Daring to Date

How a New Old Script Is Recivilizing Boy Meets Girl

After Benjamin Nolot finished making Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, his first film on international sex trafficking, he found himself haunted by one question: What kind of society produces men willing to buy a woman or child for sex? So for his follow-up film he turned his attention to the sex industry. His plan was to include a short spring-break scene capturing young adults' attitudes about sex. But what he saw during spring break reshaped the entire project. The result, Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution, squarely centers on college students on spring break.

Nolot and his crew ventured right into the bedlam and started asking questions. What is spring break about? "A lot of naked people." "Tryna get laid." And alcohol, lots of alcohol.

What does love mean to you? "Blech, no love. Yech," said a bikini-clad brunette giving the thumbs-down sign. "Love is not real," said another. "It's like this fictitious thing that society invents so you can have sex with someone," said a third. "Our generation has given up on love."

What does sex mean to you? "Sex is nothing anymore; it's horrible. Sex doesn't mean anything," said Loden, who wears a big cross necklace and moves effortlessly among girls' bodies, getting kisses and grinds. "It's about the number, hahaha," laughs Shay, clearly the stud of his dude squad. It could be three or four a night, and it's better if she's a virgin. "Everybody likes a challenge, and a virgin offers that," he added after showing off the bloodstain from last night's shag.

Sexual Nihilism

Ambivalent, meaningless, random sex for whatever sense of conquest or pleasure you can get - these are the sad new sexual norms being adopted by the ostensible leaders of tomorrow. But what really made Nolot pivot to focus on spring break was the sexual coercion and violence he saw. "Girls are nothing but panty-droppers," said a clean-cut-looking beau on the beach. "You give them a couple of Percocets, a Vicodin, and a beer, and the panties drop. It's nice!" Several other safe-looking boys were similarly crass, talking about how girls were the trinkets by which they got their spring break thrills. It doesn't take a journalism degree to see a veritable sea of #MeToo moments materializing right under the noonday sun. Lord only knows how bad things got under cover of night.

Some of the girls seem wholly on board with the animalism of it all, but many aren't. "I just don't want to have sex," said the deflowered virgin when Shay called the next day for a repeat. But within seconds, she gave in, "Okay, I'm sure we can probably work that out."

This raises some interesting questions: Why are otherwise intelligent young people giving themselves over to such sexual nihilism? Why are they even there in the first place? "It's easier to find a f***buddy than a boyfriend," one girl explained matter-of-factly. "Exactly!" echoed another sitting next to her on the sand.

Sadly, it appears they don't know any other way to go about relationships with the opposite sex.

The Dating Project

Dr. Kerry Cronin came to a similar conclusion. About ten years ago, the philosophy professor at Boston College realized her students didn't date anymore. When she found out more about hookup culture, she started encouraging them to consider an alternative: Why not go on dates?

To her utter surprise, they didn't know how to do that. What exactly is a date? How do you ask someone out? What do you do on a date? What do you talk about? It wasn't that they didn't want to. The whole model of how to go on a date was gone. They didn't even know where to start.

So she turned it into an assignment. Like any good teacher, she defined the terms and provided structure for carrying it out. She identified three levels of dating, with parameters for each so that students could learn steps for building a healthy relationship. The requirements for a "Level 1" date include the following:

  • You must ask in person. (Girls as well as boys may do the asking.) Have a suggested plan before asking—coffee or ice cream, for example.
  • If you ask, you pay. Spend no more than ten dollars.
  • Have three to four information-gathering questions ready. Do not go to a movie. The point is to find out something about the person.
  • There should be no physical contact beyond an "A-frame" hug (shoulders may touch, but little beyond that).
  • The date should last no longer than 90 minutes, 60-75 if it's going especially well.

Cronin became known as "The Dating Professor," and after several years of coaching students in the art of dating, she teamed up with producer Megan Harrington to make The Dating Project, a feature-length film that looks at single life and the dating paradigm through the eyes of several singles ranging from college age to the forties.

Cronin had a hunch that people were dissatisfied with the hookup culture but didn't know how to break out of it. And from the comments of The Dating Project participants, it appears she was right. Matt, one of her students, asked a girl out and said it "felt really good afterward"—not just the date itself, but the whole exercise, beginning with the forethought and taking the initiative. Shenzi, also a student, said that while asking someone out was scary at first, following the structure helped her learn to discern between merely being attracted to someone and getting to know him as a person. "I think I had bought into the hookup culture more than I realized," she said afterward.

Chris, a never-married actor in his forties, had more insightful reflections. After taking a circumspect look at his dating life, he saw how focusing on the physical without getting to know what a woman was all about—what she thought about marriage, kids, life, or religion, for example—was really a mark of immaturity. He realized that avoiding commitment because it felt too limiting ended up, paradoxically, becoming limiting. "The act of committing causes you to go deeper," he explained. And he found that satisfying. "It just feels more strong, more like a man."

Toward Humanity

Acting like toddlers or animals in a spring break jungle is easy. But civilizing the jungle, like civilizing toddlers, will be hard. Following the dating protocol called for a measure of social courage that some of The Dating Project participants had never before mustered. They risked rejection. They had to interact in the light. They had to engage in one-on-one, unmediated conversation, which required the give-and-take of listening and articulating thoughts on the fly. It was hard. But these are some of the civilizing disciplines that distinguish humans from animals and adults from children.

Self-reflection is also a trait unique to adult men and women. A seed for The Dating Project was sown when Cronin had the common sense simply to reflect back to her students what they were saying and doing. "So, you're willing to make out with somebody, take off some of your clothes, or all your clothes, do some stuff that's very intimate—and that's more casual than going for a cup of coffee with someone?" Once she said it out loud, they would see how crazy and nonsensical it was.

Reexamining their relational patterns, then, and following a more civilized relational protocol, turned into something of a crucible through which they grew into more mature men and women. And you can see the joy on their faces as they talk about it. It's never too late to date, and would-be leaders of tomorrow would do well to try this new old paradigm. Not all of their generation has given up on love, after all.

 is Deputy Editor of Salvo and writes on apologetics and matters of faith.

This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #46, Fall 2018 Copyright © 2024 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo46/daring-to-date


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