The room was fuzzy and unfamiliar at first as she blinked her eyes open and tried to recall the events of the night before. Putting together the pieces she remembered a loud and overcrowded basement, red juice that was a little too sweet and a stranger that had asked her to dance. She stretched and rolled over to find the stranger sleeping soundly next to her, and it all came back to her. While her mother may not approve and somewhere deep down the morals that she was raised with threw up red flags and sounded alarms, for some reason she just could not feel guilty. Why? Because society has led her to believe that it was okay.
Today’s society not only condones the concept of recreational sex, it often encourages such promiscuous behavior among young people as a rite of passage. Decisions that would once have been considered completely immoral or unacceptable are now the norm for college students. These extreme societal changes did not happen overnight. While it is easy to blame it on this generation, it is also unfair to pin the entire moral decline on one generation when it began decades ago
“Prior to the mid-60s casual sex was frowned on from a moral perspective,” said Dr. Michael Anderson, professor of Psychology of Intimate Relationships. “But the development of the birth control pill had a profound effect. Young people no longer refrained from intercourse out of fear of pregnancy.”
When the fear of unwanted pregnancy was removed from the equation it became purely a moral issue. For the most part, families in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s held firm values whether they be based on religion or simply an attempt to keep up appearances. Although some young people at that time went away to college it was far more common for them to go right into the work force and begin their lives. Today on the other hand, young people are expected to go to college first which provides them with exposure to outside influences which makes it far easier to stray from the morals they were raised with.
“Slowly our national values changed. Alcohol and cannabis along with the pill liberated college students,” Anderson said.
As those college students of the late ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s grew up their views on recreational sex became a part of the culture. Between hippies proclaiming free love for all and the feminist movement encouraging women to express their sexuality for the first time, casual sex simply became a part of American culture.
According to Dr. Anderson the subsequent growth of the porn industry was also a deciding factor. Recreational sex facilitated a shift in the way in which individuals view intimacy. Sex became a form of entertainment rather than an expression of love. Technological advancements of the last 50 years made the distribution of explicit materials easier. The resulting proliferation of easily accessible pornography would have a dramatic effect on the society’s attitude towards sex.
“The influence of cybersex and pornography cannot be overestimated as causative factors for young people embracing recreational sex,” Anderson said. “More often than not teens who aggressively view porn tend to endorse casual, recreational attitudes toward sex.”
Even popular culture is a clear indication of just how comfortable modern society is with its sexuality. This past summer copies of “50 Shades of Grey” flew off of store shelves. The first in a trilogy of erotic novels, written by E.L. James, discusses in detail an affair between mysterious and dangerous Christian Grey and college graduate Anastasia Steele. The book caused some controversy due to its explicit descriptions of the couple’s sexual acts involving dominance, bondage, sadism and masochism.
Living in a world in which recreational sex is socially acceptable, it is not hard to understand why so many college students choose to engage in it. It allows them to receive instant gratification without thought to consequences.
“Sex has little to do with love or commitment,” Anderson said. “Intimacy and commitment are hard work. Recreational sex is like getting a reward for no investment.”
Unfortunately, what most young people who choose to engage in recreational sex fail to realize is that their decisions will have a long term negative effect on both their current and future relationships. While in college, relationships that are based purely on sex are likely to be fleeting and shallow. They will last only until one partner finds someone who they find more physically attractive.
Dr. Anderson also explained that while a lifestyle that encourages hunting for the next best thing may be exciting in college, it is likely to encourage a similar mentality later in life that will hinder successful committed relationships.
“Intimacy in adulthood has roots in earlier relationships,” Anderson said. “Promiscuity in the college years while building experience influences the development and maintenance of intimacy in one-on-one dating, cohabitation and marriage.”
Realistically, recreational sex is a part of modern culture especially on college campuses and Mason is no exception. Will it ever change? Most likely not, but maybe it is worth considering the far reaching implications of engaging in casual sex before your decisions leave you waking up next to a stranger.