The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

Strings Attached

A look into the social, emotional and religious implications of hookup culture

January 19, 2017

First time writing a research paper, first time driving a car and first time drafting an official resume: for many CESJDS students, high school is a time for firsts and experimentation. One way in which some students choose to push the boundaries of their comfort zones is by participating in hookup culture.

Hooking up is the practice of engaging in a physical, no-strings-attached relationship, but can mean anything from making out to having sexual intercourse. According to Assistant Director of College Guidance Kimberly Wilkins, today’s hookup culture is similar to the one that existed when Wilkins was growing up in the 1980s. The change from a culture of commitment came in the ‘50s and ‘60s during the “sexual revolution” when hooking up faded as a social taboo.

“I think [hookup culture] features prominently in certain circles in this school,” Wilkins said. “I would not say that every person here is in the hookup culture — I would not say that. And we could probably name people who wouldn’t be. But I think in certain situations, at parties, at places, there are groups of people who are doing all kinds of stuff.”

According to a survey of 140 out of JDS’ 343 high school students, 72 percent reported that they have hooked up without having sexual intercourse. Nineteen percent of respondents have had sexual intercourse, with nine percent reporting that it was in a non-committed relationship.

Although casual relationships may seem appealing at first, sophomore Justin Galitzer said they often have social and emotional repercussions. While Galitzer believes that hookups can be a positive experience for those involved, he has seen them breed drama and ruin friendships.

Fifty-three percent of survey respondents agree with Galitzer that hookup culture’s net impact on the JDS community is neither negative nor positive, but 32 percent consider it an overall negative influence and 15 percent consider it a positive. It is a common topic of conversation in Galitzer’s group of friends.

“It’s not the most important thing to discuss, definitely not the most important thing, but we’re still intrigued by the conversation,” Galitzer said. “We still bring it up all the time and that’s definitely part of the social aspect of my group.”

There are other consequences that come from hookups and the gossip surrounding them beyond just the harm they inflict on friendships. Wilkins believes that there could be self-worth issues for girls if they believe that by hooking up they have given away something “really precious.” For both genders, Wilkins said that becoming physical too quickly can cause emotional consequences, especially when the relationship ends.

“[Breaking up] hurts no matter what if you give your heart away, but if you give your body away, there’s so much associated with that,” Wilkins said. “When you’re mourning that relationship, you’re mourning what you did in that relationship.”

Another problem, senior Avital Krifcher said, is the slut-shaming that stems from hookup culture. She notes the double standard between a boy hooking up, which she says garners “congratulations and outward approval,” and a girl hooking up, which she says invites “slut-shaming or celebrating in a mocking way.”

Krifcher is not alone in this view, as 68 percent of survey respondents reported that they had experienced or witnessed slut-shaming at JDS. According to Krifcher, being labeled a “slut” can harm not only a girl’s reputation, but her self-confidence as well.

“If there’s a stigma that you’re slutty or you get around a lot, people will expect that to be who you are,” Krifcher said.

I think that at JDS, our Judaism and spirituality should play a role in our modesty and how we respect our bodies and who we are and how we put ourselves out in the world.”

— Senior Avital Krifcher

Krifcher has also seen more general judgment of people who engage in hookups. She said that while the culture does not dictate life at school, the community’s closeness and the fact that information spreads quickly can promote fear and a lack of self-esteem.

“I think that it’s really detrimental growing up in a high school where people know everything, to be thinking ‘Oh I did this this weekend, now everyone is going to know and that is going to affect my future,’” Krifcher said.

While Krifcher believes JDS’ small size promotes a prominent hookup culture, the community at large is split on its prevalence at JDS in comparison to other schools. Thirty-nine percent of survey respondents said it was less prevalent, 25 percent said it was equally prevalent, 19 percent said that hookup culture at JDS was more prevalent than at other schools and 17 percent were not sure.

While there is no consensus on the relative prominence of hookup culture, one element that differentiates JDS from other schools is its Jewish community. Krifcher said that in the context of hooking up, her religious expression was once held against her. During her freshman and sophomore years, some peers made fun of her when she expressed her Jewish observance through traditional dress.

Krifcher was chided for how her religiousness could affect her hooking up or even “touching boys.” She was excluded from conversations about hookup culture because she was deemed “too religious,” a label she finds troubling given that JDS advocates for students’ freedom to choose how they reflect their individual spirituality.

“I think that at JDS, our Judaism and spirituality should play a role in our modesty and how we respect our bodies and who we are and how we put ourselves out in the world,” Krifcher said.

Due to its many movements, there is no consensus on a Jewish view regarding relationships. Jewish text teacher Rabbi Reuvane Slater said that traditional Judaism looks at long-term relationships as a foundation for happiness in life and a closer relationship with God.

“Ideally, the physical interaction would not be something present in a high school relationship from my understanding of traditional halacha,” Slater said. “The purpose in traditional Judaism is that [relationships] should not just be only about the physical, whereas in the high school realm, it’s potentially all about the physical.”

The true goal of a Jewish relationship, Slater said, is to build a stronger connection to God. As a stable couple, two people can make a greater spiritual contribution than one, so Judaism encourages steady relationships. According to Slater, Judaism does not discourage sexual activity for purposes other than reproduction. The religion sees pleasure in sex as a positive that can help form a holier relationship, but only when the partners involved are married.

JDS’ pluralistic community differentiates it from other local Jewish day schools. Galitzer has attended both JDS and the Berman Hebrew Academy and said that Berman parents, many of whom are more orthodox in practice than those of his JDS friends, “are a lot more strict” about practices like hooking up than his JDS friends’ parents.

According to Galitzer, one way this contrast in parenting displays itself is that the hookup culture at Hebrew Academy is not as prominent as the one at JDS. Instead, there are more stable relationships, similar to those Slater described as being prevalent in traditional Judaism.

“At Hebrew Academy, the majority of my friends … aren’t [hooking up,] and if anyone has the need to, the majority of my friends actually date instead of just hooking up and I think that’s great,” Galitzer said. “In comparison to JDS, I think that here it’s more just for the fun of it, just doing it for pleasure.”

Galitzer added that he thinks JDS is more accepting of hookups, which takes a burden off of students in the school relative to those at Berman. On a larger scale, Galitzer said, opinions about hooking up vary not based on religion or schooling, but on personal beliefs.

“Everyone has different views in the world, so just like the cultures in Hebrew Academy are different, so are other people’s throughout the world,” Galitzer said. “It matters about your moral beliefs; it’s more about what you as a person believe.”

 

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