On Being a F(f)eminist and Marrying Young: A Response to Hanna Rosin’s “Boys on the Side”

If we commit ourselves to one person for life, this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather, it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession but participation. — Madeleine L’Engle, The Irrational Season

I was one of those girls who happily completed extra homework on the weekends, who read incessantly, and who spent middle school nights studying for biology tests, instead of thinking about boys. I never dreamed of my wedding day, I never even, really, gave much serious thought to wanting to date until my last couple of college years, and I always swore I would never have children. “I want a career, first,” and “I want to find someone to not settle down with; I want adventures!” were my trained answers to the probes of high schoolers in my small hometown who were fond of planning the number and names of children they would have one day. I grew up with, and embraced, fairly feminist-leaning thought patterns before I even really knew what “feminist” meant.

(And now, though I call myself a feminist, it is always with a lowercase “f”; I use the term to denote an aspect of my beliefs, not to quickly align with all the tenets of a larger social movement. I am Hannah first, feminist later.)

And yet, here I am, newly twenty-four, about to get married (to the love of my life!), and at a bit of a crossroads with my career.

In past dreams about my future, I never imagined myself here; or, at least, never so quickly.

Yet, I am still everything I have been; and, dare I say, I am more than I have been. I am truly happy, and that has been one of my primary life goals from the beginning.

As my fiancé and I near our wedding, I’ve been thinking a lot about the possible opportunity costs of getting married (relatively) young. I have an aunt I very much respect, who has advised me to not even think about marriage until thirty. I have mentors and a past boss who, with intimated reproach, have cautioned me not to get too caught up in marriage too quickly.

And I have a small, learned voice in the back of my head telling me that marrying now, before my career is solidified, is not what I am supposed to do.

But, I have to tell you—in this case, I think that voice is completely wrong.

I am not moving away from the Hannah that I was—I am moving towards the Hannah that I am. The Hannah that is madly in love with her fiancé, who is a part of a team with him. Who knows that moving into a vocabulary of “we” is a huge bonus, not a subtraction.

To quote one of APW’s past Wedding Graduates, another Hannah, I do this “because I am brave, because I love [my fiancé], and because that is what we do. We educated women of the twenty-first century, we move, we grow, we change.”

So, when I read Hanna Rosin’s new article for The Atlantic, titled “Boys on the Side,” I felt a little upset, and a little cheated.

In her article, Ms. Rosin argues that our modern culture—what she terms a “hookup culture”—is incredibly empowering to women, that it is an “engine of female progress—one being harnessed and driven by women themselves.” This “hookup culture,” of course, referring to the perhaps mainly college-campus-behavior of “hooking up” with various “boys,” instead of seriously dating anyone for a prolonged amount of time.

Ms. Rosin contends that women are more successful now than ever, and “what makes this remarkable development possible is not just the pill or legal abortion but the whole new landscape of sexual freedom—the ability to delay marriage and have temporary relationships that don’t derail education or career.”

“To put it crudely,” she attests, “feminist progress right now largely depends on the existence of the hookup culture.”

She also compares serious suitors of college women today to unwanted pregnancies of an earlier century, labeling their perception in today’s world as “a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future.”

Though I can see and celebrate the truths and (limited) freedoms within Ms. Rosin’s argument, I keep wondering why she sells women so short. Are our lives really so defined by either avoiding or giving in to or manipulating the advances of the other sex? Why are our roads to success paved with such negative connotations about relationships, about love?

I have to tell you, we women are even more amazing than Ms. Rosin’s article argues. We educated women of the twenty-first century, we are movers, we are shakers, we are BIG—and our success is not the antithesis of healthy, loving relationships.

We are presented with a false dilemma. She essentially presents two choices of the modern woman—participate in this hookup culture to postpone or even avoid relationships and become successful, or “marry young and have babies” (as one of her interviewees contended).

I know we feminists have been taught: career first, family later.

It was a life timeline I clung to much of my life thus far.

But its not the timeline that I’m on right now.

Sometimes the timelines change.

And that’s ok.

There is certainly value to solidifying your career before getting married, and I am happy that there is a world of success out there for us women that does not expect early marriage and lots of babies for every one of us.

But it is not always career and then marriage, or even career or marriage.

I am marrying my fiancé young, but I am not trading in career success for him.

Yes, that success might look different, but it certainly isn’t worse, or less-than. I think, in fact, that it will be better; I get to pursue it with my best friend at my side.

I am entering into a support system, a team, a partnership with my fellow adventurer. It is the risk of freedom, of a love which is permanent.

It is a forever-love, within which we can propel and support each other along life’s journey.

We can do it! We have so many beautiful choices and such long lives! The world is wild, and wonderful, and full of love, and it is ours for the taking.

Photo by: Emily Takes Photos

Featured Sponsored Content

  • Zoe

    This is really interesting, and something I have thought about a lot.

    I married relatively young. I do think it negatively impacted my career to some degree (limited ability to move for work in my field) BUT when I got engaged, I decided that although my career would always be important for me, having a family/being married to someone I love was JUST as important. I didn’t want to throw love and a family away for my career.

    But, I have to say, that it DID have a negative impact on my career and that young women should be aware of it. I’d make the same choice again, but it’s not for everyone.

    • One More Sara

      I don’t doubt that what you say about your career and your marriage not working out in the way you might have dreamed of, but this is such a one-sided phenomenon. Why are there no articles about how men are doing so much better without the old ball and chain, discouraging them from getting tied down by a woman? This seems like a very one-sided argument that only women sacrifice by getting married. No one is pushing men not to get married because it would be better for their careers. Probably in most cases, marriages are bad for career progress, but that is because you have another person to think about. You can’t just move across the country for a promotion if your spouse is in an awesome position in his/her job where you are now (or you know, maybe you do, but then your spouse is sacrificing his/her career for yours). Hopefully though, marriages help us feel fulfilled, supported and happy at the end of the day, and you can’t always get those things from the workplace.

      • Anya

        Actually, research shows that marriage, at least for the majority of men, is actually good for their career. top-earning male CEOs overwhelmingly have stay-at-home wives who do the work of running their household so the men can make tons of money. The problem is that we are not yet at a place where men are encouraged to take care of the home realm. In fact, it’s really seen as a negative. When it comes the narrative about marriage for men, I’d say it’s definitely negative, but on the sexual, rather than career front. See: “why would you want to sleep with just woman your whole life.”

        • One More Sara

          Yeah I guess that’s definitely true, but I’d also say the majority of people won’t ever be a CEO of anything. For most people in a marriage, one person will eventually sacrifice for the other, and I guess it is the cultural narrative that the woman should always be sacrificing for the man is what is damaging.

        • Jeannine

          now-redundant comment below!

          i did want to add to one more sara, point totally taken that there’s more to life than career, and although things are changing for a lot of people, the default still seems to be that women put their careers second to their husbands’.

        • Caroline

          I wonder how much of this is from actual, married women are less likely to be promoted reasons and how much is from the cultural issue that women, working or not, still do most of the work around the house, which has a negative impact on thir careers. How does it play out in families with stay at home dad’s? How does it work out in families where the husband/male partner does most work around the house (such as mine)? How does it work out in same sex marriages where there isn’t a husband, or there isn’t a wife?
          I would guess the career benefits are mostly linked to having the support of a wife doing a lot of the housework, and so would also apply to women with a spouse who does most of the housework.

        • meg

          Also, flat out, in more traditional fields, men who are married are promoted faster, because they are perceived as committed and level headed, as well as needing to support a family. This written as someone who saw how it worked in an investment bank. Want to move your career ahead as a man? Get married and have a kid. Want to drop out as a woman? Get married and have a kid.

          However, all that is not how it should be. Marriage has helped both of our careers around here. It allowed us both to be super focused, have a cheering squad and someone pushing us really hard, and feel like we owed things to something beyond ourselves. Sure, being a family means compromises, but for us the positives way out weighted the negatives.

          So the cultural narrative does not have to be accurate, which is the main APW point of discussion, eh?

          • Class of 1980

            Studies show that married men live on average five years longer than single men.

            But married women only live two years longer than single women.

            Seems men are getting more out of marriage all the way around, doesn’t it?

          • meg

            Indeed they are, on every single level. I’m starting to work my way through “Wifework” by Susan Maushart, and dear GOD are the statistics and studies depressing. Talk about something that needs to change.

      • Jeannine

        It depends on the field, but I remember a long-ago article in the chronicle of higher education that discussed a study that showed that married men and single women were the most likely to meet benchmarks of promotion with greater speed. Married women distinctly did not get promoted as quickly. The academics who had a “structural wife,” their term not mine, someone who took care of the household and supported the academic so that they could concentrate on their work, were more successful. So in at least this case, the reason there aren’t a lot of stories about how marriage holds back men’s careers is because it doesn’t.

      • Moz

        But historically it’s been that one sided. Until about 40 years ago you’d be hard pressed to find many stories of men giving up the career they wanted for their family. They might have existed, but never on the scale of their female counterparts.

        Women, on the other hand, have a long history of giving up all sorts of things once they get married, whether they worked or not.

        I’m not saying this is always the case now, but I do think it is the dominant narrative of marriage between men and women in the Western world until quite recently.

        • Sarah

          My husband and I have had a hard time with the compromises that come with being married (though we are loving it), but both wanting great careers in different fields. I reached a point in law school where I realized that I would need to spend a semester alone across the country in a great internship, making those connections I cannot make in our city. So, it can be incredibly hard on each partner, especially right now when I would give anything to see him in real life and not on my computer. Also, I hate that people seem to look at me sideways when I talk about him, as if something must be wrong for us to choose to be apart. Grrr.

  • I don’t really have time to get into the meat of this, but this bit resonated with me so much:

    “I am not moving away from the Hannah that I was—I am moving towards the Hannah that I am. The Hannah that is madly in love with her fiancé, who is a part of a team with him. Who knows that moving into a vocabulary of “we” is a huge bonus, not a subtraction.”

    My road towards marriage was nothing like I ever thought it would be, and my life has taken a very different path than high school me would have expected, but I’m still honouring who I am. This says all that and more, so beautifully.

  • Jess

    See I would have to argue, that in my experience at least, the hook up culture is worse for girl’s success. I partook heavily in that culture in my late teens and early twenties. Yes, I didn’t have a long term boyfriend to tie me down, but what I really needed was stability. The hook up culture is necessarily tied to the bar culture. Late nights in smoky bars don’t bode well for good grades in an 8AM Organic Chem class. Then you add in the drama of “breaking the hearts” of boys who were raised to be gentlemen and respect women and that she wants a steady boyfriend and it’s a freaking mess! Additionally, if you aren’t looking for a long term thing, you are more likely to put up with some one being a total jerk. Did I turn out fine? Yes I would think so, but I may have gotten better grades if I hadn’t and that may have helped me in the long run. In contrast after I graduated and got a (good, but not great) job I didn’t have time to find a bunch of hookups, so kind of organically fell into steady type dating. There is a lot to be said for knowing that if you call a guy he will want to go get pizza after a long day of work. I dated a couple guys steadily and yes the break ups sucked but one week of sucky break up vs weekly hookup boy drama is way more conducive to productivity. Fast forward to age 28 and I’m engaged to a wonderful guy and half way through my PhD in Biochemistry. The stability of a supportive partner is so meaningful in a hard and stressful career. We take turns making dinner, house work is shared, and I know I have some on to hug me and pick me back up after a shitty day. Not to mention a financial safety net, emotional support, and (soon) health insurance! Plus, since I’m not out late bouncing around with random hookups I pack my lunch every morning and eat a good breakfast. There is a lot to be said for a well fed woman!

    • Joanna

      Totally agreed! It seems that Hannah Rosin is really just echoing a thesis of Sex in the City. To speak from personal experience, being in a heathy and stable relationship has actually pushed me further in my career. When I graduated school, the economy was in such a bad state that it was impossible to get a job in my field. I served tables for a year, and at the encouragement of my SO I took it upon myself to really push. I ended up squeezing into an internship position, then finally getting hired fulltime. Three years of working later, my SO and I own a house together. That wouldn’t have been possible if he didn’t help me push myself. I wish I was fearless and never gave up, but that’s not true. Having him there made me advance myself. Is this unfeminist to say? I hope not. I do the same for him. I convinced him that yes, he is capable of doing a Masters in neuro psychology. Now he’s on his PhD.

      I’m pro partnership, first and foremost. What do those fancy CEOs yell out during board meetings? Ah, yes. Synergy. When the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

    • meg

      Agreed. I certainly went to college in the middle of hookup culture (I find it a little odd that these stories are painting hookup culture as new, it was par for the course when I graduated 10 years ago). And while I certainly don’t have all terrible things to say about it (like everything, it’s complicated), the emotional turbulence of hookup cultured didn’t do great things for the emotional stability of women (I simply can’t speak for men, though arguably it was true for many of them as well). It was often a distraction from productivity. I did way better for myself career wise when I was A) resolutely pretty single, or B) in a healthy relationship.

