one partner or the other is all about their own happiness, rather than the happiness of their partner. That is not to say that one should be only concerned with your partner, but if both partners give equally, and take equally, that is the optimum. I digress…

    The most important thing that I’ve taken from the whole discussion, really, is still that “Equality does not mean ‘Sameness'”. I’ve really liked that idea ever since I came across it some time this year. Equal treatment does not mean that we treat everyone the same. It means that we give each person the optimum opportunity for success based on their own unique circumstance. This, unfortunately, negates the possibility of tidy “one solution fits all” type fixes, but really, everyone is the same, in that everyone is different, and that needs to be taken into account.

    Take, for example, the way we’re treating men and women. In trying to achieve gender equality, too many people focus on trying to treat men and women the same, or making men and women the same, when that is not really possible, whether that be biologically (having the same number of bathrooms, or size of bathroom, for women, is just not practical, as using the restroom takes longer due to biological differences), or emotional (everyone has their own emotional history, regardless of gender, though the genders are socialized differently in how they respond to stimuli).

    In other aspects, the different practical application of the vagueness of “hooking up”, and what that means and entails, as it is used by the (in this case) two genders studied (it having been simplified to ‘male’ or ‘female’), and understanding how in both cases, people use the vagueness as a form of ‘reputation protection’, but in opposite ways; men hope that people will assume that intercourse happened, and women hope people will assume that it did not, thus protecting their ‘reputation’. Problematically, this emphasized that while we are operating in what is assumed to be a more liberal setting, the same old gendered expectations are still in place, just with a somewhat more risque dressing; girls are still supposed to be virtuous, but they can use whatever excuses they want to hide what may have happened, be that intoxication, or simply avoiding the issue, while men are still hoping to attain a reputation of copulation with as many girls as possible.

    The unfortunate immaturity of the relationships that form through this is quite distressing. These are formative years in maturation of relationships from that of children to that of adults, and yet the quality of the relationships is being warped by all manner of influences, be that a lack of education from parents, or misinformation gained from pornography or peers (both TERRIBLE sources of education on this subject, sadly). I cannot help but wonder if adults would be having far more successful, healthy and happy relationships now if they had not had such a confusing introduction into the sphere of adult relationships when they were in their late teens, and it makes me worry that as time progresses, and the prevalence of the internet and pornography makes it more and more common, and children are less likely to get the information from parents (for whatever reason)… it does not paint a pretty picture.

    Really fun reading group, look forward to the next one!

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    • Taltal says:

      It is fascinating—and a bit frightening—to witness how what we tend to perceive as intimate and individual behavioral patterns are structured by greater societal scripts.

      This meeting offered us two perspectives on contemporary mainstream patterns of intimate hetrosexual relationship. The first, by Michael Kimmel, is based on an extensive research project, The Online College Social Life Survey, as well as in-depth interviews conducted by the author. Kimmel highlights a key aspect of the hook-up culture—its vagueness—and several of its implications. First, we learn how a practice that is presented as spontaneous is actually deeply scripted, with very clear expectations. Second, these expectations are gender dependent, i.e. the same practice is viewed and experienced differently by the young wo/men who practice them together. For women, it represents a path for a serious, exclusive, committed relationship, while for men it centers on male-bonding and avoiding a serious relationship as well as other aspects of adulthood and responsibility. Third, while portrayed as a contemporary, liberal practice, aiming to maximize individuals’ freedom, it mostly reproduces conservative social structures. The vagueness serves and helps to reproduce the “old fashion” sexual double standard. Being vague about the nature of what actually happened between two sexually active young adults, helps young women to “protect their reputation” as sexually not active, and young men to “enhance their reputation” as sexually active. Such practice, Kimmel illustrates, also represents adhering to the neoliberal capitalist system, in which relationships and the commitments they entail come—at best—second to the working world.

      Kimmel’s chapter also emphasizes several potential implications of this practice: The potential for misinterpretation and violence that the use of alcohol (key component of hooking up) can lead to, aggravation of insecurity and fear of intimacy, as well as experiences of unsatisfying, even bad sex. Overall, he claims, hooking up does not prepare guys for a committed intimate relationship they actually want.

      While Kimmel’s analysis of hooking up is based on a research of college experiences, Gomez’s personal narrative represents the extent of his lived relationship-experiences, starting with his experiences as a child and continuing into his post university life. Unlike Kimmel’s work that uncovers the various paradoxes and scripts embedded within the hooking up practice, Gomez’s work highlights the social mechanisms that shape such behaviors and conditions young North American men to behave in certain ways. It is compelling to witness how a young, sensitive, and caring young man is socially pushed to pursue intimacy through practices he finds problematic socially and not satisfying personally. It is further fascinating to witness the personal strength needed to challenge these expectations and search for a less gender scripted modes to negotiate and envision relationships. In other words, it takes a lot of work and courage to unlearn these scripts and find the strength to what seems to be a more authentic inclination.

      Gomez’s personal account, while introducing us to the power of external gendered scripts, also offers some positive prospect. Realizing that many of us are unsatisfied with the scripts externally ascribed to us, is the first step to changing them. Maintaining such conversations and highlighting alternative options are crucial for transforming these human-made social conventions.

      Like

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