According to a study last year by the National Marriage Project and others, the average age at which we get married is now at an all-time high. The study, "Knot Yet", whose titular pun is how you know it's good, says women are waiting until 27, and men 29, before promising to fart next to each other on the couch for eternity.
There are some benefits to this, they point out, including a decrease in the divorce rate, and improved educational and economic prospects for women. On the other hand, we're also seeing more children born to parents before they're married, which you don't need a fancy study to tell you turns them gay.
That's not even the biggest problem, as Andrew Reiner, a teacher at the Towson University writes this weekend in the The New York Times. What we're seeing now, he says, are teens and also twenty-something teens not only postponing marriage, but also losing their very ability to connect to one another as human beings. The culprit? Hook-up culture, he says, the brand new trend of young people conducting pants experiments with study partners outside of the lab if you get what I mean. (Sex boning).
As a one-time sexy young college teen having lots of sexy college sex on college campuses with other sexy young college teens, and also a person with the barest minimum understanding of the concepts of human behavior, the suggestion that sex among young people is a troubling new concept seems flimsy to me.
The problem is, he writes, that all of our crippling social media addictions, and our blithe attitudes about marriage have not only hampered our desire to settle down the day after commencement like all of our parents definitely did, they've also eroded our ability to know what love even is. "What even is love?" thousands of college are asking themselves right now, reading that word here for the first time.
Yet for all of their future designs on marriage, many of them may not get there. Their romance operandi — hooking up and hanging out — flouts the golden rule of what makes marriages and love work: emotional vulnerability.
Further, empathy has declined, and narcissism and competitiveness have skyrocketed, he writes.
In "The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy," Donna Freitas chronicles the ways in which this trend is creating the first generation in history that has no idea how to court a potential partner, let alone find the language to do so.
You know who knew how to "court partners" instinctively? Teens in the 80s and 70s and 60s and 50s and 1730s. They just knew it right off the bat, and they went up to a potential partner and courted them with grace and élan. Next thing, marriage is what.
We further desensitize ourselves to love when we stifle the bonding feelings that spring forth from oxytocin. This "love" hormone is released during orgasm, but it also floods the body and brain after hugging or affectionate touching. Yet we deny such molecular reactions at great peril, according to Dr. Dean Ornish, founder of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute and author of "Love and Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy."
"I am not aware of any other factor in medicine that has a greater impact on our survival than the healing power of love and intimacy," Dr. Ornish writes. "Not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery."
What about the healing power of laughter?
Undaunted, the solution, Reiner suggests, like a mad scientist tinkering with a wind-up cyborg doll, is teaching it how to love. No, literally. That's his idea. Classes on how to love.
For this résumé-driven generation, schools would do well to add a grade-based seminar about love. The course could cross many academic disciplines: the biology of intimacy; the multicultural history of courtship; the psychology and sociology of vulnerability.
OK, but what happens when you get an F in cuddling? Then what?
At the very least this idea of keeping sex within the boundaries of a somewhat stable, regular relationship does have its potential upsides: women actually experiencing orgasms. That's something you just can't teach.