How hookup culture hurts the way we talk about sex

Posted July 6

Men’s Fitness magazine just published an article that didn’t fit well with many readers. (Deseret Photo)

Men’s Fitness magazine just published an article that didn’t fit well with many readers.

The article, published in its dating advice section, had the headline: “How to turn a ‘No’ into a ‘Yes.'"

Written by Nick Savoy, the article outlined various ways that men can ignore any rejection they face from women and how they can eventually convince women to accept their advances.

All they need, he said, is determination.

"What separates the men from the boys is how you handle rejection — and how quickly you can turn things around," he wrote, according to Distractify. He added, "Plow ahead anyway."

Though on the surface this could be seen as an article that encourages persistence, Savoy wrote these tips could help men avoid rejection while out on a date, when they’re in a relationship or even “in bed.”

This didn’t sit well with readers. The response was so strong that Men’s Fitness eventually removed the “in bed” portion of the article before the entire article got taken down from its website. The magazine said the piece didn’t match editorial standards.

Social media users said the same, but with a bit more colorful language.

Writer Aura Bogado was one of the most outspoken critics of the article. She shared a few Twitter posts where she condemned it for embracing rape culture, BBC reported.

"You're advising men to force women who say no to say yes," Bogado wrote on Twitter. "This is rape culture, plain and simple."

This magazine cover is another example of American culture embracing casual sex, she said.

And since the article so casually talks about sex and treats consent as something that can be plowed over, it neglects to encourage sober and intimate ways of talking over consent, which may be damaging the way Americans view sex. Changing that cultural idea, though, could help cut back on sexual assault, experts say.

One of those experts is Leah Fessler, a recent college graduate who writes about sex, culture and gender, who recently spoke with The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf about this issue. Fessler said there seems to be a very blurry distinction right now among college campuses when it comes to sex because the United States has a hook up culture that makes people engage in casual sex, when it might not be what all Americans want.

“When environmental influences on rape and sexual assault are discussed, the focus is often on alcohol, binge drinking and Greek life facilitating excessive intoxication,” Fessler said. “But what about the less understood role played by social pressures that push students to have and promote emotionless, casual, ‘meaningless’ sex?”

Fessler said she’s met victims who have neglected to report their assaults because they’re unsure if they were actually raped because they agreed to some sexual acts. The victims felt that the casual sex culture, though, made them willing to participate in some acts, which is why they felt responsible.

“Consent plays a hefty role in this predicament; many survivors struggle to accuse their rapists as such if they consented to some or even most of a sexual engagement, but not all physical acts that occurred,” she said.

Of course, she makes it clear that there are many cases where sexual assault victims were specifically and purposefully attacked, in cases where the attacker had “sociopathic behavior and crystal clear lack of consent,” like Brock Turner, she said.

But too much sex in our culture, she said, may make it so people neglect to have honest and open conversations about consent and sex. She pointed to pornography, which seems to encourage abusive sexual attitudes that champion men over women. She said pornography discourages Americans from having open and honest conversation about sex.

“Understanding hookup culture, and questioning what may be my generation’s deeply complicated and perhaps delusional relationship with sex, will not entirely resolve campus rape,” she said. “Yet perhaps by analyzing campus sexual culture more holistically, we can understand and diagnose otherwise obscure root causes for sexual misconduct on college campuses. These cultural and perceptual changes almost certainly won’t happen unless we dare to engage this debate.”

You can see a similar mindset among married couples, too. There are married couples out here who think that sex automatically comes with a marriage, and that their partners should be willing to consent. In fact, the American Bar Association found that almost 25 percent of wives and 7.6 percent of husbands reported being raped or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse.

According to Salon, this may be because of our hookup culture. Married couples feel, too, like they can just engage in sex whenever they want. That’s why, if all of this is to be considered, it’s important for spouses to have informed conversations about consent, too.

Experts told the Wall Street Journal’s Elizabeth Bernstein that married couples should be willing to talk with their spouse in intimate ways, since that’ll help partners become more understanding of each other and how they view sex.

"Talking about sex as a personal, intimate experience with your partner is a totally different kind of talk," Barry McCarthy, a Washington, D.C., psychologist and sex therapist, told WSJ. "You have to be open to talking about what you value and your vulnerability.”

McCarthy said there’s no easy way for married couples to have these conversations. But Bernstein suggested these tips for how married couples can talk about consent:

1. Make sure you’re gentle

Bernstein said you’ll want to start talking about sex with a comforting opening line, allowing your partner to know you’re having an intimate conversation.

2. Talk about sex outside the bedroom

Bernstein said conversations about sex should happen when you’re taking a drive or having dinner, never when you’re in the bedroom.

3. If there’s a problem, don’t blame anyone

If couples are having problems when it comes to sex, they should discuss these issues openly, but not assign blame to one particular spouse.

Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret Digital Media.


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