In July, The New York Times ran a follow-up article to its earlier one about the death of courtship, explaining how dating practices have changed in the college-age/young adult demographic. This article focused on young women in their 20s, and how they can be so focused on their academic career, internships, volunteer work, etc. that they don't have time for a relationship and may prefer just to "hook up" or randomly have meaningless, brief sexual encounters with men they care nothing about. The New York Times interviewed successful female students at the University of Pennsylvania who make hooking up a part of their social life.

While there are young adults that make this their ritual, many teens and twenty-somethings are smart enough to know that hooking up is a really messed up thing to do that can cause long-term harm. In addition to the physical health risks of pregnancy and STDs, there are emotional consequences to becoming physically intimate with someone who is a stranger and with whom you have no relationship. It trivializes being physically close to someone else, as if it is a sport. It is not.

Many of these hook ups occur after one or both people are drinking heavily, and are not thinking clearly. All the more reason to limit or not drink alcohol. (During college it's termed partying, while after college we call it alcoholism).

I do a great deal of counseling with teens and young adults. I find that while courtship has changed some for their age group from how it was for their parents and grandparents, at the core most people need to be encouraged to stay focused on what they REALLY want, and not succumb to the pressure to handle relationships the way other people do. Separating physical intimacy from emotional intimacy in a committed relationship is a recipe for a great deal of potential hurt and damage to your developing self.

Parents of pre-teens, teens, and college-age students should be aware of this hooking up activity, and involve your son or daughter in some discussion about it. Ask them what they think. Share your concerns. Keep in mind that your son or daughter needs to feel safe talking with you, so a tone of curiosity about their opinion as a younger person, and of mutual respect will help. Chances are, even if your son or daughter isn't a part of this "hook up culture," they probably have friends who are participating in it.

Hooking up? It's a really messed up idea that puts younger people at risk, both physically and emotionally. Some cultural and societal changes advance and improve us. Hooking up isn't any kind of improvement over traditional courtship, waiting until you have time to date, and creating meaningful relationships. Everybody deserves better, including relationships that honor your highest self.