COMM 3110: Communication & Sex in Interpersonal Relationships Ascan Koerner Fall 2009
Two Academic Traditions • Humanism • Multiple Realities • Free Will • Emancipation • Rules for Interpretation • Qualitative Research • Social Science • Objective Truth • Determinism • Objectivity • Covering Laws • Quantitative Research
Comparing Scientific and Humanist Standards Science • Explanation • Prediction • Parsimony • Falsifiability • Utility Humanism • Understanding • Clarification of Values • Aesthetic Appeal • Community of Agreement • Reform of Society
Qualitative • more interpretive Ethnography Textual Analysis Survey Experiments Quantitative - more objective
Defining Interpersonal Communication (IPC) Interpersonal Communication is any interaction between two or more persons who exchange information, create meaning, and influence each other and who through this process create social reality for themselves and others and create and maintain relationships with each other.
Functions of IPC • Exchange information • Create meaning • Influence • Create social reality • Create & maintain relationships
Interpersonal Communication Goals • Self-Relevant Goals - defining self & creating social reality for it - meeting intra-personal needs (i.e., Maslow) • Relational Goals -relationship development, maintenance, & termination - meeting inter-personal needs (e.g,. Schutz) • Instrumental Goals - exchange and distribute resources
Associations between Goals • Independent • Achieving one goal unrelated to achieving other goals • Compatible • Achieving one goal aids in achieving other goals • Incompatible • Achieving one goal blocks achieving other goals
Issues complicating Communication • Persons pursuing multiple goals • Goals might be incompatible • It is unclear which goals are pursued • Meaning of communication ambiguous! • Meaning is subjective (i.e., multiple meanings) • Meaning is negotiated between parties • Meaning is context dependent • Social, cultural, situational….. • Meaning operates at multiple levels • Content level: what message is ostensibly about • Relational level: what message says about partners
Cultural Beliefs about Sex • Morality • Health • Individual Growth • Relationship • Gender & Gender relations
Meaning of Sex • Defines Identity for self and other • Sexuality • Social status / self-worth • Ability to express passion, affection, caring • Defines relationship • Nature of affiliation • Expectations for future interaction
Exercise: Discuss meaning for self/other/relationship of: • Requesting sexual intimacy • Requesting partner use condom • Using condom yourself • Telling partner to stop a sexual behavior • Requesting oral or anal sex
Communicating about Sex difficult because: • Multiple Goals • Multiple Meanings • Large influence of context that is sex-negative
Hooking Up • Sexual encounters, usually lasting only one night, between persons who are strangers or acquaintances, typically involving sexual behavior which may or may not include sexual intercourse.
From “calling” to “hookup” • Different social scripts • Calling: mother & daughter controlled access of “gentleman caller” • Dating (pre WW II): for social status, competition for high ranking dates, low commitment • Dating (post (WW II): going steady as preparation for marriage • Hooking up: sexuality without commitment
Factors contributing to hookup culture • Postponement of marriage (20/23 vs. 25/27) • Large proportion of youth spends early adulthood on campus • Increased number of female students • Focus on group activities • Sexual revolution (24/51/72; 3/17/33) • Feminism / Women’s rights
Theoretical Assumptions • Culture directs (not reflects) human behavior • Humans enact social roles • E.g., man, woman, college student • Actors follow scripts • E.g., dating and hookup scripts
The social script • A series of if-then contingencies whose meaning exist in a shared social reality • Shared understanding of social roles of actors • Shared understanding of social situation • As always, shared social reality is defined, and may be redefined, thru communication
The hookup script • Identifying hookup partner • Ascertain mutuality • Deciding on a location • Deciding on extend of sexual behavior • Continuing the relationship after hookup
1. Identifying a hookup partner • Spontaneous attraction • OR interest already established • Factors contributing to attraction: • Physical appearance • Social attractiveness (status, behavior, network) • Personality (extroversion, intelligences, etc.) • Gender differences?
