GWIN: Against objectification
Off the Hook responds to The Cavalier Daily’s Monday editorial on ‘hook-up culture’
My name is Mirenda Gwin, and I am the co-president of the club Off the Hook, perhaps one of the most vilified organizations at U.Va. as of Monday, when this article was published by The Cavalier Daily.
After reading “Virginia and Virginity,” which misquoted and misrepresented Off the Hook, even I, as president of Off the Hook, became concerned with how we represent ourselves on Grounds.
With further thought, however, I came to this conclusion: social conservatism is so incredibly unpopular on college campuses that self-professed “open-minded” students have difficulty tolerating an alternative to having sex. The managing board (MB) said several times in its article that Off the Hook is free to have its own beliefs regarding abstinence, but that this view is too ‘austere’ to attract a big following.
The editorial failed to mention that one of our panelists, Liz Minneman, said she was not committed to saving sex for marriage, but rather for a committed relationship. We put a diverse group of students on the panel in an effort to solidly back our main point that the detrimental aspects of the hookup culture far outweigh the positives.
Panelist Elliot Campbell, a fourth-year College student, mentioned that statistics show divorce rates are higher when one or both partners were sexually active before marriage. According to the April issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family, research found that “31 percent of women who had sex for the first time as teens divorced within five years and 47 percent divorced within 10 years. The divorce rate for women who delayed sex until adulthood was far lower: 15 percent at five years, and 27 percent at 10 years.”
Rather than using the words “austere” and “stark” to describe aspects of Off the Hook’s goals, more appropriate descriptions might include “necessary while unpopular” and “a viable alternative to sexual activity.”
In fact, according to the same opinion piece in the Cavalier Daily, one problem with hooking up is that “they [people participating in the culture] do not know how to signal, in respectful ways, that they are interested only in sex.” A couple questions arise upon reading this statement. How is a desire only for the physical attributes of another’s body respecting the entirety of his or her dignity? To fully respect another is also to care for the feelings, emotions and overall well-being of that person.
Off the Hook exists to draw awareness to the notion that a sole interest in sex does not respect either oneself or one’s partner. The essence of a hookup is a no-strings attached, emotionless encounter which is not a relationship at all, as neither party has respectfully taken into account the feelings of the other. I would wager that the MB, and the entire Cavalier Daily, rejects the objectification of men and women, but this position contradicts the above statement about the inability of partners in a hookup to signal their desire only for sex. To enter into a relationship with no regard for anything other than one’s own physical satisfaction is the definition of the sexual objectification of another for personal gain.
Therefore, the following claim by Off the Hook is not austere when we say that “Sex outside of marriage is often physically and emotionally detrimental…” The conclusion to the Cavalier Daily article, which states that people should “honor the humanity of their sexual partners,” is admirable, but to value another only for his or her body is to disrespect and dishonor his or her humanity.
The MB states that “A better route is to ask: how can we instill attitudes that permit people to pursue pleasure freely, but in a way that minimizes hurt feelings and harm to others?” At Off the Hook, we believe that pleasure in a relationship does not necessarily derive from sex; one can have healthy, happy relationships based on love, friendship, and mutual respect that is not grounded in sex.
The goal of Off the Hook is not to repress human sexuality or to act as a punitive authority figure that judges anyone who dares to cross the line and get physical in a relationship. In fact, Off the Hook is a viable and vibrant group whose promotion of healthy sexuality should not be overlooked. We do support the idea that there is value in the choice to reserve sex, if not for marriage, for a long-term relationship. I would go so far to say that one is not fully respected when he or she is desired only for sex; to suggest that this kind of sexual objectification could adequately honor another’s humanity serves as a means to cheapen sex.
Mirenda Gwin is a third-year College student and a co-president of Off the Hook. This article appeared in a modified form in The Virginia Advocate.