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The more we talked about it, the more I detected both wistfulness and anxiety among the students over the thought of graduating without having developed the basic social courage to go on a date. When my faculty friends and I first decided to give a talk on dating and relationships, we met for weeks ahead of time, trying to anticipate all the controversial questions that might come up.We thought, “They are going to ask us when they should have sex.” When the Q&A period started, we were on pins and needles expecting difficult questions that might be pointed and controversial. I’ll never forget the girl who stood up and asked, “How would you ask someone out on a date?The ebb and flow into the hookup scene is motivated largely by a desire for a connection, but it is a desire that is hampered by a lack of courage.The difficult thing is having the simple courage to ask somebody if he or she would want to sit down for an hour and talk.Studies bear this out: Students step in and out of the hookup scene.That scene is different for freshmen compared to seniors, for first-year women compared to first-year men, for first-semester sophomores compared to second-semester sophomores, many of whom are planning to go abroad for their junior year.” Another woman stood up and said, “You talk about sending signals, and I think I am sending signals all the time, but I have no idea if anyone can read them.” A young man from across the auditorium said loudly, “We can’t read them.” It was a fun exchange in which students were speaking to each other about very practical things.We know the statistics: Students on college campuses are having sex.
At this point I started offering definitions of Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 dates.About seven or eight years ago, I moderated a student panel on faith, and after the event the students and I talked about graduation and jobs and what they liked or didn’t like about Boston College.Toward the end of the evening, I asked about relationships. Did they feel like they had to break up before graduation or were they planning to date long distance? All these students were bright, intelligent and extroverted. In another era, they would have been actively dating, but all of them reported that they had not dated at all while at college. I pressed them on the matter, and we started talking about the hookup culture.” I started to answer abstractly and philosophically.
Holding a notebook, she stopped me and said, “No—what are the words?” The questions are about courage, about making yourself vulnerable, about risky acts of relationship.