      Also, I find it odd that being single isn’t an option. Why do women have to be hooking up constantly or settling down? Those are very limiting options right there.

      • Laura

        For the record, I think all of these retrospections in the media about the “hookup culture” have it dead wrong. It never was a choice between having boyfriends vs having hookups. It was a choice btwn having boyfriends and *being single* (but not being a nun). Imho, of course.

        • MIRA


      • A Lady

        Personally, it’s because I really like having sex.

      • KEA1

        15 years post-college here, and the hookup culture was alive and well when I was an undergrad too. Not to mention the equally loud voices for the “ring by spring.” And the equally loud voices for doing it all while ammassing such a stellar academic record that you landed the plum I-bank job during fall recruiting. And the equally loud voices that if your heels weren’t exactly 2.5″ and your nails weren’t the perfect length and impeccably manicured in a “natural” shade and your makeup wasn’t complete but imperceptible and your suit wasn’t the flawlessly-almost-black shade of navy blue, you could forget making the right impression to land said I-bank job. Oh, yeah, and all this at a highly selective women’s college, where you would think that we would have figured out that all of those messages had serious inconsistencies and that there should be a better way.

        My classmates (and, I confess, occasionally I too) looked down upon women who hooked up, who stayed single, who slept with women, who slept with men, who got married early, who didn’t have any marriage prospects present themselves during undergrad, who wanted kids, who didn’t want kids, who wanted to stay home, who wanted to climb the career ladder, who wanted to do both…it was madness.

        Ladies, we have to do better. Meg and APW, thank you for helping us all become more aware so we can do better. Hannah, brilliant post and SO many good wishes for your marriage and all the adventures it brings!

      • Amy

        Hook-up culture IS the single option. It just means we get to be single and get laid. I’m late that party…34 and just now getting around outside of relationships and it’s working for me. To me, hookup culture just means we can enjoy sex without relationships or shame, and that’s pretty awesome.

    • I definitely agree with this. As a young professional in NYC I feel like a lot of my friends partake in this culture and it seems a bit unhealthy to me. I am as driven as anyone (starting my own business as a registered dietitian), but I also REALLY value my relationship (6 years, people!!) because I feel like it keeps me healthy and sane. Meg makes a good point by saying that there’s also the option to just be single! You don’t need to be hooking up with people all the time or be in a serious relationship – indeed, very limiting options!

      Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with late nights out and partying, but I don’t see it helping a lot of people health-wise. On the other hand, having someone to support you in everything you do? Super healthy.

      I also feel like my boyfriend keeps me sane in terms of what I’m doing for my business. If I’m working on something day and night and not doing enough to keep myself healthy, he notices when I don’t. Being sane and healthy is MUCH more important to a successful business that constantly pushing yourself.

      • I mean essentially, isn’t this all about perspective and mind set? If you are the type of person who can truly and honestly say that the hook-up culture is for you, then good for you! If a stable relationship works better, for you, that’s awesome! Similarly, mind set also matters just as much on the male side of things. I notice, everyone and awhile, that the equality of housework starts to lean on me heavier than it does on him, meaning I take on more because I am quicker to assert that it needs to be done. This often ends up causing some frustration and we end up talking and agreeing that we need to “reset” who is doing what so that it is even again. This is effective, however, the fact that this even happens at all is, I believe, due to his being raised in a traditional family, which I think lends itself to him subconsciously being okay with me doing more housework. Overall, we are decidedly and consciously a team, but it does take work to maintain that balance in every facet of our lives. I also think that if you see your partner as apart of an equally weighted support system, it will be, and it will benefit your career if you work for that. Likewise, I presented my FH with the idea of me going to India for a few months for a work opportunity. He initially was surprised and asked how we would see each other. I told him it was something I needed to do, and he immediately changed his tune and said, “Okay, go.” I think as long as we are aware of equality and support, and we work to make both men and other women aware of this system of equality and support, maybe what was once normal will change.

  • Laura

    Good on you, Hannah, for standing up for your love and marrying your best friend! It is brave of you to go against the grain of people’s expectations and do what you know to be right for you and your fiancé!

    I found the “Boys on the Side” article incredibly depressing. In my own university experience, I certainly did not find the hookup culture to be empowering. As a girl who really wanted an intimate, stable relationship with a boyfriend even while in university, it was heartbreaking to be told over and over again that I was good enough to sleep with, but not good enough to love.

    This was a pattern that continued throughout my twenties. I could not seem to find a man anywhere who wanted a steady, longterm relationship. There were plenty of men who wanted hookups, of course. As far as I’m concerned, the bar for women’s expectations of their relationships to men was set so incredibly low that when I told my dates I wanted a boyfriend instead of a hookup, I got called “clingy” and “neurotic.” It is incredibly painful to have a man look you in the face and say, “You can stay here tonight but I can’t commit to you.” (“I ‘can’t’ commit to you”, of course, meaning ‘I have no interest in committing to you.”)

    Finally, in my mid-twenties, I finally did hook up out of sheer frustration. And let me tell you, I did not feel “empowered” afterward. What I felt was used and hurt and expendable, like take-out food packaging thrown in the trash. And yet I did it again, not because I wanted to but because that seemed like the closest thing to intimacy that I could get.

    To me there is nothing feminist about hookup culture. The woman in the Atlantic article who did a Powerpoint presentation comparing her hookups’ penises, for example, was exhibiting behaviour that we so abhorred in men of the pre-feminist era: objectifying women. Not seeing them as full, complex human beings with minds and hearts and opinions, but as walking tits and asses, or in this case, dicks. I find it hard to believe that after being so casually blasé about one’s sexual partners for so long, that in the late twenties or early thirties a person can simply walk into a committed, marriage minded relationship and not be negatively affected by those experiences.

    Additionally, the article says, “Women benefit greatly from living in a world where they can have sexual adventure without commitment or all that much shame.” Sure. Just don’t hook up too frequently or you’ll be called a “laxititute,” a term also mentioned in the article for girls who enjoy hooking up just a little too often. Slut shaming, as evidenced by the recent backlash against Kristen Stewart’s affair, is alive and well. She gets called a “trampire” while Prince Harry’s sexual exploits earn him a jocular “boys will be boys” reaction.

    I don’t think it’s a bad thing necessarily to put off marriage. I would have liked to get married around twenty-four or twenty-five the way that Hannah is doing, but it just never worked out. The Atlantic article does make a good point that you can do some pretty interesting things with your life if you postpone marriage, and I found that to be true. I moved overseas, travelled a ton, met some really interesting people I could not have met if I was married. It’s just too bad that postponing marriage is automatically assumed to go hand in hand with hookup culture. I tried something else: celibacy. Around the age of twenty-seven, after being propositioned for yet another hookup, I said enough. No more sex or even fooling around until I met the man I was going to marry.

    Celibacy is not a popular option these days, but for me it worked wonders. It weeded out guys who just wanted to hook up, and spared me the emotional fallout from getting involved with them. And when I met my FH and told him I wanted to take the sexual side of things slowly, it really allowed us to get comfortable with each other and form a bond.

    As Hannah says, “I have to tell you, we women are even more amazing than Ms. Rosin’s article argues. We educated women of the twenty-first century, we are movers, we are shakers, we are BIG—and our success is not the antithesis of healthy, loving relationships.” Hooray!

    There’s an excellent book on this subject, a bit old now but still highly relevant: A Return to Modesty by Wendy Shalit.

    • One More Sara

      I love what you say about celibacy. In my opinion, taking control of your body should mean more keeping it to yourself, not giving it away to whatever guy buys you a drink at the bar (because I totally agree that the hookup-scene=bar scene) first. I too participated in hook-up culture for the first 2 years of college, and it left me feeling empty, undesirable (for more than one night’s fun) and it more or less shattered my self-confidence. I’m not sure how continuing to exist in that environment would have been good for my career.

      • Laura

        Agreed! Devalued in personal life, devalued in workplace.

    • Copper

      The funny thing is that I’m a more sexually open person who happened to fall into a long-term relationship during college (boy did THAT not work out) and then I went on to do a bit of hooking up and found it very freeing, so I probably have the complete opposite perspective of you. So take this with a grain of salt, but I feel the need to contest a couple of your points.

      “I find it hard to believe that after being so casually blasé about one’s sexual partners for so long, that in the late twenties or early thirties a person can simply walk into a committed, marriage minded relationship and not be negatively affected by those experiences.” There’s not necessarily an about-face. For me there it was a gradual thing; the guys I hooked up with were a bit of fun, a bit of freedom that I needed at the time, and then there came a day when I became completely infatuated with one of them. At that point I decided it was probably time to stop that, if I was having feelings. You see, before that, I wasn’t really capable of having feelings for someone, so just sex was what worked at the time. When I found that I was capable of having feelings, I changed tactics and started dating with a bit more purpose, and it was after some trial and error i that arena that I found the person I plan to marry. So it’s not quite as black and white as you imagine it, but a process of coming to the right place emotionally.

      And on the idea that hookup culture is not empowering, I would say that it’s not empowering if it’s not your choice, but it can be empowering for those who choose it. That’s all it gives you: the power of choice, the power to decide not to pursue something that wouldn’t be good for the long run, but it’s fun right now. Of course if you don’t want to participate in it but feel like it’s your only option, that won’t be empowering, because you didn’t have that choice, you felt forced into it. It’s only empowering when it’s an option, not when it’s the only option (which does indeed sound like it sucked!).

      • Laura

        Yeah, I see what you mean. It is really important to have the power to choose, and it’s true that I am not a fan of hookup culture largely because I felt trapped by it. Options are key. I do think there needs to be a safe space for girls who don’t want to participate in it, especially since that doesn’t really exist outside of a religious context. That way they have support for opting out if they prefer to.

        Also, I should have explained better when I talked about people being blasé about their hookups. In your case, you had the emotional maturity to recognize that infatuation with a hookup could become problematic, but there are lot of girls out there who don’t yet have that maturity, get infatuated with someone, and think that sleeping with him will make him want to be her boyfriend. That can be really emotionally devastating, especially when it becomes a pattern of behaviour. So as you say, there are a lot of nuances in these situations.

        • Caroline

          I see that so much with many of my sister’s friends who are really into the hookup culture. They hookup repeatedly with a boy they have feelings for, somehow thinking that he will develop feelings too and it will turn into a relationship (without them mentioning that a relationship is what they actually want). Not surprisingly, it never works. It’s really quite sad to watch, as they keep not learning their lesson.

          • Laura

            I’ve seen it too and it is really sad.

          • Laura

            That’s exactly the confusion in the debate – it all depends on whether the commitment-free but not sex-free lifestyle is your goal, or whether you are swept into the hookup culture thinking that it will help you find a committed relationship. If hooking up is your *choice* and your goal, empowerment all the way. If, on the other hand, you pursue short-term hookups hoping they might just become long-term (and I would probably argue that most young women fall into this second category, whether they are likely to admit it or not), you’re going to feel completely vulnerable and powerless and walked-upon, because you are putting the decision (to carry on or [hit it and] quit it [if you will]) in someone else’s hands.

        • Sarah

          I think you need a balance of being blase and caring. For me, I actually stopped hooking up when I found myself being REALLY blase–because I would have been furious if anyone ever thought about me the way that I thought about a few hookups within a short period of time. I didn’t care about my hookups in an ‘I want a relationship way,’ but I was friends with most of them outside of our sexual relationship and that was important to me. When I found myself thinking ‘ugh I hate this person but the sex is OK,’ that is when I stopped hooking up (for about six months). Prior to that, I was blase in that I had NO INTENTION of ever having more than a hookup with that person. But I would have grabbed a causal lunch or drink with them and actually had a conversation–so not blase about them as a person, just as a romantic partner.

          • Copper

            maybe the key to it is just, you need to be responsible for your own emotional well-being? This is a bit of a different approach than I took, but it makes sense, and the common ground is that we both made a decision about what our limits were, and stopped when we found ourselves beyond them.

      • meg

        Yes to choices. I’m not sure I have such a rosy view of hookup culture, having lived through it. There are upsides and downsides, but I can’t come close to arguing that it’s all feminist upside. But I do have a REALLY positive view of the ability for women to make their own choices, and I don’t ever want that to go away. Also, figuring out what those choices are can be an important part of maturing.

    • Class of 1980

      Bravo, Laura.

      Although we all know that some people in every generation had sex before marriage, I think mine was the first to live it out in the open. We uncoupled sex from marriage and living together became mainstream – sometimes leading to marriage and sometimes not.

      What we didn’t do, was embrace the idea that people’s feelings didn’t matter. The “Boys On The Side” article does.

      If we’re now celebrating the complete dehumanization of people we “hook up” with for sex, so that they become essentially blow up dolls, then I’d argue our culture has lost the plot.

