I SURVEYED 18-19 YEAR OLDS ABOUT HOW THEY DEFINE SEX AND DATING TERMS, BOTH MODERN AND ANTIQUATED.
CARRIE QUERY, aka, I COULDN’T HELP BUT WONDER…
My high school dating career consisted of a string of perfectly wonderful boys I didn’t want to commit to. In retrospect I find little or no red flags, unlike the hellfire of trash men I have encountered at the age of almost 20. “I’ll have a boyfriend in college,” I told myself. “I’m just not ready to commit now.”
Flash forward to 2 years later and I find myself spending days and nights with a girl I never saw coming into my life. It was a feeling, not a label. The relationship, albeit brief, was painful and I was back at square one, this time on the other side.
Did our labels align? Did we package up our shared experience differently? Why couldn’t she be with me when all I wanted was to stand still with her?
Yes, there are trends in facts and figures but it ultimately comes down to what a certain person (and sometimes their partner) agrees upon for themselves. I posted a Google Form in Bard‘s non-boy Facebook group to acquire (a very small amount of) data and see just how people 18-29 define hooking up, breaking up, and all the ups (and downs) in between.
Sample Size: 59 non-boys ages 18-19 at Bard College and various institutions in California and New York.
I asked each participant to identify 12 words and phrases relating to sex and relationships as:
a. casual; non-monogamous
b. casual; monogamous
c. serious; non-monogamous
d. serious; monogamous
I then asked for their sexual orientation, age, and relationship status.
DARK BLUE: casual; non monogamous LIGHT BLUE: both casual monogamous and non monogamous PURPLE: serious; non monogamous GREEN: casual; monogamous YELLOW: casual or non casual RED: serious; monogamous
DARK BLUE: serious; monogamous LIGHT BLUE: depends; a relationship can mean many things PURPLE: serious, not always monogamous but usually is GREEN: casual and monogamous or any serious form YELLOW: serious, monogamous, long term RED: serious; non monogamous
Seeing Each Other
BLUE: casual; non monogamous GREEN: I usually don’t see this is any sexual context YELLOW: not sexual RED: casual; monogamous
In your opinion and experience, does the term ‘dating’ denote both parties refer to each other as boyfriend/girlfriend/partner?
18-19 is the youngest age group I surveyed and, contrary to my hypothesis, they defined these sex and dating ideas in more absolute and serious terms, i.e. the majority equated calling someone your “boyfriend/girlfriend/partner” to “dating”, which most defined as serious and monogamous. Most saw “making love” – a quite hokey and antiquated term used by pastors and your mother – as serious and monogamous. They even defined the murky and multivalent word “lover” as mostly serious and monogamous. However, only 39% identified as heterosexual and the remaining 61% fall under the queer umbrella, demonstrating a greater embrace to fluid sexuality.