Yesterday, Katie J.M. Baker of Jezebel called our attention to an op-ed published in University of Michigan's campus paper by senior Jeffrey McMahon. In it, McMahon naively suggests that women on campus need to be protected from hook-up culture by men. He writes:
Popular media tells us that using women and putting notches on our bedposts make us real men. It's no longer honorable for men to consider women precious and something to be honored and cherished rather than possessed and used. Commitment is for fools and old-fashioned folks. Who needs commitment when we can have it little by little each weekend? Are we so void of hope for a consistent love that we'll settle for scraps from the table?
Men, the women on campus are all vulnerable. They're away from their homes and families and are now in our care. So far we've done nothing but put them in harm's way and exploit them. It's time to take a stand and become real men.
So, McMahon's take on gender roles is slightly problematic. Women on campus are not deer on the wrong end of a shotgun, nor is their well-being the responsibility of their male peers. Although there's something sort of sweet and innocent about his piece – he considers himself an expert in “hook-up culture” because he “slept with four different women during my first three years on campus,” and the notion of taking care and being taken care of in relationships is certainly on point – the article serves as a reminder that plenty of people still don't want women on equal footing as men when it comes to our sexuality.
McMahon's main argument is that women on campus have gotten swept up in meaningless hook-ups, much to the ladies' detriment. The most obvious point that this overlooks is that sometimes, women also just want to fuck. Sometimes we want to go out, prowl, find a dude or another lady, and drag that dude or lady home with us for the night.
But this is hardly breaking news. The fact that women have sex drives has been documented ad nauseam for decades now. We've all seen “Sex and the City?” Yes? Samantha? OK.
What's more distressing about McMahon's admittedly well-intentioned article is that he openly acknowledges that during his wild years – the three years during which he slept with four different women – he learned something about himself, about his desires, about what he wants and what he doesn't want. He writes:
I subscribed to this so-called “Hook-up Culture.” As an underclassman, if you found me out on a Saturday night, I'd be the one holding a Gatorade bottle full of vodka coming home drunk and trying to remember the name of the girl that I just made out with…I've been there. I've experienced that life and I know how it feels. Having been through it all, it pains me to hear women on campus resigning to that lifestyle or even choosing it.
By suggesting that women should refrain from hooking up, McMahon is saying that women should not only be pure of body, but that we should somehow be pure of mind by avoiding learning any real life lessons – that when we settle down, if we settle down, we should be empty vessels into which our menfolk can pour their wisdom.
Putting aside for a moment that this is a hugely antiquated and sexist idea, McMahon has actually stumbled upon an important point: The mistakes we make when we're young – or the hook-ups that actually aren't mistakes – can provide valuable insight later on into how we want to conduct ourselves in relationships. Do we want to have sex right away? What kind of sex do we like? Are we comfortable with one-night stands or would we prefer to go out on three dates and then tumble into bed together? How do all of these experiences make us feel about ourselves, our relationships and place in the world?
They're all good questions, and it's unfortunate that McMahon, or anyone else, would think that only men should find answers to them. The better anyone knows themselves – male or female – the more satisfying relationships they'll have, and the more confident they'll be making their way through life.
So sally forth, ladies and gents, and hook up or don't hook up – and in the end, when you find the person you want to be with, be glad that they figured their shit out before they got to you.