      And if this is where civilization is heading, then I really hope there is no reincarnation, cos I don’t want to live in that future. ;)

      • Kelly

        I don’t think it’s fair to say the Atlantic article was claiming that people’s feelings don’t matter. I also don’t think that, as a whole, hook up culture is about having sex without feelings. I my experience, it’s perfectly possible (and really normal) to have a partner that you get along well with, that you respect and value as a friend, but that you’re not romantically attached to. I have several men in my life who I still count as friends that I used to hook up with, and I don’t think we disregarded each other’s feelings at all.

        • Class of 1980

          The author of “Boys On The Side” called the following “hilarious”.

          “In the fall of 2010, Karen Owen, a recent graduate of Duke University, became momentarily famous when her friends leaked her pornographic PowerPoint presentation cataloging her sexual exploits with 13 Duke athletes, whom she identified by name, skill, and penis size (“While he had girth on his side, the subject was severely lacking in length”).”

          The men were treated as objects and that’s supposed to be hilarious? Usually, women don’t like to be treated that way, but it’s really funny if we do that to men?

          Aside from that, I’m wary of the mindset that’s all about “me, me, me”. That’s what I hear when young women are saying “I want to focus on my studies and advancement” as the reason they strictly look for hookups.

          That attitude assumes that other human beings will be available to meet your physical needs without having any messy human emotions to cramp your style.

          Sure, it can and does happen on a mutual basis, but let’s not ignore that it depends on two people being equally detached … and staying detached so as to not rock the boat.

          Wouldn’t it be easier to get a vibrator? ;)

          I’m uncomfortable with taking the chance of hurting another person deeply if they start to care and I don’t. Likewise, I want to protect my own emotional state. So many people who otherwise have good ethics in how they treat people, have a blind spot when it comes to sex.

          Of course, this is just my own opinion. I’m not comfortable having sex with anyone I wouldn’t bring chicken soup to if they were sick, and vice-versa. What could feel more alienating than being good enough to have sex with, but not being good enough to be taken care of when needed?

          I HAD a friends-with-benefits relationship for a while in my twenties. What a minefield. Wouldn’t do it again on a bet.

          • Kate

            This was also a joke that she shared with three friends, that was not intended to be public. The powerpoint may be a product of too much time/energy spent on frivilous crap, but bonding over joking about sexual partners is pretty core to all the female friendships I’ve had, and those partners have all been people I’ve liked and generally respected. You can’t deduce the whole of her treatment of these men based on a single inside joke. And come on! It was totally hilarious [says this married lady in her late 20s who would have been up a creek without “hookup culture”].

    • I participated some in the college hookup culture. Rosin mentions the mean and median hookups reported (“college seniors report an average of 7.9 hookups over four years, but a median of only five”) and I probably fell somewhere right in that range.

      Did I want a boyfriend in college? Very much. Did I get asked out on a single date? Nope. But that dating culture wasn’t really part of the college experience of ANYONE I knew.

      Celibacy was not an option I wanted and I did what I wanted to do. I had to accept that my hookups probably wouldn’t turn into relationship but that was just the way things were there. My options were no boyfriend and celibate or no boyfriend and not celibate.

      That being said, Hannah doesn’t seem to be either for or against “hookup culture” but rather she seems to be arguing that neither way is necessarily better or worse for ones career however that career winds up evolving. (Interestingly, I met my fiance just after I started grad school. I finished but my career isn’t shaping up to be nearly as “high powered” as I would have imagined but infinitely more creative and unique than I could have ever imagined alone.)

      • rys

        Once Rosin moves beyond impressions to stats, there’s not much holding the argument together: 5-8 hookups over 4 years doesn’t suggest crazy hooking-up every weekend (or weeknight). It seems consonant with my experience, but neither my friends nor I felt that hooking up was all that constant. And it’s not clear to me whether these stats change much post-college, either. For all the men and women engaging in regular hook-ups with lots of different people (and I know a few), I know many many more who are doing no such thing.

        As Beth says, I don’t think the choice is between hook-ups and relationships, it’s between hook-ups and celibacy. As much as celibacy can be empowering to some, especially when it’s a choice, it’s just as often demoralizing, especially when it’s not so much a choice but a statement of fact and resignation.

        • Sarabeth

          That’s actually a central point of her argument, though – that for most young women, ‘hookup culture is not something that permeates their lives so much as a reservoir of experiences that they can dip into when they want, and then withdraw from again.

      • meg

        Now that is interesting. I commented above that I find the idea that hookup culture is new to be odd. I graduated from college 10 years ago, and I thought it was par for the course then. But, when I was in college it was a half and half mix of long term relationships and hooking up. Beth, assuming that you’re younger than me, that may be what has changed.

        Also, I want to agree with Rys below. 5-8 hookups (which, we need to note, do not always equal sex) in 4 years sounds within reason to me. That’s slightly more than one a year. If you’re not in a long term relationship, that seems Not At All Crazy to me.

        • Rather than having graduated 10 years ago, I’ve been out about 5 so yes, younger. Most of the long term relationships I can think of that developed out of college (many of which are now becoming marriages) actually STARTED as hookups.

          I guess what I’m objecting to most is Laura’s assertion that there is NOTHING feminist about hookup culture. Hookup culture has opened up the same choices for women that have been open for men for ages (although there are some lingering biases with terms like “laxtitute” etc.) Feminism doesn’t state that you have to partake in options open to you but that you can make your choice to be involved or to opt out.

          • Laura

            Yes, I see your point, and I probably could have expressed that better. Hookup culture sprang out of the feminist movement and though I may disagree with some aspects of it, there are definitely feminist things about it. What I should have said is that is that it’s not *AS* feminist as people think it is.

            I agree that women need choices! In my late twenties I did go on to work in a very religious school that espoused abstinence only sex education. I liked the way that it offered emotional support to young girls so that they didn’t feel they had to participate in hookup culture. But since I am not married, I had to keep non-virginity a secret because I was nervous about my coworkers’ reactions if they knew. I also did not like the way that information about reproductive health information was simply withheld from the high school students. So while I would like to see more emotional support offered to both girls and boys, allowing them to opt out of hookup culture if they want, I absolutely do not want to return to the days when sex and reproductive health were total mysteries, when girls had few sexual options.

          • rys

            Laura’s point reminds me that a friend and I were just talking about how sex education ought to be comprehensive in the fullest sense of the word: accurate information about reproductive health, birth control options, and most of all, how to talk about expectations, needs, and desires in the realm of sex and relationships. There’s more to sex and relationship talk than “consent matters” (which seems to the high point of sex talk education, if it exists…the recent BU Hockey Team incident suggests otherwise) and a lot to learn and teach about confidence, openness, trust, and emotions.

        • rys

          Not At All Crazy and possibly healthy — there’s plenty of research that suggests touch is an important sense and necessary to well-being. In addition to lacking an emotional support system, those not in relationships miss out on the sensation of touch. Not necessarily sex, but a hug, a handhold, a pat on the shoulder, etc. Those are important too.

        • Class of 1980

          Hookup culture certainly isn’t brand-new. They were writing about it at least 15 years ago!

    • meg

      On this comment, “The Atlantic article does make a good point that you can do some pretty interesting things with your life if you postpone marriage, and I found that to be true. I moved overseas, travelled a ton, met some really interesting people I could not have met if I was married.”

      I didn’t marry particularly young (29), nor was I interested in it (I could have, in theory, we got together at 23/24, but neither of us wanted to get married yet, even if we knew we probably wanted to get married at some point). My reasons for that could be another essay, and obviously aren’t right for everyone. BUT. The narrative that marriage limits us is one I wish we could collectively shake. I traveled very little before marriage, and traveled a ton after. I met as many or more interesting people after marriage as I did before. I pushed my career to more interesting places after marriage. And one of these days we’d love to move overseas. So my point is really, getting married is not the end of adventures if you don’t want it to be.

      • Anya

        Exactly! My FH is opening horizons for me that I never even saw before I met him. I would love to be with you in bucking the idea that marriage is limiting. Cultural change happens one person at a time, and I’d love to join you in the paradigm shift.

      • Like you Meg, being in a relationship with my fiance has not been much limiting at all. In fact, It’s been freeing and empowering. And sometimes challenging in the best of ways

        P.S. Meg, you’re doing an awesome job at dispelling this notion bit by bit.

      • lmba

        Oh goodness, I agree. Marriage doesn’t stop you from doing interesting things!!! It’s wonderful that the commenter was able to do those thing as a single person. My life got infinitely braver and more interesting as a married person.

        Quick snapsnot:
        – married at 22
        – immediately took off to spend 4 months in Indonesia volunteering in a children’s home while spouse did thesis research
        – moved into our first apartment in an intentional community situated in a marginalized neighbourhood in Canada
        – went back to school *while* spouse completed Master’s degree, making us dirt poor and crazy!
        – packed our bags and moved TO THE ARCTIC (not joking)
        – completed homestudy to become foster parents (could happen any day now!)

        And, um, all that in 3.5 years? What I would say is that marriage provides our partnership with the stability and security we need in order to do the crazy, crazy things that our hearts truly desire, things that perhaps neither of us could have pulled off on our own.

      • “So my point is really, getting married is not the end of adventures if you don’t want it to be.”

        …And, same goes for hooking-up – it’s all about your choices and how YOU get to make them – no matter where you are on the career/ school/feminist scale.

  • PA

    Thanks for sharing, Hannah!

    I, too, have been through a lot of grief lately, largely driven by the idea that I was supposed to get my life in order, and only then find someone and settle down. I was supposed to have a Career, I was supposed to… I don’t know, be the type of woman who remembered to dry clean the dry clean only clothes, get all of her dishes cleaned immediately, and never spilled ketchup down her front. It wasn’t enough to be self-sufficient, I was also supposed to be Successful. And so: tears. I cried to my fiance that I was supposed to have all my ducks in a row by the time I met him. I cried over the fact that I’m just terrible at housework. I cried over my lack of Career.

    But there’s something about him that’s taught me to listen to the quieter dreams. He’s there when I get up early in the mornings to go running, he’s the one who teased the long-buried dream of becoming a science fiction/fantasy author out of me (not practical, I said) and who encourages me to follow it, he’s the one whose companionship showed me why people so prize a quiet home life. My life is very different than I thought it would be … but I enjoy it much more!

    In short, I’ve come to the conclusion that the right person (whenever you may find them!) will teach you to reach towards your best self, maybe slowing you down and teaching you to ask questions before you rush headlong into a life for the person you thought you were, or the person you wanted to be but aren’t. My fiance taught me to listen to my heart and chase what I really want, not what I think I should want – and that’s my kind of feminism!

  • Hannah

    PA — yes, exactly! My fiance has helped me to listen to my quieter dreams, as well. It is so awesome how life changes, and brings even more wonderful things than we could have imagined before. That’s my kind of feminism too! :)

  • My husband and I are both in the arts, and I think both of us would have given up on our dreams by now if we didn’t have each other. We are in careers where you have to put in a lot of lean years before the rewards come, and without each other’s support and encouragement we never would make it. As is though, we get to take shifts, I get to do what I love while he takes the higher paying job and then recently he is allowed to quit to devote time to building his writing career while I work to make a larger share of the rent. We are stronger and more career focused and ambitious together than we would ever be apart.

    • meg


    • KB

      This is definitely a nuanced argument that people don’t often consider when it comes to advocating marriage, the fact that you can have built-in professional and emotional support. But I think what “Boys on the Side” was getting at may be more along the lines of the downside of having to consider someone else, no matter how supportive that person was, and how that might hinder your goals. I think one interview subject actually said that she didn’t want anyone else to influence what she did after graduation. So I totally see Rosin’s point that to be involved (let alone married) to anyone (and actually be responsible about it instead of “Well, who cares about them?”) is to take their hopes and dreams and lives into consideraton along with your own – by being unattached, you have more professional freedom by having less variables to consider.

    • Emily

      Double yes. My husband and I are also in the arts and we also are able to do the job “shifts.” Without my husband’s encouragement, I would never have had the courage or focus to work on my career, and as both of our crafts intersect, we provide each other opportunities to work on our art together. We’ve been together for over five years, since our sophomore year of college, and I do not feel like our committed relationship has been anything but positive on my ability to succeed.

  • MMS

    The age/career expectations are a big problem for me. I feel like there’s this narrative, this way to do it. Like if your too young (say, 25 and under) and you want to get married, then you’re a bad feminist and your marriage is doomed because you’re not mature enough yet, and you are seriously selling yourself short, you empty-headed girl! BUT, 4 short years later if you aren’t well on your way to marriage (we’re talking a ring and a date) it feels like the response from society is that you need to get on the ball, you heartless, self-centered career woman! Them eggs aren’t getting any younger – you are about to be 30! So whoever comes along next, you better not be too picky or you’ll end up one of those pitiful spinsters!
    So thus it seems (to me,at least) that there’s only this 4 year window to meet and get serious with one’s future spouse. And MAN, I hate how much of that narrative I’ve absorbed!

