The Catholic Hook-Up Culture: Does It Exist?


USA Today ran a story on a topic that is never short of attention: the young adult hook-up culture. The premise of the story is this question: Are the days of traditional dating over?

From the story:

It wasn’t until the second semester of her senior year at Fordham University in New York that Kathleen Adams had a college boyfriend.

“You just don’t date at colleges,” says Adams, 23, now a Fordham graduate student in urban studies.

But there’s no shortage of casual sex on campus, she says — in part because Fordham, like many colleges, has significantly more women than men. Adams says that means guys have the upper hand when it comes to intimacy.

“It’s kind of like a competition,” she says. “The guys have their choice of whoever they want. So they think, ‘Why would I date?’ “

The relationship game among college-age adults today is a muddle of seemingly contradictory trends. Recent studies indicate that traditional dating on campuses has taken a back seat to no-strings relationships in which bonds between young men and women are increasingly brief and sexual.

Again, this is not news to most who are up on the current dating trends. But no doubt this hook-up mentality is only spreading. In fact, the article noted that the University of Chicago and other colleges are now setting up websites to facilitate these “hook-up meetings.”

Here at CatholicMatch, we have the benefit of faith behind our dating, notably stepping up the commitment, or at least seriousness, in relationships that develop from this site. And with that seriousness the expectation of a brief sexual encounter is hopefully dispelled.

But, the no-strings attached title does beg the question, is there a Catholic hook-up culture that fosters a different type of hook-up: an emotional ‘no-strings attached’ affair, as opposed to a physical one? Are we, both men and women, guilty of using one another emotionally without the proper amount of thought for both involved?

Certainly, life happens and in the game of dating, our hearts will be broken a time or two, and we will be on the end that breaks hearts as well. I’m not talking about the sometimes inevitable heartbreak of dating.

The Catholic equivalent

I’m talking about the situations CatholicMatch blogger Jessica Zimanske wrote about not too long ago, where two individuals are spending a great deal of time together, sometimes with a lot of emotional intimacy, but no real title on the relationship. Can we dare call this the Catholic version of the hook-up culture? One or both parties are enjoying companionship without commitment until someone they want to commit to comes along. Is that not the same mentality the secular hook-up culture breeds — use one another until you’re ready to settle down in marriage?

In a recent conversation with some friends, someone mentioned that early in the time she was “hanging out” with her now present fiancé she asked some rather bold but key questions.

The clincher question was, “Do you want to be a saint?”

As the rest of us we were playfully teasing her for her up-front demeanor, she responded, “Well, I was 24 and knew what I wanted. I wanted to be sure he was a man of character, who wanted to grow and strive for heaven.”

To which her fiancée said, “And that just made me like her all the more.” He answered her question in the affirmative, and it wasn’t long after this that this couple went from “hanging out” to exclusive dating.

The hook-up culture persists because individuals continue to give in rather than hold out and get to know one another. Individuals fail to demand the treatment they want and deserve: respect and sincerity.

I think the same can be said for “hanging out” versus dating. The more intentional we are about our relationships, the better they will go. As Jessica said in her post, we must respect ourselves enough to ask the tough questions  – even the question “What are we?”

As a witty blogger wrote, perhaps it’s time we stop hanging out and start dating. Because you’re worth it all, not just the convenience of some of the time until the next best thing comes along.



  1. Paul-663898 May 12, 2011 Reply

    I sometimes think CM is a version of this ‘hook-up’ idea. I’ve had lots of online relationships with girls and when I ask to meet them they suddenly turn cold. There must be some kind of fantasy CM provides and actually meeting the person potentially shatters the facade. Their loss, for sure….

  2. DJ-398917 May 9, 2011 Reply

    Anyone ever been to FUS? Guys are used emotionally all day everyday by these women. Finally, someone properly identifies this issue

  3. Lawton-331169 May 8, 2011 Reply

    I don’t like this post. Using someone for sexual gratification is definitely bad, but what are the men in this so called “Catholic hook up culture” supposedly using women for? Friendship? Getting to know someone? I think it’s offensive to compare that to using someone for sexual gratification. Yes, I’d love to meet a woman and know right away that we’re meant to be together, go to the priest the next day and state our intentions. But often you don’t know right away, so you talk, you get to know each other. And you do it chastely. I’m not advocating stringing someone along that you know you’re not interested, but what should a man do when he meets a woman and has feelings for her but isn’t sure they’re meant to be together? Jump into committed, exclusive relationship anyway? That’s not a good idea. Try to explain his exact feelings and confusion? Women really don’t want, either. What is dating supposed to be but getting to know someone and discerning if God is calling the two of you to relationship, and maybe even enjoying each other’s company. A man should make his feelings clear to the woman he’s seeing when they’re clear to him, but until that point spending time with the woman and getting to know her chastely, even if you he hasn’t defined the relationship, shouldn’t be seen as equivalent to sexually “hooking up”.

  4. Joe-715257 May 7, 2011 Reply

    Few have the courage to accept responsibility for something as fragile and heavy to hold as another’s heart. Those unwilling or unable to sacrifice in their relationships are only fair weather friends.

  5. Joe-715257 May 7, 2011 Reply

    The bottom line is fear. Are we afraid to open ourselves up to real intimacy instead of what feels good at the moment? It takes a brave person to do what is right in any given situation. Respect and dignity are not just words. It takes inner strength to give it and live it. Real intimacy requires total disarmament within a relationship and few are brave enough to take off our masks and leave our shields behind.

  6. Christa-609893 May 3, 2011 Reply

    Oh, please–do you not read the profiles of a number of men on this site? They openly admit that they do not subscribe to the Catholic teaching on premarital sex. Someone even wrote me recently, expressing an interest in me, who does not agree with the Catholic teaching on premarital sex, but who teaches catechism to fourth-graders!!! So in answer to your question, does the Catholic hook-up culture exist? I would answer that it is alive and well and thriving, and not just among young adults–honestly, you shouldn’t be so naive about the fact that because this is a “Catholic” site, we are somehow immune to the norms of or better than or holier than the secular culture at large.

  7. AnnElissa-460440 May 2, 2011 Reply

    That is what a lot of people need to hear and live out. Thanks for letting people know the truth about such a topic in our secular world.

  8. Michelle-176368 May 1, 2011 Reply

    I definitely enjoyed this article, being a Catholic University student and a long time Catholic match member. Although in a different way (than physical) I do this online community as being in danger of allowing a no strings attached attitude. Hopefully members will find a way to rise above.

  9. Tammy-492301 May 1, 2011 Reply

    Great article… Thanks

  10. Jim-284023 April 29, 2011 Reply

    My problem is I always I end up in the friend zone. I guess like my friends say I’ll find it when it is meant to be.

  11. Marian-83994 April 29, 2011 Reply

    I love this article. This issue is “where the rubber meets the road” as Dr. Phil woudl say.:)

Post a comment