Suzanne Fields
Not so long ago, "gender" was something mostly of interest to flirtatious nouns. But then, as the culture became both more vulgar and more squeamish, "gender" replaced "sex" as the distinction between "him" and "her." Now "date," which described how him and her got acquainted, is replaced by "hook up."

Gender used to tell us about language; now, it describes behavioral roles. The word sex was unambiguous, referring to the natural biological differences. But the genderfication of sex expands to encompass the experiences of the transgendered, lesbian and male homosexuals.

Whereas sex refers to two, gender creates a crowd -- emotional attachment becomes more about attitude than intimate connection. While most adults can handle the changes, however reluctantly, the ambiguity that language expresses affects our children in a different way, confusing their psychological perceptions and judgments in new ways. Sex that was once vulnerably personal has been coolly objectified in gender.

Relationships between the sexes have never been easy -- a mix of biological determinants, cultural expectations and personal spontaneity. Norms, or conventions, were meant to keep us in line. They were often abusive, favoring the male patriarch with power through property and aggressive aggrandizement, both physically and materially. But the sexual revolution changed all that. Once the pill arrived, women were liberated from fear of pregnancy, and were soon on their own to control their relationships with men.

But few of us expected that liberation would reach down to our children before they reached maturity. But now it does. Titillation teased out in the flirtation of getting to know another person has been trivialized and reduced to the animal sensation of "doing it," even among post-pubescents. You can see this expressed by teenagers who have discovered the "hookup," which sounds as mechanical as it is.

The "hookup" was originally defined on elite campuses where the workload was heavy and a sexual relationship was thought to be too time-consuming. The "hookup" was quick, so that each participant was free to get on with other, more important things.

But the hookup has filtered down to high school as an accepted way to behave. Here's a sample example, as explained in the Valentine's Day issue of a school newspaper at an expensive private high school in the nation's capital. The author of the piece offers typical interviews and observations on the state of romance among young urban sophisticated teenagers:

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

Be the first to read Suzanne Fields' column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.

©Creators Syndicate