    • Lia

      I so agree with this. I am 24, have had a steady, good job since graduating college, own my home, and have been with my fiance for over 5 years. We are getting married in less than two weeks (!). Being engaged “this young” has been really difficult for me in the sense that I am insecure that people think I’m some idiot who is bound to get divorced/have no idea what I am doing/am not mature, etc. I also feel really absorbed in this narrative, and it sucks.

      • MIRA

        gahh!!! who is telling you that 24 is too young?

        • Lia

          A few women that I work with have said something along the lines of “oh, but you’re so young to get married!”

    • Copper

      Well didn’t you know that you’re supposed to get married at EXACTLY 27 years of age, because not only should you be a successful woman, you’re supposed to control time!

      • Also, sh*t happens sometimes! You can be dating, engaged, married or pregnant at the “right” age, but your fiance could cheat on you, your husband could die in a car crash, or your baby could miscarry. You could unexpectedly become single at age 30, 35, 40, or whenever, for any number of reasons. And then the correct sort of time line is shot!

        We don’t have control over time or so much in our lives. Trying to be perfect just doesn’t make sense.

    • meg

      Truth. (Though, it varies by region. All of my friends growing up married in their early 20’s, so I married late).

      I hit that narrative on the head: started dating at 24 (which in retrospect actually seems insanely young to me, but I digress), married at 29. But when I hit 31 and wasn’t pregnant (and was no longer in New York City though was still in a major coastal city), people LITERALLY asked me if I was going to be “a career woman instead of a mother” since I was “running out of time.” Are you fucking kidding me?

      • KB

        And if you were still single at 31, they’d make a joke about you being a cat lady. You just can’t win!

  • margo

    I think it is important to read articles like this one for the big picture and less for the reflection of individual life choices. Because the “hook up culture” makes your story possible as well. That is, it gave you the choice. You’re able to look at other kinds of relationships and realize that what you WANT is to marry your fiance. That is not a choice you would have had thirty or fifty years ago. (Marriage would have been expected, and less a choice you make.) Your choice may look different (or more traditional) than the phenomenon that Hanna Rosin is describing, but you still benefit from it.

    More importantly, other women benefit from it. I have to roll my eyes a little at the term “hook up culture.” It is typical of The Atlantic to run with these over sensational terms and over the top questions (see: “Can women have it all?”). Because at the heart of what Hannah Rosin is observing and talking about is the fact that young women no longer feel like they need to be married to have sex or love or be fulfilled. They are no longer scandalized by sexual jokes. And (big shocker!) women like having sex just as much as men. The acknowledgement of which benefits women as a whole, because it gives us the freedom to make more choices without being looked down on. And whatever your personal choices, you do better (as a woman) when women (in general) do better.

    • Anya

      I agree (of course) that having more sexual freedom is good. It’s really about time people get with the whole women-like-sex bit, and hopefully start teaching men to say “No” just like they teach women about it.

      However, as much as I love a heavy dose of sexual freedom, I think we’re going overboard. It is deeply frustrating and unsatisfying to live in a culture that’s no longer willing to stand by marriage in any arena other than the political one (and don’t get me started on that hypocrisy). I think there should be more room made for meaningful sex rather than meaningless sex, and there must be some sort of cultural pressure towards getting married, staying in your marriage, remaining committed to your vows, and the concept of honor as a whole. It is deeply, deeply unsatisfying to live in a culture that says “do whatever you want” rather one that presents an argument for doing the right thing. Whether that’s marriage or consensual non-monogamous sex, I don’t really care, but we can’t have it all (as women or as a culture).

      • margo

        “there must be some sort of cultural pressure towards getting married”

        NO. There absolutely does not. I think we should value marriage as a choice and as something we’ve learned to be good for society (and hence why we need to have marriage equality). And in many ways our society does, by offering tax breaks to married couples and recognizing the importance of spouses in legal frameworks. Religion certainly recognizes the value of marriage. Communities value marriage. Many (most?) individuals do.

        But societal pressure isn’t going to create more “meaningful sex” for anyone. Individuals need to find or create that for themselves.

        • meg

          I do think this comment is super interesting, “However, as much as I love a heavy dose of sexual freedom, I think we’re going overboard. It is deeply frustrating and unsatisfying to live in a culture that’s no longer willing to stand by marriage in any arena other than the political one (and don’t get me started on that hypocrisy).” And I would argue that in many way’s it’s true. We have a legal structure that values marriage, we have a culture that ACTS and TALKS like they value marriage. But I think we talk out of both sides of our mouth on the issue. I think most cultural depictions of marriage are negative, and that we still expect marriage and structure our society for marriage to not be egalitarian.

          BUT! Like Margo, I don’t agree that we should encourage people to get married. I remain fairly neutral on the subject. I think it can be a great thing if you choose it (and obviously want to explore why and how that can be true, since it’s largely outside the current cultural narrative). But I don’t think it’s important or great or necessary for everyone.

        • Anya

          What I meant by saying that there should be some cultural pressure towards getting married is kind of exactly what Meg said below. We can’t be constantly giving lip service to how awesome marriage is on one hand and then acting as if marriage is a momentary choice, or toxic, on the other. When 90% of people in the article say they want to get married, I’m going to take that at face value. But it’s not helpful to say we want marriage and then not be supportive of it. And I’m not just talking lovey-dovey support. Cultural support has two sides – the positive, loving, supportive side that we all believe in and the firm hand that supports based on the principle that you just do some things cause it’s what we do.

          People are VERY against the idea that we do things cause that’s how it’s done – but that is often what makes life meaningful and functional (examples include weddings, christmas, passover, caring for your aging parents, paying your taxes, and not being cruel to the vulnerable). Marriage is just as much a cultural construct as weddings are and we do it, in part, cause that’s how it’s done.

          But more and more, marriage is not how it’s done – so there’s no example for people to follow. And yet 90% of people say they want marriage. What I’m saying is that is you’re not loving AND firm about getting married – it stops being done because people stop seeing how it is done. And what you end up with isn’t everyone happy and free in their choices. You end up with a lot of upset people, because the people who would have served as an example for them were not supported – neither with love nor with firmness.

      • Ros

        “I don’t really care, but we can’t have it all”

        Could you elaborate on this? Because the way your argument is presented, all I can say is that I disagree. A lot.

        I spent my teens/early-mid-20s with hook-ups – usually with friends, sometimes with more casual hook-ups, usually repeated with the same people (if, to put it bluntly, the sex was good enough to merit a second shot)., interspaced with a few relationships (which were horrible ideas and educational experiences, at the same time). While doing that, I graduated, spent time with friends, built up a career, took care of the family that needed taking care of, and figured out who I was and what I wanted and what I enjoyed and had as much sex as I wanted with relatively little judgement. And, when I was 25, working on my career, and partying like crazy, I hooked up with an old friend. And again. And he was awesome, so we hung out more and more. And I married him this summer.

        I think the point here is that you can figure out how to negotiate what you want when you need it, at the right time for you. I had hook-ups, and casual relationships, and serious relationships, and they were all what was right for me, at the time – I honestly wouldn’t trade away the hook-ups for having committed to my husband earlier – we would have been all wrong for each other at the time!

        So, from my perspective, the beauty of this is that we CAN have it all. We have to choose/negotiate/figure it out/argue/make mistakes/fix mistakes/etc, but the beauty of it is that we have the opportunity to do this…

        • Anya

          Your story sounds exactly like mine. I had hook ups, I found them fun sometimes and not other times. I had good and bad relationships. And I was full of confidence the whole time. So we’re not coming from wildly different places.

          What I meant by not being able to have it all (besides throwing in a reference to a previous Atlantic article), was more in reference to my current explorations of how societal pressure interacts with marriages lasting, or marriages happening at all. I have a lot of friends whose marriages are falling apart, in part because of a relaxed attitude towards sexual distractions by the people around them, so they lack the firm support of friends and family who think cheating is not OK. I’m worried that a whole lot of the sexually relaxed attitudes in the article are bleeding into marriage as a whole. I guess what worries me is that I’ve seen so many of my friends respond to each others’ cheating with absolute nonchalance. It’s hard to stay committed for 50 years. If we’re going to do it, we need friends and society as a whole to stop continually reminding us of how easy and casual sex can be and support us in staying committed instead to what is, at times, a harder road.

          • Paranoid Libra

            Cheating isn’t necessarily a catch-all offense to everyone though. Each couple has to make that decision if that is a screw up to end the relationship or not. There is a big difference to constantly running around a partner’s back with varying other people to a stupidly black-out drunk night.

            The importance of staying together and becoming a stronger team might be much greater. They are probably working on their relationship in private. I personally have after dealing with some emotional cheating a couple years ago. It can be really hard to discuss it with others when EVERYONE would say just leave their dumb ass. More than likely no one else was around when the confrontation or admittance happened. The one cheated on might have seen why it occurred or see the full on remorse and decide a stupid moment of weakness/lack any form of thinking, shouldn’t ruin a long term relationship. Maybe that’s the bump on the road for them or it leads to figuring out what the bump is to work on smoothing it out.

            I am not saying people should go cheat, and it should be discouraged but different relationships, different values.

            Then if you factor in open marriages that’s a whole other can of worms and honestly I believe takes a heck of strong marriage to do.

          • Anya

            It won’t let me reply to you, Paranoid Libra, but this is a reply:

            I’m not a person who thinks cheating is the END of a relationship. I’d say my partner and I have a fairly progressive stance on monogamy and cheating. Actually, I totally agree with you, so I have nothing much to say. I guess we get at it from different perspectives. I just see the whole “it’s okay to cheat” thing as being symptomatic of the larger problem, not necessarily THE problem.

          • Sarah

            Connected but also a bit of an aside, I would LOVE to see a post from somebody who either a) decided to move past cheating or b) lives in an non-monogamous relationship, such as an open marriage.

    • Emma

      Agree. I read the Rosin article to be a description of a macro-trend that is overall good for women. It’s not prescriptive — although Rosin speaks to some individuals who try to make it so, as though your options are the hook-up culture and late marriage OR early marriage and a crap career. These are obviously not your options. The point is that by easing the social and sexual expectations of young women, we finally HAVE options.

      For instance, when I was the author’s age, I was neither in a serious relationship nor participating in hook-up culture. I dated very little, and was personally quite chaste (a personal choice I was comfortable with but would not say is something anyone has to subscribe to). I would say my wildest years, dating/sex wise, were my mid to late 20s. And now I’m in my 30s, settled down and planning to get married. By our wedding date, I’ll be 34 and my partner will be 36.

      Without what Rosin calls “hook-up culture,” that evolution would have been significantly more challenging than it was. I would have been shamed in my early 20s for failing to have a serious relationship, shamed in my mid- to late-20s for “sleeping around”, and then shamed in my 30s for waiting so long to get married (and obviously forgetting about the tick, tick, tick of my biological clock). I still felt all those pressures, but was relatively liberated by a culture that was actively fighting against the old paradigm. That doesn’t mean my life is better because I didn’t marry younger. Nor is my career necessarily better. My individual experience has its nuances. But the experience of my cohort is undeniably better (including those who married younger) because society is less restrictive about how women have sex and have relationships and marry.

      • MIRA


        Also, I think a bit of perspective on what counts as “young” and “old” would be helpful here.

        To me, the Big Deal about increasing age at first marriage is that it has taken the “marriage market” pressure out of college campuses (for women, the median age shifted from 20-21 in the 60s and 70s to 25-26 in the last decade). And the thing is, I kind of feel like once you’re out of college, it’s all gravy for about 10 years, socially. I didn’t hang out with many seniors as a freshman, but I spent a lot of time hanging out with 30-somethings after graduation.

        I will be 28 when we tie the knot, and I don’t think of myself as an “old” bride. I also don’t think of 24 as particularly young to get married.

        What about the rest of you guys? Am I off the mark here?

        • Emma

          Good point. My mom married and had her first child at 19. She never finished college. And these “choices” were completely condoned, if not encouraged, by her family and society. She was doing it the “right way.”

          Now, my mom has had (and continues to have) a lovely life. She loves her kids and her husband. She’s traveled. She has wonderful friends. She’s worked (very hard) in an on again, off again career.

          But she’s also had significantly fewer options in life, because she was forced (yes, forced) to make decisions when she was little more than a child. And if I had wanted to get married and start a family at 19, she would have had some hard questions for me. But 24? After obtaining a college degree and making some big decisions about life? That wouldn’t have phased her at all.

        • Carrie

          Yeah, in my social circle, 24 is a completely normal, unremarkable age to get married. The social norm here seems to be that marrying before you’ve finished college is “young.” But after you’ve finished college you’re an adult. (I’m from the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina and attended a university in the UNC system, for reference on where I’m coming from.)

          I gather that the social norm for the audience The Atlantic aims at (DC-NY-Boston, Ivy League-educated) is different — that you’re not really considered an “adult” until you’ve finished an advanced degree and are settled in a career path, so mid-late 20s.

