Healthy Sexuality in Young Adulthood: The Bell Tolls for Thee

Anyone privy to social media has witnessed evidence of how times have changed in the dating world. Courtship is almost nonexistent for today’s youth. Technological advances have made casual dating and hook-ups as accessible as ordering pizza. The culture of our youth has been gradually shifting since the Sexual Revolution; one of the key markers: marriage is often pushed back until one’s 30’s. Unfortunately, the viewpoint held by many young adults is that committed relationships imply that one must settle down. “Hook-ups” seem to be more than a trend; it is the official way emerging adults are “dating”.

Convenience allows for quick access to express physical sexual pleasure; however, the psychological toll is devastating. Kinsey Institute researcher Justin Garcia and his team from Binghamton University concluded that “Hookups pose a significant threat to the physical and psychological health of these young individuals”. Garcia and his team investigated the unintended emotional consequences of short-term sexual relationships; their results are shocking, although they should not be surprising.

Generally speaking, short-term encounters (especially if they are frequent) pose huge risks to all parties involved. In regard to physical health – STD’s are the primary concern; unintended pregnancies follow closely behind. Mental health is weakened and damaged, often due to loneliness and the resulting depression or anxiety that stems from a sense of meaninglessness. Depression prevalence is higher among those who partake in casual relationships rather than long-term committed relationships. Garcia’s team reported other common reactions that occur as a result of this life style, including regret, disappointment, confusion, embarrassment, guilt, and low self-esteem.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Garcia found that a plurality of men considers short-term relationships to be positive, while for women, it is seen as a mixed bag—both negative and positive. Mentally, women often report that short term relationships or hook-ups violate their private, subjective standards. Ironically, Garcia’s team reported that both men and women experience “feelings that tend to be more positive before and during a hookup, and more negative afterward”.  Kinda like that second slice of pie after the holiday feast.

Casual encounters tend to fuel the narcissistic tendencies that plague today’s youth. It seems as though the “selfie-culture” that took root over the last few years has crept into the dating scene. It would appear courtship and courting rules no longer apply. Most adolescents and young adults don’t even know what “courting” is.

A parent’s role in this arena of life is critical. Parents of adolescents and even young adults should not abdicate their roles as counselors, cheerleaders, and support system. Do not forget that you are the Alpha parent; it is your responsibility to educate your children in order to help them make wise independent decisions. Of course, having these types of conversations with your older children and teens is uncomfortable, awkward, even torturous. However, they are critical. Stay informed about your children’s lives and help them manage them. Mainstream culture should not be the primary parent, preparing your child for adulthood. That remains your solemn duty until well into young adulthood.

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