In her second book, journalist Stepp (Our Last Best Shot) gets an
inside perspective on the "hookup," which has become the
"primary currency of social interaction" between the sexes
in high schools and colleges. Though it's clear where Stepp, mother
of three, stands in regard to "hooking up"-a no-strings-attached
sex act that allows participants "the freedom to unhook"
at any time-Stepp has a seasoned pro's ability to step back, examining
carefully and sympathetically the "cultural shift" in
its particulars, through the individual stories of interviewees,
as well as in its broader cultural impact.
Inspired by a series of articles she wrote on eighth-grade oral
sex rings for The Washington Post in 1998 ("two years before
the popularity of oral sex in middle schools percolated through
the media"), Stepp avoids breathless sensationalism, preferring
instead to explore the meaning of "hooking up," its fallout,
potential long-range consequences for women and men, and the factors
that have allowed such a shift to take place-wisely asking, "Where
are young women's teachers?" rather than "What is wrong
with these girls?"
it would have benefited from a winnowing of interviews, this insightful
study is vivid and engaging, and includes a practical conversation
guide for mothers and daughters, making it a valuable text for parents
that goes beyond the latest the-kids-are-not-alright headlines.
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up" is a common phrase among young people today, but as journalist
Stepp (author of Our Last Best Shot, 2000) discovered, the term
is nebulous in meaning. Covering a range of sexual behavior, hooking
up can mean anything from kissing to intercourse, as well as everything
in between. Stepp conducted extensive interviews with young women
in high school and college to find out how this casual approach
to sexual encounters is affecting a generation. What she learned
is that in large part hooking up had supplanted dating, with both
young men and women eschewing deeper relationships for casual encounters
with little or no commitment involved.
looks at how the culture of today fosters these attitudes, noting
that when young women are expected to excel at school and have numerous
outside activities, many feel they don't have time to form a deeper
bond with a significant other.
and powerful, Stepp's book also offers empowering advice for women
as they navigate today's sexual landscape. A must-read for young
women grappling with important sexual decisions. -Kristine Huntley