          • That’s a good observation, Carrie. I’m from rural Tennessee but went to college in Boston. Since I graduated I’ve noticed that most of the women I went to high school with married and started having kids immediately after college (if they went), while most of the women I went to college with haven’t. When I got engaged at 24, I felt weirdly behind some of my friends in the timeline and weirdly ahead of many others.

            The Rosen essay seems to be leaving out a lot of women. My entire college experience from 04 to 08 at a big urban school was not really affected by the hookup culture, and neither were my friends. I had a steady boyfriend for three and a half years. I had two “hookup” type encounters, hated them, and decided that wasn’t how I wanted to do things.

            Why is it that whenever we read these kinds of essays it’s always presented as an either/or? You either have to be empowered by hookup culture or you have to be longing for the days of courtship and chivalry. That’s really not how real life works.

          • MIRA

            yeah, I’m from a flyover state and went to the Ivy League for college…and while it was only high school friends that got married during college, I know plenty of people from college who were married at 24 or 25. There does seem to be a major explosion of weddings this year (we’re that magical 27 now) but it didn’t seem to me like 24 was a head-shaking “you’re far too young for this” kind of age.

        • meg

          Depends where you are. My friends from home started getting married at 19 and finished getting married (the first time) at 24. They started having kids at the same time. But to be clear, I grew up in one of the most impoverished cities in America.

          As someone who spent most of her adult life in New York City, when I got married at 29, I considered myself to be getting married pretty damn young, and did worry about marriage damaging my career, because that was the cultural construct I lived in. Successful women around me were often unmarried, or married in their mid to late 30s. At 28 and 29, we were among the very youngest of our urban friends to get hitched. And at 31 and 32, we’re among the very first of our urban friends to have kids.

          So, as someone who’s lived at both ends of the spectrum, all I can say is it really depends.

      • meg

        See, I’m not sure that sexual freedom outside of marriage is the same as hookup culture. Sexual freedom outside of marriage is important. The agressive sex of hookup culture that treats people as disposable is, I think, a bit of a different phenomenon, and one that I’m not so positive about.

        Though in general, I do agree. Trust the Atlantic to make sweeping generalizations and use sensationalizing terms. On the plus side, they get us talking. On the minus side, DAMN it takes the nuance out of the conversation.

        • Anya

          You’re right – I am conflating the two. I’m also conflating it with really questionable porn that was mentioned in the article leaking into mainstream sexual culture (I’m not talking S&M, or even outrageous kinks, I’m talking the kind of degrading shit that so many people (mostly men) think is normal that they would have trouble imagining on their own).

          I guess I have trouble believing that the mores of one type of behavior don’t bleed into another. I do think hook up/constant porn culture is bad for marriage, but more because it makes us completely incapable of being shocked or offended, and blunts our capacity for doing the right thing when we want to do the wrong thing. Hook up culture is about getting what we want now. Marriage, and a whole lot of life, is about a lot more.

        • Emma

          Couldn’t agree more. I think part of the issue is the term “hookup culture” and how it’s defined. When I got past the anecdotes and into the actual statistical data in Rosin’s piece, I found nothing worrisome. An average of 7.9 hookups over four years of college (which don’t even necessarily include sex)? Men and women who, more often than not, hope sexual encounters will turn into something more? This is not the anti-relationship, casual sex Sodom & Gomorrah I’ve seen described by Caitlin Flanagan and others who seek to “protect” young women from the consequences of their own choices.

          I think we can conflate our own negative sexual experiences with the term “hookup culture” and conclude that the culture itself is negative. Like many women, I’ve had the bad experience of hooking up with a guy and then later feeling used. I have regretted hook ups. But to me, that doesn’t exemplify the phenomenon Rosin describes, even if the terminology she’s selected makes it seem that way. Instead, I think of them as a piece of a much more complex picture. As the numbers illustrate, the sexual culture of young people today isn’t just an endless stream of meaningless sexual encounters. There’s plenty of experimentation, and greater openness. There’s also increased awareness of how sexual choices affect your future. And best of all, we seem to be seeing similar attitudes from both men and women, which I believe helps women stand on more equal footing with men when it comes to looking for, and getting, what they want out of their sex lives.

          It would be great if we could come up with a word other than hookup culture. My parents’ generation had the sexual revolution, and it seems like what we’re seeing now is more of an extension of that movement than just a fleeting trend toward promiscuity and delayed marriage.

    • Jashshea

      That’s how I read The Atlantic article, too, Margo. I didn’t see it as a condemnation of the choice to marry younger or have babies younger (as someone else said – what does “young” even mean anymore?), but rather a general check up on what is really happening in some circles.

      That’s not to say the article didn’t have flaws – I also enjoy a crude joke or two (million), but that doesn’t mean I spent my younger years shacking up with randoms in the bar bathroom. I’m not criticizing that action, just saying that there’s a range of options beyond the Madonna/whore dichotomy.

      • KB

        TOTALLY agree Jashshea. On the one hand, I’m proud to be a torchbearer in a lot of ways, but on the other hand, I am so tired by the thought of my personal/sexual actions being touted as a Sign of the Times. Just because I tell a dirty joke and go home with a guy doesn’t mean that I’m “degrading” myself – or that I’m so “modern” and “free.” I hope all this discussion and moving and growing helps us end up somewhere that’s more neutral and free from judgment on both sides, you know?


    (I will return and more intelligent, add non-caps lock comments shortly, but I just had to get that out of my system first.)

  • Anya

    In my experience, the hook up culture is not so fun, and not so empowering. Sure, it’s something to do, but having sex and being in a relationship are two very different things that have only sex in common. Hookups do not replace a relationship. Hookups are only as feminist as the women and men (or women and women) engaging in them, and when it’s not feminist, which it often isn’t, it’s Awful.

    I’m glad this article doesn’t jump to the conclusion that hookups deprive women of their agency (as in – assuming it’s just blow jobs all the time), which a lot of previous articles did, but it’s a leap to equate hook up culture and the postponement of marriage with modern feminism. As the previous article in The Atlantic about women not being able to have it all points out, you have to compromise, and one compromise is with the Feminists of our mothers’ generation who insist that career is more important than family. That hookups might somehow be a form of prophylaxis against unwanted young marriages fits neatly in the career-over-marriage career-first narrative. That narrative is reactionary, and for our generation, which has seen where that leads, it’s not realistic. Give me family AND career. I’ll sacrifice a bit of both before I have to sacrifice all of one.

    • Shiri

      YES. “Hookups are only as feminist as the women and men (or women and women) engaging in them, and when it’s not feminist, which it often isn’t, it’s Awful.”

      I happened to read the Salon article about the hookup culture and female orgasms last night (which I can’t seem to find a link to right now) which focuses on how men in that age group don’t care about their hookup partner’s sexual satisfaction but do care about their relationship partner’s sexual satisfaction. As someone above said, seeing the hookup culture as feminist is a pretty macro level view. In my experience, it sure wasn’t feminist in the micro. It often felt like playing into everything male dominated culture wanted of you (me), even though the power felt awfully good.

      Also, Hannah, well done. Great post.

      • Ros

        In my experience, the guys who didn’t care about their hookup partner’s satisfaction didn’t get laid much. On the other hand, the guys who DID care basically got recommended to any other interested woman around.

        Maybe that’s just my social circle as a whole, but I’ve totally hooked up with guys because 3 of my friends recommended him as a good lay who wouldn’t be complicated in the morning (and, for the record, they were usually right). And, frankly, those guys seemed to have a lot more fun than the guys who spent more time boasting about being in bed than having fun in bed. *shrugs*

        • Shiri

          You definitely know more “evolved” men than I do (and possibly more evolved women, too!)! Part of this may be that my experience with the hookup culture was in college and I’m not sure how many 19 year old know enough or care enough about female orgasms. I think, or hope, that mid-20s hookup culture is probably different, but I’d opted out at that point.

          I think most of my friends’ involvement in hooking up was aimed, as someone said above, towards eventually turning a hookup partner into a boyfriend, so what you said about recommending someone never really applied for us.

          • Anya

            In my college hook ups rarely turned into boyfriends. Relationships were very compartmentalized away from hook ups. it was my experience totally and utterly that the people you had a one night stand with were not the ones you dated or married. The pervasiveness of that mentality was a mind fuck from an earlier era, and led a lot of women (and men) to be very, very frustrated and confused about how one goes about getting a date. it was one of the worst aspects of hook up culture.

      • meg

        “As someone above said, seeing the hookup culture as feminist is a pretty macro level view. In my experience, it sure wasn’t feminist in the micro. It often felt like playing into everything male dominated culture wanted of you (me).”

        And this was my experience of the hookup culture I came of age in and around. Exactly.

      • Copper

        I’ve had better hookup sex than relationship sex. The guys I hooked up with were like specialists at sex, but the guys I’ve had relationships with have been relationshippy guys, and have tended to be slightly insecure about the fact that they haven’t had many partners, which has led to a bit less creativity and openness in the sack. So, as with everything, it’s all about the individuals involved.

        • Anya

          But in a relationship there’s room to talk about the sex and make it better. Which is awesome. I’ve dated many a virgin, and they started out completely useless in the bedroom. But with enough positive reinforcement and open communication, even the most awkward virgin can become a sex master (trust me). I wish there were more articles about how people having sex talk about sex! All this oblique talk of sex doesn’t get you far in your own bedroom (or on your kitchen counter).

        • not using one

          the worst sex I ever had was with the guy who had had the most partners.

          Also, on the general topic, I met my now fiance as a friend, and then a hookup. And there were other hookups who stayed just that. Nobody I knew really dated, they either got serious with someone thy had hooked up with or didn’t or asked a friend to become more. Maybe people would go on one date and then be a couple after that.

    • meg

      “That hookups might somehow be a form of prophylaxis against unwanted young marriages fits neatly in the career-over-marriage career-first narrative. That narrative is reactionary, and for our generation, which has seen where that leads, it’s not realistic. Give me family AND career. I’ll sacrifice a bit of both before I have to sacrifice all of one.”

      THIS. Shit. Make this a post just so I can read it. THIS THIS THIS.

      • Can we talk more, please, about the idea of giving up a bit of each thing instead of creating a zero-sum dichotomy? I only see these issues framed as an all or nothing choice, but somehow I have never been able to buy into that assumption. Can’t I have a pretty great career and be pretty available for my family, rather than picking either business-suit-professionalism or stay-at-home mommy-hood? I want neither of those extremes.

        • meg

          I hope to be able to weigh in on this with a bit more information in a year or so…

        • Granola

          Agreed. I’m sure my career choices will be affected by my decision to marry at 25, just as my family choices will be affected by my desire to have a fulfilling career. It seems like most people are here in the middle, and it’s actually kind of a nice place to be.

          I wonder if the refusal to “compromise” in popular culture possibly has something to do with not wanting to give up an professional potential? Because you know, you could be a CEO or ruler of the free world, if only you weren’t married…

        • Diane

          For what it’s worth, I feel like I’m living where that rubber and road meet, and sometimes it’s painful but mostly I feel like I get to choose the right path for myself (and wow there’s a lot to be said for that!). I finished med school and a master’s in 2010 and matched at a Harvard program (loved the program, had mixed feelings about the Harvard thing, but wasn’t going to argue with the cache the name brought). Then my guy finished his PhD a year later and got a great job offer from a large university in the south-central US so I transferred to a program in Texas. The training is likely of similar quality now and it’s likely that I’ll take a less prestigious fellowship in a small program which can feel bittersweet sometimes. However as long as it meets my career needs well enough (meaning I get the training and credentials I need and feel prepared to do what I do well) then it seems worth it to be able to start our married lives together, live in the same house, and hopefully try to have our first child in the next couple years. And perhaps in the future, we’ll make a move that optimizes my career. For various reasons, I have many doors open for taking a more high-powered academic medical career, being involved in publication and promotion, and climbing the academic ladder. And I may not do that so that I can spend more time being a wife and mom. On the other hand, I don’t think that the high-powered career would bring me the same level of joy, and I’m confident that I can get most of what I want in both areas, but not all. Oh, and I’m getting married at 31 and he’ll be 35, not out of some “master plan” but because we didn’t meet until 5 years ago, date until 3.5 years ago, and won’t live in the same place again until (hopefully) next June.

        • On a cultural narrative level, that’s what you hear all the time, right? Yet, once I calmed down about OMG MY BABY WILL RUIN MY LIFE flailing and actually took a closer look at the families-with-kids in my world, there are very few who live at the extremes. I travel in a somewhat “professional” circle (engineers and accountants in the oil and gas industry, mostly) and from the executive level down, work-life balance is encouraged. (Like: we work an extra 30 minutes a day to get every second Friday off. You don’t notice the half hour but you sure do notice regular 3 day weekends!) The CFO of my (large multinational) company’s daughter was sick, and she was gone for a couple of weeks and no one even blinked about her absence. This attitude trickles down, of course, so even while working a corporate job, the extreme dedication to work over family is very much not the norm.

