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Teen Attitudes Toward Sex And Changing Views On Relationships

This article is part of our series on The Hookup Culture. Read more articles in the series by following the links at the end of this article.

An Expert Take On Hookup Culture

Recently, a bemused 16-year-old shared her story of attending a school-sponsored workshop on sexuality and dating. As part of the talk, the speaker—a woman in her late 30s—did a role-play in which a boy talked a girl into having sex with him by telling her that he loved her.

The speaker then asked everyone who believed the boy’s “love talk” to raise their hands. Of course, nobody did because the scene looked more like Meat Loaf’s 1978 classic song, “Paradise by The Dashboard Light,” than anything a 2013-14 teen might encounter.

Today, teen boys don’t have to try that hard. They needn’t promise love or vow exclusivity to get sex, intimacy, companionship, romance or anything else. Today, “Let’s not put a label on it,” and, “I’m not ready for a relationship,” rarely impede sexual exchange. In fact, most long-term dating relationships begin as sexual liaisons, particularly as teens leave high school and enter college or the workforce. This laissez-faire culture extends well into the mid to late 20s.

Changing Views On Relationships, From Girls and Boys

And, it’s not just the boys. Over the last 15 years, girls have become avid explorers of their own sexuality and become more willing to engage in casual sex. Some even brag that, “Girls are the new guys”—i.e., willing to express their sexuality without a relationship.

That might sound quite liberated. In fact, it was the core tenet of a Cosmo-reading generation of women: real political empowerment implies sexual empowerment. Women could and should have the same “fun and fearless” approach to their sexuality that men have taken for granted for so long. The teen girls of today are the daughters of that generation, and they see themselves as progressive.

In today’s teen dating culture, “talking” has replaced courting. Terms, like “hooking up,” “no strings attached,” and “friends with benefits” define casual coupling. The term “dating,” which used to mean testing the waters before leaping into a relationship, now means one has made the commitment to be Facebook official—or any other social media of choice.


Read more articles in our series on The Hookup Culture:

The Hookup Culture—Expert View: How to Talk to Your Teenager
The Hookup Culture—Teen View: I Wish I Had Waited
The Hookup Culture—Teen View: Hooking Up Can Be Confusing
The Hookup Culture—Parent View: I Won’t Give Up Without a Fight

Dr. Wes Crenshaw

Dr. Wes Crenshaw is a family psychologist specializing in adolescent therapy and author of  Dear Dr. Wes. Follow him @wescrenshawphd.