No, She Can’t Play That Game Either

The NYTimes has an article about the effect of the college hook-up culture on young women and their potential for happiness in life and relationships.  It is a poignant and painful look at what happens to a culture when it defines itself by its ability to produce instead of the quality of its character and depth of its relationships.

The title of the article is, “Sex on Campus:  She Can Play That Game Too.”  The implication, of course, is that men have been having casual sex for centuries and its worked out OK for them, certainly women can succeed at the same game.  The problem is, it never really worked for men and it isn’t working for women either.  The incidence of casual sex is inversely proportional to the strength of attachment you experienced in childhood.  The less attachment you had as a kid to your parents, the more likely it is that you will exhibit promiscuous behavior in adolescence.  The reverse is also true.  The stronger and more secure attachment you had to your parents the more likely it is that you will avoid promiscuity in adolescence (as well as many other high-risk behavior).  We can now predict the level of life and relationship satisfaction toddlers will have in adulthood based upon the amount of affection they received as toddlers.  Extravagant affection in toddlerhood predicts healthier life and relationship skills in adulthood.

As I argue in Beyond the Birds and the Bees:  Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Children, the reason men have historically been more sexually promiscuous was that, traditionally, parents were afraid that attachment would sissify boys.  Girl and boy babies would receive about the same amount of affection, cuddling and coddling, until toddlerhood, after which girls continued to receive about the same amount of care and boys would be weaned from much of that for fear of impairing their masculinity.  The effect, of course, was to cause men to repress those touch needs until they reached adolescence when they could get all their touch needs met–as long as they met them through manly displays of sexual promiscuity.

And then a funny thing happened on the way to the nursery.   Suddenly, moms started going back to work at the same rate as dads.  Girl and boy babies both found themselves in daycare as early as 6 weeks.  Girl and boy toddlers found themselves both struggling to maintain attachment with parents who were too busy, or too absent, or just divorced and not present.  Flash forward to young adulthood, and the narrative of the male pursuer and the virginal female no longer holds.  Femininity doesn’t favor virginity.  Attachment does.  As girl and boy children became similarly detached, they both became similarly inclined to meaningless sexual relationships and the pursuit of accomplishment over actualization.  For years, men have paid the price of this inheritance with a poor ability to connect with others and early death.  Now women get to share the joy too.

You’ve come a long way, baby.

Read the article. As you do, see if you can’t hear  Jesus’ words on the road to Calvary.  “Weep not for me, but for your children.”

If you would like to discover how to raise children who have the strength to resist the cultural tide, check out Beyond the Birds and the Bees:  Raising Whole and Holy Kids.


About Dr. Greg

Dr. Gregory Popcak directs the Pastoral Solutions Institute, an organization dedicated to helping Catholics find faith-filled solutions to marriage, family, and personal problems. Together with his wife, Lisa, he hosts More2Life Radio. He is the author of over a dozen books integrating psychological insights with our Catholic faith. For more info about books, tele-counseling and other resources, visit

  • TheodoreSeeber

    I must admit, if I didn’t know my son was such a strong heterosexual (had his first girlfriend in kindergarten, and while he’s special needs and doesn’t quite know details yet, at least knows that heterosexuality is the way babies are born), I’d be worried. You see, due to unemployment on my part, my son bonded to me much more strongly than he did to his mother.

    Even when I became employed, I worked four nines and a four to be able to have Friday Afternoon Daddy Nap Time.

    To this day, he needs his “Daddy time” every night, at age 10. And except for rare events, I make sure he gets it.

  • I_M_Forman

    I have heard about the New York Times article however I don’t read the Times since I feel that they are complicit in the downhill spiral that culture is going through at this time because of this new paganism that goes under the name secular humanism. Perhaps there are other things about the hook up culture that should be thrown out there – unexpected pregnancies which will lead to abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, experimentation with same-sex partners and the guilt, unsettlement and expectations that accompany it afterward or just the plain cheapening of one self after something as important as sex. So much for the freedom that the contraceptive sex mentality was supposed to bring men and women. Hey, like it or not, Pope Paul VI called it right on this one.

  • Thomas Gallagher

    One senses intuitively that you are absolutely right about weak bonds of affection and attachment and their impact, and it’s true of course that the trend for 60 years or more has been for women to return to full-time work. One senses that this abandonment of domestic duty by women has had wide ramifications on the family, not the least on the health of the Domestic Church. Mothers who fail to spend a lot of time with toddlers deprive them of nurturing, not just in ordinary human affection but also in their experience of their Faith and the active life of their own local parish of the Domestic Church–viz. the family. But I’m sure, Dr. Popcak, that you know far better than I that human behavior is astonishingly complex. Sexual promiscuity among young women has cultural and social roots as well as strictly psychological ones. The ideology of Feminism is a cultural force as well as a psychological one, and to neglect this is to fail to diagnose the problem correctly. This generation of young women, in the Western world and especially among the upper-middle class women who live the campus culture in universities all over the West, has collectively reached what sociologists of religion like Rodney Stark call “the tipping point.” The Feminist notion of woman’s autonomy, the concomitant notion that women should behave like men if they choose to do so, and the ready availability of abortion on demand, have influenced more and more young women to abandon chastity. Large enough numbers of them have now abandoned it to make the culture “tip over” into a culture of promiscuity. What young women do not understand, of course, is that young men, once they see they can “get the milk without having to pay the cow,” follow the natural and normal male biological imperative to sleep with as many women as possible. This imperative, down through the centuries, has had to be restrained by the civilizing role of women. Now that women have abandoned their civilizing mission, marriage is being abandoned, and with it the intact family. God help us all.

  • CRS

    Is this where I poke my head in, shout “That’s why I’m for Attachment-Parenting,” giggle, and leave? ‘Cause if so, I just did. ;-)

  • GoodCatholicGirl

    This was the subject of a book recently reviewed in the Wall Street Journal. What I found especially alarming was the “hook up culture” is alive and well in Catholic colleges. I would imagine that if a young person chose to attend a Catholic college, they would have higher morals but that seems not to be the case.