Among women who are seniors at college, only 50 percent have been asked out on a date more than six times during their college career. Approximately one third have been asked out on two dates or less.
These are some of the findings highlighted in the 2001 report, “Hooking Up, Hanging Out, and Hoping for Mr. Right: College Women on Dating and Mating Today.” According to the report’s investigators, Norval Glenn and Elizabeth Marquardt, dating has all but disappeared from popular culture. In its place is a “hookup” culture that allows young people to still have sex without any relationship strings attached.
According to the report, 40 percent of college women admitted to hooking up with a young man for casual sex. Ten percent had done it more than six times. Some 91 percent said hookups occurred “very often” or “fairly often” at their school.
The 20th-century custom of dating began in the years between World Wars i and ii. Back then, a guy’s popularity in high school was largely determined by how many different gals he could take out on a date—but not have sex with. Dating widely was seen as the popular thing to do.
After World War ii, a number of factors helped lower these standards. Single women outnumbered the men because of wartime casualties. An avalanche of sex knowledge descended on the American public in the form of books, magazines and articles—all of it missing God’s instruction on the subject. Female magazines frightened women into thinking they might never marry. Thus, the average age for girls to marry plummeted. In 1959, nearly half of all new brides were under 19.
As the median marriage age dropped, the custom of dating changed too—more and more young people opted for exclusive dating, or “going steady,” as opposed to dating widely. Human nature being what it is, once this custom took root among young adults, it wasn’t long before younger teens started pairing off.
As Herbert Armstrong wrote in The Missing Dimension in Sex, “The very familiarity of steady dating makes it easier for the boy to make bolder advances in ‘necking,’ and then going on further into sexual intercourse. It makes it more difficult for the girl to say ‘no.’ It tends to lower bars of resistance, and increases the temptation to carry intimacies to the limit.”
The sexual revolution made matters worse. During the 1960s and ’70s, marriage was no longer seen as the primary objective of steady dating—now it was sex. And as sex became more widely available, it further pressured young people to have sex earlier on in the dating process—perhaps after the first or second date.
Now we’re at the point where dating has become obsolete. Indeed, the above-mentioned report found that “no term for interactions between college women and men holds more ambiguity, and reflects more confusion, than the word dating.” Young people today are entering the marriage union with little or no dating experience—at least not the kind that God encourages.
Much has been written, and not just in the pages of this magazine, about the disastrous decline of marriage and family in our society and its many causes—weak men, feminism, working moms, deadbeat dads, parental selfishness, lust and no-fault divorce, among others.
Precious little, however, has been written about the single greatest cause of our family breakdown: ungodly dating practices. For God’s perspective on dating, marriage and sex, request our free book The Missing Dimension in Sex.