In a world where ‘hooking up’ is normal, millennials are desperate for a real date
by Kelly Thomas
When you are head of a campus club that stands for sexual integrity and traditional marriage, you don’t win any popularity contests. Shockingly, coordinating events on the harms of pornography or the conjugal nature of marriage does not bring with it hordes of admirers from the 18-24 year-old demographic.
I have never seen so many cold shoulders as I did during my year as president of Love Saxa, Georgetown University’s chapter of the Love & Fidelity Network.
However, there was one aspect of Love Saxa’s mission that drew in even the most skeptical of my peers: the notion of dating.
“Netflix and chill”
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s no secret that the dating scene has altered radically, particularly among millennials. A romantic dinner, followed by the chivalrous walk to the door and maybe a stolen kiss, has been largely replaced by the blasé “Netflix and chill” which is polite-speak for “come over for sex devoid of commitment.”
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. My roommate was once treated to a moonlight stroll through Washington’s national monuments. My own boyfriend led me on a personalized tour of a London museum, taking in my favorite historical eras –essentially a walk through the early Christian theology rooms. Needless to say, he got a second date. (For gentlemen reading this, these are all excellent first date ideas.)
Nevertheless, broadly speaking, we as a generation have lost the “dating script” used by our parents and grandparents.
“Date” used to mean a fun night out, a chance to get dressed up and be charmingly flirtatious. Now, in the world of hookups and hangouts, going on a date is something terrifying. Men think if they ask a woman on a date they’ll be expected to be down on one knee the next week. Women panic when a man asks them out, unprepared for authentic interest that doesn’t involve swiping right on their smartphone, and they run in terror before he can carry out any more nefarious schemes. The ensuing trauma is usually sufficient to drive both sides back to their risk-free world of ambiguous connections.
Millennials’ Secret Desire
However, both men and women, in my –albeit limited- experience, are harboring a great secret: they want to know how to date, and even more, they want to go on, and be asked on, real dates — complete with sweaty palms, stomach butterflies, and the famed “fiddling of the keys” before a first kiss.
I witnessed this secret desire firsthand when I organized a ‘Bring Back the Date’ event at Georgetown University. The speaker was Boston College’s Professor Kerry Cronin, who tells her students they must ask someone out on a date over the course of her class, or risk a failing grade.
At Love Saxa, we were accustomed to small turnouts and contentious audiences. However, for this talk, I watched in shock as a packed room of students sat spellbound while Cronin relayed anecdotes, both humorous and poignant, from her “dating experiment.”
When she stopped to take questions, hands shot up, from both men and women. They wanted good first date ideas. They wanted to know the proper words to use when asking someone out. These were not the commitment-phobic men and women I had read about in social commentaries; they were sponges, soaking up her advice. I could see some taking notes, others nodding enthusiastically.
Kerry Cronin herself is Catholic, and she often gives talks in Catholic venues. However, the beauty of her message is that it is so appealing on a widespread scale, that many who hear it, even if they are not religious, are drawn in. It seems the idea of an authentic, loving relationship based primarily on emotional and spiritual connections and only secondarily on the physical is, well, compelling.
No more shouting “chastity” from the rooftops
I learned something, too. In the fight for sexual integrity on college campuses — or indeed anywhere — shouting “chastity” from the rooftops, or passing out pamphlets on the emotional and physical consequences of sex out of wedlock, is by and large an ineffective strategy.
The best way to reach people who aren’t already of a similar mindset is to appeal to a desire they already feel — even if they cannot yet name it. Merely getting others to consider that they are at least worth the time and consideration it takes to plan a proper date, is still a step in the right direction.
But that’s not all. The semester following, I was stunned to find one of our talk’s attendees authoring a column in the school newspaper. Her topic? No more unfulfilling hookup partners; she was in search of a true relationship via dating.
Now, I know next to nothing about this young woman — not even her name, as the articles were published under a pseudonym. However, I do know that when presented with the option between a casual hookup offering only meaningless sex, and a real, human relationship, she leapt at the chance to have the latter. At the time of the last column, she was happily “going steady” with a young man, and delighted by the difference.
I hope and pray that she found true fulfillment in her relationship, and that it brought her closer to God, as all good relationships should. But in the meantime, if simply learning how to date was in any small way able to help her realize her own worth when it came to the men in her life, I’ll take that as a tactical victory. Hopefully, it’s a gateway for better things to come.