2. Ascertaining mutuality • Following hookup script • Nonverbal communication • Eye-contact, facial expressions • Attention paid • Body posture (turn, lean, arms, etc.) • Verbal communication • Small talk • Turn talking
3. Deciding on location • Type of desired behavior and privacy of current/potential space • Pragmatic considerations • Roommates, distance, safety • Expectations of future interactions
4. Deciding on extend of sexual behavior • Personal norms & morals • Perceived peer behavior/norms • Expectation of future interaction • If no future interaction: • Go farther • More sexual exploration • If future interaction: • Don’t go as far • Less sexual exploration
5. Continuing the relationship after hookup • Hookup itself does not imply future relationship • No change in relationship most likely outcome • Hookup does not imply/create commitment • Future relationship is possible, however • Continue as friends/acquaintances • Continue as non-committed, sexual relationship: “repeat hookups, talking, hanging out” • Develop into exclusive romantic relationships, with committment
Hookup Scene I • Psychological Factors favoring hookups • Emerging adulthood • adult freedom w/o adult responsibilities • Less interest in committed relationship • Marriage not until after college • College time of self discovery & experimentation • Desire to fit in • Sensitivity to perceived norms • Freshmen most likely to participate in hookups
Hookup Scene II • External Factors favoring hookups • Homogeneous population (class, age, race, etc.) • Familiarity with others (acquaintances & friends) • Physical proximity • (Perceived) Gender imbalance
Hookup Scene III • Hooking up part of mainstream college culture • The more central to college life one’s group, the greater one’s participation • Athletes & fraternity/sorority members • Not participating: • Racial Minorities (foreign students?) • Gays / Lesbians • Religious students • Students in committed relationships
The role of alcohol • Central part of student social scene, parties are organized around it. • Facilitates initiation of interaction (social lubricant) • Lowers inhibitions and thus facilitates sexual behavior/experimentation • Provides socially acceptable excuse for “improper” behavior
Paper Assignment # 1 In a 3-5 page paper, please discuss aspects of the hook up culture that Bogle describes that are consistent with your experience at the U, as well as aspects that differ from your experience, and offer an explanation for why they are different. Try to focus on 2-3 aspects and make your comparisons cogent. Aspects you may discuss include, but are not limited to: who is hooking up, outcomes, scripts, definitions, standards, etc. Make coherent arguments and include specific references to the text and class lecture material. Papers should be in APA format, double-spaced, with 1 inch margins and 12 point font. Papers are due at the beginning of class, October 6th.
Campus as sexual arena • Information about peer culture (rules & norms) • Thru mass media, popular culture • Thru observation of college life • Perceived Culture is used: • as guide for own behavior • to predict behavior of others • to judge self and others • Self-serving biases • Fundamental attribution error • Third person effect
Common perceptions • Gender differences in sexual activity • Men have more sex with more partners • Women have less sex with fewer partners • Gender differences in sexual motivation • Men desire sex more • Women desire relationships more • Ergo: women are more selective re. hookup partner • Ergo: women are more emotionally involved
Common Misperceptions • Virginity is rare • actually, 25-39 % of students are virgins • Everyone participates in hookup culture • although 80% of students had at least one hookup, only 1/3 involve sexual intercourse • Number of hookup partners is large • UA study, of sexually active students, 90% had 2 or fewer partners, only 2% had more than 5 • Result: Pluralistic Ignorance
The big math problem • US data (heterosexuals) • Men during lifetime have 7 sex partners • Women during lifetime have 4 sex partners • UK data (heterosexuals) • Men 12.7 • Women 6.5 • Obviously, this is not possible • Survey data cannot be valid, but • Survey data reflects persistent beliefs
Sexual Double Standard I • “Good Girl” vs. “Bad Girl” perception of women • aka “Madonna-whore complex” in which sexuality is perceived to incompatible with love • Divergent Interests • Women increasingly interested in commitment • Men maintain low interest in commitment • College becomes “battle of sexes”
Sexual Double Standard II • No (few?) rules regulating male sexuality • promiscuousness valued • Many rules restrict female sexuality • promiscuousness • Sexually provocative dress and/or behavior • Sexual relations with men who know one another • ?? “houserats” • Violations are sanctioned • Bad reputation (e.g., “slut”) • Stigmatization and ostracization
Sexual Double Standard III • Strategies to deal with SDS • Repeat hookup • Friends with benefits • Booty call • All put sex in context of ongoing relationships, which is a ore permissible expression of female sexuality
Sexual Double Standard IV • Manifestations of male power • Perpetuation of hookup system even though it does not meet women’s needs • Men determine level of relationship involvement & commitment • This analysis is based on: • Assumption of male power (patriarchy)
Group Assignment • Does the sexual double standard work in men’s best interest? • What are men’s motivation (i.e., is it in their interest to be in non-committed relationships so that they can pursue other hookup partners)? • Why are women perpetuating the SDS? • What are alternative explanations of the SDS?
