My review of Donna Freitas’ book The End of Sex

“Men and women both spoke of how they wanted to be made to feel special, to experience what 10814548it was like when someone else wanted to know everything about them. They yearned for someone to make an effort to create a beautiful setting in which such knowing and being known could occur, for someone who would set aside lavish amounts of time for this to take place. That women and men harbor secret wishes for what appear to be the old-fashioned trappings of romance seem symptomatic of hookup culture’s failings. What they want is everything that hookup culture leaves out.”  from chapter 8 “Opting Out of the Hookup Culture via The Date”

Donna Freitas has handed parents, clergy, college and high school faculty, church youth ministers, and all caring and concerned adults a book to sit and read – alone but more important with a group – then formulate a plan to help young adults deal with the issue of sex in their lives whether or not they agree with those young adults’ decisions on how they will respond after the fact. The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving A Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfullfilled, and Confused About Intimacy (Basic Books) is a book that made me mad at times, confused at others, saying “Seriously? Really? Seriously?,” at other points but in the end reminded me, as the father of two teenage boys and a pastor in the Protestant tradition that I need to help my teens, and other teens, think long and hard about sex, intimacy, and romance because they are part of the human experience not just in college but throughout adulthood.

Freitas’ book begins with a survey of the ‘hookup world’ of college and university life that she culls from personal and on-line interviews with college and university students at both secular and religious institutions. It is a confusing world, it seems, in which feelings about hooking up (which is anything from kissing to full genital intercourse without a desire for a commitment beyond the hookup ) is the common norm of university life today.

She then goes on to address the role that alcohol plays in the dynamic of hook up culture which she calls “the X factor… the ingredient that students turn to in order to overcome their hesitation.” This is followed by a chapter in which the words “ambivalent and uncomfortable” describe the reactions of college women and men to the hook up culture in which, it is assumed, people have had sex before they arrive at college and will have sex in college.

Then Freitas turns to a troubling aspect of the hook up culture called “Theme Parties” (weekend parties) where it is assumed that men hold the power positions and the women “ho” themselves as they act out themes common in contemporary porn. Then she turns to theme of men and manhood (“guyland” in the book) and a wonderful chapter on the real feelings of college men about their hook up experiences. Finally she turns to a discussion of virginity in the concluding context and chapters of opting out of the hook up culture and a re visioning the value and importance of abstinence as well as reviving the role of dating as means of helping young adults rethink hookups. The result is a very challenging but essential reading about the personal lives of college and university students and the truly ambivalent feelings they have about sex today.

Full of insightful thoughts and quotes, one does not have to agree with Freitas and her views and I certainly do not on several fronts, but The End of Sex is a book that forces the reader to consider how they might help a young adult they know learn how to navigate the very real and, I think, disconcerting and even scary, world of relationships. She concludes her book with some suggestions in this regard.

This book, in my opinion, is more than just about sex. It is about life, love, and relationships. It is a hard hitting assessment of contemporary culture and of young people who are awash in a sea of mixed messages and loneliness about the most intimate aspect of human life.

I rate this book a “great” read.

Note: I received a galley copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.