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.


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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