Life after College • “Return” to Dating • Man initiates & pays for dinner/movie • Dyad focused activity at public place • Male chivalry • Sexual behavior delayed (until “right time”) • However • Sexual intercourse eventually normative • Groups & alcohol still center of social life, not dating
Reasons for demise of hookups • Less homogeneous population (strangers) • Logistics • Driving increases riskiness and lowers alcohol use • Greater distance between homes • Adult responsibilities • Limits amount of partying • Lack of sleep & need to get up early • Focus on social relations that aid careers • Focus on finding long term partner
Double Standard remains • Women still judged on sexual behavior • Sexual behavior disqualifies women as long term partner • Consequently, both men and women become more conservative sexually
Conclusion • Hookup Culture result of • Campus environment • Changing social norms regarding sexual behavior • Decoupling of sex and love • Group & alcohol centered social life • Delayed Adulthood • Male dominance
Criticism of Bogle • Oversimplification of Gender • Sexual interest • Relationship interest • Reification of Pluralistic Ignorance • Reliance on informants • Uncritical stance toward informants
♂ ♀ Gender Differences • Limited to relatively few behaviors • Variance within larger than variance between
The other side of Hookup Culture • Male Losers • Less socially skillful • Low status • Men interested in relationships • Sexual Enjoyment • Relationship Intimacy
Jessica Valenti – feministing.com • Purity Myth: morals are linked purely to sexual behavior, rather than values like honesty, kindness, and altruism • In 2007, nearly 1,000 news and magazine articles referred to the "girls gone wild" or "raunch culture" phenomenon • message: the only kind of sex young women can have is dangerous, drunk sex that leaves them disheveled and traumatized • Fear is coercion to return to traditional gender roles
Discussion Questions • What was the point of Valenti’s message? Do you agree/disagree with it? Why/why not? • Shaida says, “’women who dance on tables, take a man home on their own terms and carry themselves – at a bar and in the classroom – with a sense of self-worth have my respect.’” Is it possible for a woman to take a man home on her own terms and carrying herself with a sense of self-respect possible? Cite and apply reasons for why women and men engage in the hook-up culture (according to Bogle and based on your own interpretation). • “Young women could see their way out of the hookup habit if given the space and support to do so” (p. 170). If women are not benefitting from a hook-up culture, why don’t they revolt and get out of it?
The Vagina Monologues • In 1996, Ensler interviewed over 200 women about their experiences with sex, relationships, and violence against women • put their stories into the production The Vagina Monologues. • Monologues include references to women’s issues like menstruation, feminine products, rape camps, traumatic sexual experiences in childhood, prostitutes who make women happy, and birth • 2009: over 4,200 V-Day events around the world
Eve Ensler Creator of The Vagina Monologues
Discussion Questions • Do productions like The Vagina Monologues empower women to be more open about sexuality? Why/why not? • Do women talk about feminism and issues about sexuality differently with men than with women? If so, in what ways?