          At least, this is what I remind myself, as I contemplate my mat leave ending…

          • meg

            Fucking Canada, man. I’d hate you, if I wasn’t so busy being full of envy.

            (I obviously have a fair amount of freedom as a self employed person… in some ways… though taking time off is tough, but David doesn’t, and that’s not the sweeping American culture. Obviously.)

        • Copper

          or possibly about it not being zero-sum at all? What about the idea that you can choose someone that supports your career and helps you be better at it? Why can’t husband and wife have a symbiotic relationship, instead of a parasitic one?

  • Jaya

    I really don’t understand what hookup culture and/or relationships have to do with my career. I hooked up with people in college and loved it. When I stopped loving it, I stopped doing it. When I realized I wanted to be with my current partner, we got together, and we support and push each other in our careers to an extent that I don’t think I could be doing what I do now at all if it weren’t for him. Why is everyone insisting we make a choice?

    • Ros


      The ability to pick what’s right for you at that point in time (and have casual sex, or not, depending on what you feel might be good at that point in time) is awesome. Why do we have to choose between committed sex vs casual sex? We can totally have both…

  • rys

    Like most things, a “hook-up culture” can be both empowering and deadening, useful and destructive, depending on the individuals involved, the context in which hook-ups occur, and the environment in which the people live.

    That said, the perceived dichotomy of hook-up culture versus young(ish) marriage seems forced. I think there are real concerns about both: What are the limits each impose, intentionally or not, on the lives of men and women? What are the attitudes each cultivates about the behavior, needs, and desires of men and women? What values do each presume or challenge in today’s world? What spaces do each offer for men and women to pursue their dreams and fulfill their needs, as individuals and as citizens of the world?

    The answers are complicated, but worthy, I think, of our thought and attention, our scrutiny, and our suspicion. Yet in practice, I’m not sure the hook-up/young marriage dichotomy is especially meaningful in that marriage, at whatever age, depends on meeting the right person. And some people find that person early, as Hannah has, and others don’t — despite deep yearnings, best efforts, and hardy resolve.

    Might hook-up culture affect that? Possibly, but not definitively. Is serial (non-marital) monogamy a better pre-marriage model? Maybe, but not necessarily. Both models, not to mention marriage, all rely on the same thing: willing (even if only briefly) partners. And not everyone finds someone, for an evening or a long term relationship easily or readily. Thus what might offer a coherent answer in the aggregate often makes little sense in particular cases. Hook-ups have benefited me and hurt me, but are not, it seems to my 30-something self, a robust explanation for my being single. Not having found the right person — at age 22 or 32 — is.

    • Sarabeth

      From the article itself, and hearing an interview with Hannah Roisin about her new book, this dichotomy emerges from her reporting the perceptions that young women in elite-ish colleges have about marriage. I think the most interesting part of the story she was telling is the class differences in the way that people perceive early marriages. Young women from wealthier families tended to perceive early marriage as a problem or a failure, and see hookup culture as a good alternative, while young women from poorer families tended to at least start college wanting an early marriage, and faced a lot of social pressure to switch their goals.

      • josie

        Sure, but, well, color me unsurprised by the finding that attitudes toward marriage age are stratified by class (so are number of children and maternal age at childbirth). Good reportage, of which Rosen is most certainly capable, would plumb deeper and address the questions raised by Rys. Maybe the book will do so.

  • The beauty of being a feminist is that I can choose to marry young and have babies, never having a brilliant career – and this is the choice that is right for me.

  • Ana

    I’m 29 and have occasion at this point my career to work with many talented, capable women in their mid-to-late forties. The three I’m closest to are unmarried with no children and didn’t picture their lives like that (and are at peace with it in varying degrees). As I’ve started planning my wedding they’ve all revealed to me in different ways that they felt lied to when they were in their twenties and thirties about marriage and children. Two of them chose to focus on getting their careers started and by the time they felt successful enough to “settle down”, there were limited by available mates and their own fertility. The third is a lesbian and the message was that marriage and children were NOT feasible options so she better get used to being the fun aunt with a “roommate”. I don’t think that my 63-year-old mom was burning her bra for their lack of options or my ability to hook up with as many people as I wanted to in college. I think she was burning her bra for all of us (me, Hannah, my forty-something colleagues) to have OPTIONS and to be in control of which option we choose.

  • Kelsey

    It’s interesting to me that womens work lives and personal lives are always examined in tandem. One could point out all of the flaws with this- why are we always assuming that our love and family lives directly impact our work, and mens work lives get to exist in this Platonic-ideal vacuum? But, what if we flip this discourse and instead ask why nobody ever considers the full spectrum of a man’s life? I think our culture would benefit from understanding that families and relationships inevitably effect EVERYONES work, and that work is integrated with the rest of our lives, rather than just fret about whether women can have babies and still be successful.

    • meg

      “It’s interesting to me that womens work lives and personal lives are always examined in tandem. One could point out all of the flaws with this- why are we always assuming that our love and family lives directly impact our work, and mens work lives get to exist in this Platonic-ideal vacuum? But, what if we flip this discourse and instead ask why nobody ever considers the full spectrum of a man’s life?”

      YES. And don’t get me started on the way this gets ramped up during pregnancy. Suddenly, because you’re visibly having a kid, everyone feels like it’s open season to weigh in on your professional life. Something that has NEVER ONCE HAPPENED to my husband, even though everyone knows he’s having a kid too. It’s screwed up, my friends, and damn, it needs to change.

      • That’s really interesting, because outside of a couple of close coworkers (one good friend I talked through issues with, and one older woman who has a bet going about my return to work) and my mother, no one talked about my professional life at all while pregnant. Beyond, I suppose, asking if I was going to take the full year mat leave or not. (As at least 90% of women seem to, it’s not a loaded question.)

        Then again, the only person who touched my belly without permission was a clerk in the duty-free in an airport in Mexico. Maybe Albertans are just better at minding their own businesses?

        • meg

          Then again, YOU HAVE MAT LEAVE. Achem. By which I mean to say, I think it’s way way harder to have any sort of work life balance in the US, so perhaps we haven’t moved as far past the idea that women Give It All Up for kids. But then again, if we didn’t think women needed to Give It All Up for kids, maybe we’d have mat leave. Chicken and the egg, perhaps. Screwed up, no doubt.

          • Sometimes, being as immersed in American culture as I am, I forget that there is a fundamental difference in the way our countries, collectively, view the world. (See: religion, politics, collective rights, abortion, world role, health care…) I would be fascinated by that chicken and egg discussion. although I am sure I’d spend my time muttering things like “yay socialism” and cheers that in the decade of year long mat leave, it has become both the legal and *cultural* norm.

  • Moz

    So I really agree with this column, but in reading the opinions in the comments we should remember that this website is read overwhelmingly by people who believe in marriage and relationships.

    The women that Rosin writes about are not the target audience for APW. They might have been at one time or another, but, and I don’t think I am speaking out of turn, they aren’t now. So I’ll be interested to read the comments on Rosin’s article out in the broader community. There are feminists for whom this original article might make a lot of sense.

    • meg

      Interesting point, and I don’t totally disagree.

      However, I’m not sure that those of us who are now married can’t weigh in on this, or don’t have opinions on it. I lived through hookup culture, in some ways happily, in some ways unhappily, but I definitely have the complex opinions of someone who lived it. And, while I believe in marriage *for me,* I don’t actually think it’s a sweeping greater good, nor did I *personally* believe in young marriage. As always, it’s complex. I think we sell ourselves short if we think we can’t discuss and debate things other than what we’re personally living right this very second, or if we think we only agree with our current personal experiences.

      • Moz

        I am not for a second saying that people on this site can’t be empathetic about ideas they don’t necessarily embrace or that they shouldn’t weigh in (I mean, we only do it here at least once a week). And given that I read this site as a single woman, and someone who came here as a vendor and stayed as an interested party, I know that it’s possible to find common ground where you wouldn’t expect. I was just pointing out that the general consensus on this site may well be very different from what else is out there, and that people elsewhere can understandably feel differently about marriage, for all sorts of reasons.

  • Kathy

    “We educated women of the twenty-first century, we are movers, we are shakers, we are BIG—and our success is not the antithesis of healthy, loving relationships.”

    Thank you so much for this. I’ve spent too much time oscillating between being a Bad Feminist and a Bad Bride the past few months. I think going forward I’ll work on being the best me, and nuts to all the labels.

  • Carrie

    I think the reason some people are negative about the idea of women marrying young, before they have an established career, is the idea that being married will impede following your dreams. That once you marry, you’ll become primarily the support person for your husband following his dreams. (Women who aren’t marrying men are totally invisible in this narrative.)

    Of course, that no longer has to be true of marriage. Marriage can be and often is an equal partnership, a team where both people support each other in their dreams.

    However, unfortunately, there are still social pressures on women to choose the role of support person, to sacrifice their own dreams in order to take care of someone else’s. Even as someone raised in a fairly egalitarian subculture, I still struggle with feeling that imperative to put taking care of my husband above anything else — and I don’t mean in a healthy “we take care of each other” way, but in a way where I feel guilty about taking up any space, guilty for having any needs or wants that impose in any way on his life.

    For me, being older when I married meant that I’d developed more self-confidence and independence. I’m better able now than I was at 22 to understand when I’m sacrificing myself in an unhealthy way, and more willing and able to advocate for myself when I need to. (I mention 22 because that was the “socially normal” age to marry in my circle.) I’m way better able than I was at 18, 19, or 20, which is what my social circle considers a “young” marriage (and I’ve known several people who married at those ages).

    People are different, of course. Some people have zero problem with self-confidence at 22 or 24. And clearly, social pressures to be the self-sacrificing caretaker don’t magically go away once you’re 30, or have a master’s degree, or have a good job, or whatever. But I don’t think it’s completely off-base to think that there is some correlation between age and self-confidence/independence, and that self-confidence and independence make for a healthier marriage relationship. (Obviously, it primarily depends on the people and the relationship, more than their ages.)

    Please understand, I am NOT NOT NOT saying that it’s wrong or bad or unfeminist to get married at 24, 22, or even 18. I am NOT NOT NOT saying that your marriage is doomed if you’re under some magic age, or that you don’t know your own mind, or any crap like that. It’s incredibly important to trust yourself, your own mind, your own knowledge and experience and opinions, no matter how old or young you are.

    I’m just grappling with my own experience of social pressure to be the unhealthily self-sacrificing support person in a relationship, and how that pressure was harder for me to resist when I was younger.

    • Jaya

      Love this comment! You sum it up perfectly. It seems like a lot of people are using this article to argue over whether marriage is better or worse for your career/independence/whatever, when really, like anything, it can be either depending on how you handle it.

    • meg

      Yes. This was true for me too.

    • KH_Tas

      “I think the reason some people are negative about the idea of women marrying young, before they have an established career, is the idea that being married will impede following your dreams. That once you marry, you’ll become primarily the support person for your husband following his dreams. (Women who aren’t marrying men are totally invisible in this narrative.)”


      This is so so much of the problem (along with workplace discrimination against married women, of course, another thing that has to end, like, yesterday).

      “However, unfortunately, there are still social pressures on women to choose the role of support person, to sacrifice their own dreams in order to take care of someone else’s.”

      “Exactly” to this bit too

  • Catherine

    Wow, this is my favorite post in a long time!! Totally made my day. I am at the very beginning of my career- one that is exceptionally hard, no guarantees, uphill climb for years type career- one that I have known I was going to have ever since I was little, and at 22, I am planning on getting married. Growing up I always was “career, career, career” BUT at the same time, I have never been a “dater” and have also always decided I would meet my soulmate and that would be that, we’d get married, and get on with life. My career is taking way longer than I hoped all those years growing up and dreaming and it is a constant emotional battle. I feel very very lucky to have met my partner for life at this time, when everything else is so scary and unstable. At first glance, it might seem that it would be distracting me from “focusing on my career” but for me it actually couldn’t be happening at a better time. If my career was going really well right now, I probably wouldn’t have the time to plan and fully present in it (which I love). I feel like I already know the career road ahead of me is rocky so I feel so blessed that I have a safe, loving home in my partner to get through it all with. Basically, this post is exactly how I feel in so many ways and it was a treat to read this morning!

    • Lauren

      Yes! My fiancé and I will be married 10 months from now – he on the way to grad school, me (hopefully) in a stable job. But you know? If I’m not? I’ll have built in support.

      I’ve always been a relationship person, and when you know you’ve found your partner at 16 – and, more importantly, that knowing doesn’t go away for five-plus years – why kid yourself about it?

  • Katy

    Hannah — there is a sweetness to finding a partner when you are young.

    Last night in bed, my husband said that he wished we had met in college (despite that we are 7.5 years apart in age and attended universities on different continents). We met and married older (late 20’s/mid 30’s) and had a child right away. He wished he could have spent his 20s with me, instead of focusing on other pursuits, and before life changed with a child.

