By Elisabeth Cervantes
I met a girl a few summers ago I will never forget. We were working as waitresses trying to get through college. Bright and bubbly, she was always smiling and throwing herself into her work. She was the picture of independence. But the glimpses of her I would see some mornings—sullen, lonely, isolated—are what struck me most.
During those times, she would come into the restaurant as if burdened with a grave secret. Often she wasn’t even scheduled to work but would sit in a corner booth at sunrise and eat breakfast alone. Her face was so different from what I had grown accustomed to: it was burdened and weary. I soon learned from a coworker that this was what she would do after hooking up with some unnamed guy. It started to make sense.
On college campuses we often hear how we should pursue freedom—especially when it comes to free expression of our sexuality. But if this is a freedom we all deserve, why does it seem to leave us so unsatisfied?
We have reached a point at which sex is strictly a business transaction. Consider this account from the New York Times:
At 11 on a weeknight earlier this year, her work finished, a slim, pretty junior at the University of Pennsylvania did what she often does when she has a little free time. She texted her regular hookup—the guy she is sleeping with but not dating. What was he up to? He texted back: Come over. So she did. They watched a little TV, had sex and went to sleep. Their relationship, she noted, is not about the meeting of two souls. “We don’t really like each other in person, sober,” she said, adding that “we literally can’t sit down and have coffee.”
This is the modern dating phenomenon. We have no time for relationships, but we still seek out sex. The desire for intimacy with another soul remains, but it is being stifled in an arrangement free of any commitment. If we were really made to seek out sex for its own sake, would that girl have spent her mornings the way she did, with such lifeless eyes?
“Our bodies and hearts are designed to work together,” J. Budziszewski reminds us in his book On the Meaning of Sex. But we are unwilling to admit this and another truth: that we can never completely abandon our humanity. We might strike at the root of the problem by acknowledging that we seek out—we long for—something more than sexual satisfaction. If my generation continues to plunge into the hookup culture, we will inevitably feel dissatisfaction, restlessness—and emptiness.
Elisabeth Cervantes recently completed an internship at the San Diego Union-Tribune.