While the mention of courtship may cause many young adults to wrinkle their noses at something so outdated and old-fashioned, one of the biggest pop stars in the world recently attributed her successful relationship to its beginning in courtship. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Katy Perry describes how her and long-time beau John Mayer’s romance began with a “long courtship” that Perry says consisted of “just writing letters to each other.”
While Perry’s idea of courtship might not be in line with the traditional definition, it does involve an important aspect lacking in many dating relationships–slowly getting to know the other person. However, true courtship consists of more than just that, and encompasses much of what is lacking in the mainstream dating scene. Most importantly, many young people are beginning to take notice of this, realizing that what our culture defines as a good relationship does not always bring ultimate fulfillment.
One of the fundamental ideas defining courtship is that of commitment preceding intimacy. Our society is awash with premature intimacy, and young adults are becoming increasingly aware of the gross lack of satisfaction and long-term success that results from this type of relationship. In her article in The Yale Daily News, Raisa Bruner, now a Yale alumna, describes a survey she conducted during her senior year. She tells how almost all of the respondents said that they desired a committed relationship, but goes on to despair that these are “the types of relationships which just don’t seem to exist.” Bruner and many young women like her are growing tired of a culture where physically intimate relationships come a dime a dozen, but almost always lack the commitment necessary for long-term fulfillment.
“Hook-up culture” is a term being used more and more often to describe the kinds of relationships taking place in millennial society, and particularly on college campuses. While mainstream feminism encourages sexual freedom and “empowerment,” Bruner says that as her time at Yale went on, she and her peers realized that something was lacking. They wanted more. Like many other young women today, Bruner and her peers have realized that this so-called “empowering” sexual ethic is not only unsatisfying, it is dehumanizing.
The American Psychological Association explains that, in an era where the age when people first marry and reproduce has been greatly pushed back–and at the same time the age of puberty has dropped–young people are at a place where they are physiologically able to reproduce but not psychologically or socially ready to settle down and start a family. The APA goes on to say that research suggests that these developments are some of the factors fueling the increase in uncommitted sexual encounters that are so prevalent in popular culture.
In a survey conducted with over 1,400 college students, the APA reports that after experiencing such an encounter, 27.1 percent of students felt embarrassed, 24.7 percent reported emotional difficulties, 20.8 percent experienced loss of respect, and 10 percent reported difficulties with a steady partner. The effects on young women specifically were even more detrimental: 72 percent of women experienced feelings of guilt and many also had lower self-esteem scores. Finally, 42.9 percent of women desired a traditional romantic relationship to result from one of these encounters.
It is in this final statistic that the problem lies.
While it is natural to desire a romantic relationship, expecting one to come out of a casual hook-up is just unrealistic. Sadly, this thought process is partially fueled by the media’s depiction of romance and commitment following casual sex.
But, there is hope for Millennial daters.
Historically speaking, there have always been cycles of promiscuity followed by periods of more thoughtful, restrained relationships. In his American Interest blog, Walter Russell Mead gives examples of these cycles, saying that, “In England there was Shakespearean and Tudor bawdiness, then the Puritans, then the rowdy Restoration, and then again the more decorous era of Addison and Steele.”
As more and more young people begin to recognize the downfalls of premature intimacy in relationships, it becomes more and more likely that courtship could make a real comeback.