  • Kelly

    I, like Hannah, am 24 and while not engaged yet, will be engaged in the next couple of months. I have had a very hard time reconciling this with my career aspirations. I started college very much like the women in the Atlantic piece – I didn’t worry about relationships and I cared about my academic and professional future much more than my personal life. Falling in love just sort of happened to me – it wasn’t plan and it was something I had a really, really hard time with accepting. I think this is the biggest struggle – coming to terms with your life not turning out as you had always expected. I think Hannah captures it perfectly when she says “In past dreams about my future, I never imagined myself here; or, at least, never so quickly.” I do worry that maybe I’m giving up on some things in order to make my relationship work, like location independence or very temporary assignments. But I also know that I’m gaining so much.

    I think the most important thing about being a feminist is to realize that any choice is an okay choice, but it should always be a CHOICE. That’s why I don’t, like so many commenters here, find the Atlantic piece “depressing.” Women are choosing to delay relationships, just as the women on this site are choosing to embrace them, and neither is wrong or right so long as we’ve thought about what we’re doing and are finding what feels good for us.

    • meg

      Though I do have to note, plenty of women reading this site chose to delay relationships as well, or at least to ‘delay’ them within the construct of this piece. A good chunk of of APW readers are in their 30’s. It’s not one or the other.

      I don’t find the Atlantic piece depressing (obviously, this post is great, and I love it, but it’s not my response to the article), since I don’t find anything at all depressing about hooking up or delaying marriage. I do, however, find the article somewhat un-nuanced. I’m not ready to argue that agressive hookup culture is profoundly feminist, having lived it, because I don’t think it’s so simple.

  • I’m wondering how having kids plays into all of this.

    I married very young (for my current cultural context, at least – 21) and honestly did not worry much about my career at all. I think that was largely because we had no intention of having kids anytime soon. I’m applying to graduate school now and I’m experiencing, as other commenters have also experienced, the huge benefit of stability and support in my marriage; both emotionally, but also practically: shared housework, joint finances, etc. I don’t necessarily think that I am more successful professionally due to my marriage, but I am fairly confident that it has not hindered me at all.

    However, when I think about “marrying young and having babies” (as the article stated), it feels like a whole different ball game. Not because I will necessarily take primary responsibility for childcare, but because of the huge lifestyle adjustments that children require for both spouses. I guess I take issue with the automatic coupling of “marrying young” + “having babies,” because that assumption makes these conversations unnecessarily blurry.

    • meg

      Agreed. Separate conversations, both worth having, both complex.

    • Totally totally totally. Babies are a whole different game than husbands. In terms of, well, basically everything.

      • KEA1

        And at any parental age, too. Automatically linking the two does tremendous disservice to both.

  • Granola

    I read the Atlantic article before coming back to this post and after reading all the comments, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, more options for women and men are usually good. But I think that Rosin ignores the social consequences of the macro hookup-culture trend. There is now a parallel trend of women who delayed marriage and childbearing to the point where one or both have become unattainable (or at least expensive and emotionally and physically exhausting.)

    If marriage is supposedly “bad” for women, why is the answer to avoid it rather than reforming it? Reading Rosin’s article, I took away that I was supposed to avoid a “trap” of a marriage where all I would do was pop out babies and be oppressed by sleeping with everyone and having no meaningful relationships until some undefined “later” at which time hopefully all my other priorities will still be attainable.

    What galls me about much of the anti-marriage sentiment articles is that they seem to hew from an immature place and eschew growth and change as traitorous behavior. I wanted different things at 14 and 17 than I do at 25. “When I was younger, I didn’t want to get married!” they cry, as if that viewpoint was a more authentic and truer stance and all subsequent revisions are cowardly capitulations brushed off as “settling.” There is no space given for growth and re-examintion of priorities. And frankly, I’m pretty sure that 17-year-old me should not be the arbiter of my adult life decisions.

    Statistically, the choice of your life partner is vastly more important to your long term quality of life, happiness, and emotional fulfillment than your choice of career. I’m getting married in a month, at age 25 and many of my peers and colleagues have remarked at me being “too young.” (Or at least that’s my impression.) While undoubtedly my choices will be different than they would have been otherwise, that doesn’t make them less than. Neither choosing to get married nor choosing to hook up is unambiguosly positive or negative. Everything has trade-offs.

    • meg

      If marriage is supposedly “bad” for women, why is the answer to avoid it rather than reforming it?

      Indeed. This is my perpetual beef with this sort of feminist discussion about marriage. (Obviously, I suppose.) I’m not ardently pro marriage for everyone. But I am ardently pro continuing the work of reforming marriage.

    • “I’m pretty sure that 17-year-old me should not be the arbiter of my adult life decisions.”

      TOTALLY. Why people say that they’re letting down the life aspirations they had as children as a bad thing is beyond me. I wanted all sorts of stupid things when I was little – but I grew up and made choices that would make current me (and hopefully future me) happy – not ones that would have made 15 year old me happy. Because she was young, and what I thought would make me happy turned out to not be fully on the mark. Growth isn’t a bad thing, when it comes to life choices.

  • Ris

    The intro to this article really resonated with me.

    I got engaged my senior year of undergrad, and was married two months after graduation at age 23. My parents were Very Concerned that I was throwing away my life and plans, that I was just doing it because it was “the next thing to do.” I tried to comfort them by telling them that I had never wanted to get married out of college, that that was never my plan. I think that backfired a bit, because they read it as “he is pushing her to get married.”

    But that’s not what I was saying at all. What I was saying was, this is a conscious decision. It was not on my “timeline” to marry pre-career, so the fact that I am now doing so means that I have found a man that was worth a timeline change, and frankly, possibly a career-kill (My degree is such that advancement generally depends on either moving to a couple specific big cities or overseas – and this marriage now meant that I would move to rural NC to support my husband as he pursues his Masters). Amazingly, I DID end up finding an great, career-advancing job in my field, but we had no hint that that would happen pre-move. I had fully accepted that, for the sake of this relationship, I might have to alter my highly specific aspirations.

    Having a successful career is exactly one facet of the things I want for my life. I actually made a list of all of my life “wants” during our pre-engagement, and a satisfying career was one among many, which also included “lifelong, respectful and loving marriage,” “adopting and having children,” and other such things that I knew my current spouse would help make a reality. I did not want to sacrifice all those dreams, and my real love for my now-spouse, on the unsteady altar of my early-20s career ambitions.

    • rys

      I can understand parents’ concerns about their children marrying immediately after college (assuming a somewhat traditional trajectory of going straight from high school to college, perhaps working part-time or over the summer but not full-time, etc). Not because of age per se, but because of life experience. Post-college (“real world”) life can be very different from college life, and I know a lot of happy college couples who broke up about a year after graduation. It doesn’t mean this will happen — it doesn’t have to, as RIS’ experience attests — but I would want a child (or a friend or a student or a mentee or anyone else I know) to live outside of college-world for a bit before committing to marriage.

      The language of “finding a man that was worth…possibly a career-kill” worries and bothers me, however, because I think this reifies the marriage v. career deathmatch upon which the Atlantic and its ilk like to prey. I can only wonder if men think in those terms as well — they might, but I rarely (ever?) read about men thinking about the possibility of career detours or ends because of marriage (see conversation at the start of comments). Which all loops back to the annoying and cloying way in which work-life, career-marriage discussions are “women’s issues” or matters for “lifestyle” content, rather than everyone’s issues regardless of gender and marital status.

      • Copper

        I definitely understand those concerns, because it’s difficult to know if a young person is entering into that level of commitment thinking that things are going to be the same forever, or whether they recognize that things will always be changing so that risk is never going to change and they may as well get on with it. It’s hard to know how to express the difference to someone and that you’re just trying to see which way they’re looking at it.

        I think it’s been addressed pretty substantially in comments above though that getting married is generally seen as a boost to a man’s career, because he has someone to support him in household and emotional ways.

      • Yeah, I’m glad I had a couple of years after college living on my own. I grew a lot more in those years than I did during college.
        But I know that if I had had the fortune to meet my husband when I was in college, I’d have married him even sooner.

        Either way – something gained.

      • Ris

        @Rys – I agree and do not agree with you. While there should not be a dichotomy between marriage or career, sometimes there just is, and for me to pretend that there was no such decision for me would be a lie. That is not true for everyone, and maybe my language does gives fodder to those who perpetuate that dichotomy, but sometimes there really IS a choice that has to be made.

        Full disclosure – I was working toward a career in the CIA. When I evaluated the other things that I wanted from life, I realized that I would have to severely compromise my other dreams to follow that career (see, for example: having three or four children and providing them with a stable and nurturing environment). My husband is pursing a degree that he will be able to use in any town in America. I made the decision to marry him and reevaluate my career plans in the context of our relationship. I’m now working in the non-profit sector where I’m using my particular skill set, but if I hadn’t found this work I’d planned to get a Masters in a different, more generally applicable field that I also love.

        There are opportunity costs for every decision, whether it is going for a PhD, joining the military, or being a stay-at-home-mom. It’s not fair that the burden of those opportunity costs often fall on women rather than men, but to pretend that they don’t, and that they didn’t factor into my decision-making, would be insincere.

        • Jashshea

          Not only are you totally awesome (CIA! Eek!), but you sound extremely mature. When I was 23, I was light-years away from being mature enough to even think about having a serious relationship.

        • rys

          “While there should not be a dichotomy between marriage or career, sometimes there just is, and for me to pretend that there was no such decision for me would be a lie. That is not true for everyone, and maybe my language does gives fodder to those who perpetuate that dichotomy, but sometimes there really IS a choice that has to be made.”

          I don’t disagree. But who is making that choice? From where I sit, women see choices (and their limits) and make decisions that factor in “work” and “life.” I don’t see men (as a group) perceiving the same set of choices and discussing opportunity costs and limits in the same way. And this type of culture that allows “the burden of those opportunity costs [to] often fall on women” is problematic to me, in part because it devalues women and in part because it precludes possible solutions that need buy-in from men. I may be generalizing in ways that don’t resonate with your experience, but that’s where my concern about language comes from.

  • Lauren

    I think someone else brought it up, but marriage does not always equal babies. I think that conversation is honestly more relevant and loaded, because even in good feminist relationships many women become the de facto child care provider anyway. In a baby family of two, it seems like an even split of housework/home life duties is more possible.

    In my relationship, I am the one who actually wants kids first, rather than him who wants to wait. I think another reason for that is his mom stayed home and I went to daycare as an infant. Full-time caregiving was the norm for him, while I was always used to sitters and preschool.

    But the marriage as detriment argument I’ve always found puzzling. How can stability and love at home be less beneficial than “aggressive” hookups? (and if you find joy in hooking up, this comment is not directed at you – I’m talking about negative, self-esteem trashing hookups that often happen when women hook up NOT or themselves but for others’ benefit.)

  • I still have to meet a woman who is really happy with the hookup culture instead of doing it because it’s what “cool girls do” while secretly expecting to meet prince charming that way. I am not saying they don’t exist, just that I don’t know any.

    I did not marry that young (I was 29), but my career was not consolidated either at that point. Marriage, however, did not impact it negativelly. Having children did, but it was so because for unexpected circumstances I had to go out of the job market. Nevertheless, I do not see this period in my life as necessarily “a last stop”. I do not consider that I made a definitive choice, a choice from which I will not be able to return, and that this will be the end of my working years. Life is long and I will fight my way back when the time is right because I believe that, as Linda Rubin said in What’s holding you back? “Studies have shown that careers that begin at a later age can have the same trajectory of excellence as those started in young adulthood – the peak of achievement is just reached later in life.” (extracted from here: http://justinemusk.com/2012/09/04/how-to-love-up-your-future-self-life-lessons-from-a-40th-birthday/)

    When I think about feminism these days, I think not only about the world as is for me, but as I hope it will be in 20 years, the world my daughter will live in. And what I hope is that we will be able to leave behind the idea that success is only achieved in the early years of life. My hope is for her to be able to see success as the sum of many aspects of one’s life and to feel and be free to make the choices that bring her happiness without fear of not being able to look back.

    • Ris

      “My hope is for her to be able to see success as the sum of many aspects of one’s life and to feel and be free to make the choices that bring her happiness without fear of not being able to look back.”

      I have nothing to add to this but – exactly :)

    • My parents both had a half a dozen different careers. My mother’s current one didn’t start until she was in her late 40s, and at 60, she seriously looked in to a new career. (It fell through due to circumstance, but still.) The belief that your career is fixed by your choices as a young adult seems limiting over a lifespan that will probably involve 40+ years in the work force.

    • Jaya

      “I still have to meet a woman who is really happy with the hookup culture instead of doing it because it’s what “cool girls do” while secretly expecting to meet prince charming that way.”

      I’m one of these women. I had a great time in the hookup culture, and I don’t see it as an “instead of” situation. When I was a part of it, I absolutely did not want a boyfriend/husband, and I did not “secretly expect” to meet my dream guy that way. I just wanted to be a part of that culture. At one point it hit me that I wasn’t enjoying the hookup culture as much as I had before, so I stopped. It really doesn’t have to be either/or.

