From Dating to Hooking Up
In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking
Now heaven knows anything goes…
The world has gone mad today and good's bad today
And black's white today and day's night today
When most guys today that women prize today
re just silly gigolos.
The lyrics of this Cole Porter song titled “Anything Goes” are telling. They speak of a lax in society's propriety and values; the irony is that the song dates back to the 1930s. Messages like this one convey a sentiment that rings true in any time period: change is scary. As society tries to come to terms with the changing mores of today's youth, there is a tendency to characterize the change as frightening. In one magazine editor's opinion, adolescent morality may be “tumbling toward Shanghai on a sailor's holiday.”1 The implication is that the ways of the past were superior.
Many media pundits have called for a return to a more traditional style of courtship. Again, the gist is that the old way is the better way. I agree that it is helpful to examine today's hookup culture in light of the dating era. However, we should take a closer look at what young people were actually doing in the past before we long for a return to it.
Uncovering how young people became sexually intimate in the past is a difficult task given that information on the intimate aspects of life did not exist prior to the twentieth century.2 What we do know about earlier Western societies is that the process for most young middle- and upper-class people to find potential mates was heavily monitored by parents, their families, and their communities.3 This close supervision ensured two things. First, there was a limit to how much sexual interaction would be permitted, with most of society forbidding intercourse until marriage or at least until the family had approved an