    • Copper

      Hi Marcela, nice to meet you! I am a women who enjoyed hooking up, for around 3 years, and when I stopped feeling good about it I stopped doing it. I never did a single thing I didn’t want to do, with any person I didn’t want to do it with, and got what I needed at the time out of it: some great sex while I was recovering from an emotionally abusive relationship and figuring out how to be an independent woman again. It was a time at which I needed to not be coupled up, where it could have been a big hinderance towards my progress in my relationship with myself, but frankly still had times when I wanted sex very badly.

      The only problem I see with hooking up is when people aren’t honest with themselves about what they want, what they’re ready for, what they’re capable of. And those are personal problems, not a problem with the whole idea of it.

    • Ros

      “I still have to meet a woman who is really happy with the hookup culture instead of doing it because it’s what “cool girls do” while secretly expecting to meet prince charming that way.”

      I’m totally one of those women – as Jaya wrote right above me, I did it while I enjoyed it (because I really didn’t want a relationship but sex is really fun so why not?) and slowly stopped as I found other things and started getting into a relationship with my husband. It worked really well, for me.

      That said, the attitude you worded so very well there is something a lot of guys seem to also think, which can be really frustrating on both sides: I’ve met several guys who suddenly thought that because I’d slept with them I was obviously up for a relationship with them, and then they were all hurt and confused when I was like “um, NO, casual sex was the agreement wtf??”. Yay gender stereotypes. Ugh.

      (Being bisexual, I also did my fair share of hooking up with women. Not one single one of them was confused about the meaning of “casual”. My last few months of hook-ups were pretty much only with women, because they were, on average, so much less relationship-oriented…)

    • anon today

      Hi Marcela-

      I would say I’ve experienced both the bad and the good with hookup culture. My first year of college, I do think I was hoping that one of those hookups might turn into a relationship. Not great. And then my sophomore year, I was rufied and taken advantage of at a house party. And everything changed. I was totally celibate for about a year and a half, and didn’t date at all — I wanted to get back to a place in which I could trust men with my feelings and my body, but I didn’t know how.

      Ironically enough, it was a hookup that helped me move on. Senior year, I got involved with a friend I totally trusted but was in no danger of falling in love with — and who was in no danger of falling in love with me. We had a bit of a past, enough to know we didn’t suit, and he was just out of a relationship and wasn’t looking for another one. Basically, he was safe in every way.

      It only lasted a couple months, and by the end it was a pretty utilitarian text-message-booty call kind of thing. The sex wasn’t fabulous, but it was easy, and it was fun, and it was healing. Hooking up with him helped me get over being quite so scared — I felt in control of my body and my choices.

      I stayed in that hookup culture for a couple more years, and eventually it felt like I had *too much* control over a situation with a guy — I felt manipulative. Also, I had a harder and harder time silencing the inner anthropologist when I went out to the bars with my girlfriends — so I stopped.

      I guess all of this is to say that I think “hooking up” can slice both ways. It felt different at different times in my life. It wasn’t always uniformly good, but for me, it was actually kind of empowering, at least for a while.

      • Marcela

        Hi ladies! Thanks for the feedback.

        I should have mentioned, perhaps, that I am from Argentina, where the hookup culture seems to be just starting. I don’t live there anymore, but when I last visited we had very interesting conversations with those friends of mine who are still single and were explaining the pros and the frustrations they face with it all. They mentioned a lot what Copper and Ross mentioned above: people not being honest with themselves about their expectations, stereotypes such as guys feeling defensive when a girl called back, assuming “all women want a relationship” and also that it operates as glass division that people are finding very hard to cross because hookup is what is most people in their 20s and 30s are supposed to want to do.

        I have forwarded this article to many friends with a recommendation to read the comments and I have pointed out to yours especially. Thank again!

  • kckp

    I do not understand the assumption that the only two choices are (1) marry young, have babies, forget your career, or (2) have a career and don’t get married at all, or until much later.

    Can’t we just find a partner who will support our career goals, and marry that person when we find them?

    • I’d personally amend it to “life goals”, but yes, totally!

  • Heather

    Thanks Hannah for sharing your story. I support you whole heartedly because it sounds like you have made the choice that is right for you and I think that is what feminism is all about. This is a really interesting and important discussion to have. I do find that it does tend to be a flat discussion that does not provide women or men for that matter very many options. I say that with my partner and me in mind. We have been together for five years, we live together and pool our resources. We have had lengthy discussions about our lives together: careers, health, finances, whether we want to get married and have kids, and if so, when?
    I am currently pursuing my PhD while working full time and we decided together that we rather wait to get married, until after I finish school. I am so busy that I barely sleep and the thought of planning wedding exhausts me. We both decided that we want to have positive energy and time to enjoying planning our wedding. We already sat down and wrote out what we would like our wedding to look like and we are positive that we want to spend our life together but we decided that for our sanity, it is better as a household that we wait. I thought that we made the right decision for us but everyone else in our lives (except for my dad and brother as well as his mom and step dad) have an opposing opinion. I keep getting the sideways glance from females I meet, when I tell them that we have been together for five years and counting. They look down at my ring finger and back at me and say that is a really long time with no engagement. When I explain our reasoning, they give me that glazed over look. My boss the other day decided to insert her opinion and admitted that over lunch with some former co-workers they all agreed that my partner and I had been together long enough and it was time to get married. I WAS MORTIFIED.
    I ran into a friend the other day who I had not seen in months and before she asked me about school or work, she said: “I see that there is still not a ring on your finger? “
    It is disheartening because my partner and I are completely committed to each other. Our families have spent time getting to know each other. We talk about everything. We are on a life journey together, in which we are fully supportive of each other’s goals. Yet, people undermine our commitment by implying that we must be married and within a certain time frame. It is ridiculous.
    In the same token my partner made it clear that if we do decide to have children, he would like to leave his career or work from home [his IT career allow him to do that], so that he could be a stay at home dad. We have even discussed home schooling our children. But he says whenever he tries to discuss these options with his peers; people make off handed comments about him leaving all the money-making to his girl. People imply that he doesn’t want to work. (even though he has spent the last 12 years building a successful career) He said he feels discredited and people don’t take him seriously.
    It is sad because I know that he would be a wonderful stay at home dad and he would make every effort to engage our children and make them feel loved.
    I on the other hand, have no desire to be a permanent stay at home mom. I don’t think that will make me less of a mother, I think that our kids will see a different option of what is possible with a partnership.
    It just seems as if in 2012 when both my partner and I define ourselves as feminists, there would be a lot more options and more open conversations about the possibilities for partnership. I also feel as if we have to spend too much time defining ourselves by other people’s value systems. I reject that notion. Love is about possibility and hope and it is about the freedom to explore success individually and as a couple. It is about compromise. And at the end of the day, it is about resting confidently with the faith that you have chosen the right person who hears all of your hopes, fears, and dreams without judgment. I choose my partner and the freedom we allow each other, every single day because he reminds me to laugh when I feel judged, he reminds me to look within when I feel uncertain, and if I am still upset he reminds me of all the reasons why he loves and chooses me….:-). i think i should go thank him for that right now. :-)
    Have a peaceful day everyone and thanks for the forum to discuss these issues. it is refreshing.

    • R

      You and your partner sound like sensible, wonderful people. And you can tell him from me that his peers are buttheads. My dad started two new careers when I was six: small business owner and stay-at-home dad. He was also an IT guy (computer programmer), and somehow, between soccer practices, Girl Scout meetings (he and another dad were my sister’s troop leaders), cooking and cleaning, he also built a successful business that helped pay for my college education.

      Which is to say: yes, you can work from home and have a career (although I do suspect it is easier once the kids are old enough for school), yes you can be male and stay at home to take care of the kids, and no, you aren’t any less manly or generally awesome for doing any such thing.

      And you know it’s true, because someone on the internet said so :D

      • Heather

        Thank you R for the positive feedback. I can’t wait to tell my partner that your dad was a successful stay at home parent with his own business. Hope you are having a great day! -H

    • Em

      I say they’re buttheads too.
      You guys are SO not alone — even if it feels that way. The stay at home dad thing is just so obnoxiously loaded.

      When I tell people my guy is planning to follow me to the best residency I can get myself into, all I hear is “oh! what a keeper! you’re so lucky!” but if I say that in order to faciliate that, he’d plan to take some time off or work part time from home and hang out with our kids (when we have em), I get the eyebrow raise and the “hmmm. how do you feel about that.”

      I FEEL DAMN LUCKY, THANKYOUVERYMUCH! What the actual fuck.

      • Heather

        Hi Em,
        thank you for the encouragement and support. It is nice to know there are like-minded folks dealing with similar issues….What the actual fuck indeed! I don’t appreciate the judgement that we are getting when we discuss our partnership with others.
        We are lucky to have partners that are willing to work with us for the good of our baby family.
        Hope you are having a nice day! -H

  • Is it even possible to choose family first and career second and still be a feminist?

    • Diane

      If the operative word is “choose” then the answer is “yes.”

      • And that is one of the reasons I like APW. Because a lot of others look at that as the “wrong” choice. Sure, you can choose, but you better choose what everyone else is choosing or you can’t really be one of the group.

        • meg

          Yes. That BETTER be true. I think you can choose a whole lot of things and still be a feminist, Other than choosing, I don’t believe in a feminist litmus test.

    • Class of 1980

      If it isn’t possible, then you are saying that married women who are not in the work force are not feminists.

    • Yep. Because the woman was able to CHOOSE that for herself.

    • MEI

      The answer is of course yes. One of the major themes of Feminism with a capital F is valuing work that is traditionally unpaid and “feminine,” such as child-rearing, community support, and housework just as much as paid work that is given value by a capitalist economy.
      But here’s the thing about “choice,” and I know it’s been mentioned before on this site. When women are consistently choosing to do one thing, while men are choosing to do something else, it is worth examining why, and I think that’s why feminists are still very interested in looking at women’s career trajectories. When women are consistently choosing to forgo pursuing the corner office when men are not, what are the factors that influence that decision, and are those factors the result of unfeminist policies? For example, both my husband and I are attorneys working for big law firms. We are planning/hoping (I know many things can derail such plans) to have a child soon. We have discussed it, and I plan to go part-time or stay at home for a period of time after the kid is born. Partially, my husband enjoys the work more and I find it boring and stressful. Partially, though, our decision was influenced by the fact that the culture at most big law firms is still that of an “old boys club;” more work is given to men associates, more networking opportunities are provided for men, men are more likely to make partner, etc. (I didn’t say all, but I have yet to find a “big law” firm where this is not true. Also, in case anyone is unfamiliar with law firms, you generally stay an associate for awhile until being promoted to partner, which is often very difficult.) And therefore, my husband has a better chance of getting to the corner office than I do. So am I making the choice to prioritize my family over my career and still choosing to identify as a staunch feminist? Yes. But I can also acknowledge that it is influenced by the fact that my chosen career field (and probably much of American corporate culture) is structured in a decidedly unfeminist way, and that’s a problem.
      Now, my anecdote is obviously not data, but merely an example of why feminists are still very much interested in why women choose to prioritize family over careers more often than men. It is not to make you feel like a “bad feminist” or even a non-feminist if you choose to prioritize your family. Again, one part of feminism is making such a choice seem as valuable for all people, regardless of gender. But it is something feminists are going to keep exploring, because it is symptomatic of a system that doesn’t give women a fair shot.

  • Paranoid Libra

    I have no idea if its been said as I don’t have time to read through all the comments. I hate how the article seems to assume as soon you get married you start trying to pop out kids. Anyone else pick this up or am I alone on that?

    Not every marriage winds up with kids and not every marriage means babies are right around the corner. Look at Meg, 3 years after getting married she has a bun in the oven, not by the first anniversary. I am so thankful right now I haven’t had too many of the so when are you going to have kids question typical of newly weds (3 months married).

    Also the paragraph about Americans being more sexually open than Scandanavians after speaking to an Argentinian just seems to jump waaaay too many conclussions. It’s said like Argentina is remotely close to any Scandanavian countries. You know Northern Europe and Southern South America are so close to each other they obviously have a lot of cultural influences over one another.

    • Marcela

      The comparison is not made by the Argentinian, but by the author. The Argentinian compares USA and Argentina, and the author takes it further.

      • Paranoid Libra

        I just don’t understand how the Argentinian saying the women in the US are more aggressive leads the author to declare we go beyond Scandinavian culture about hook ups. I have issue with the assumption of it after talking to someone not remotely connected to that culture.

        • Marcela

          I agree. Also, the Argentinian lady had only been in the US for a brief period of time (one week?). I am assuming she was looking for narrative impact?

    • meg

      Three years after getting married, EIGHT years after getting serious, if we want to be precise.

  • This was amazing. Since I was in high school, I’ve been told all about my potential and how successful I was going to be, and how men were a waste of time. Mostly by my mother. My parents wanted me to be a pharmacist, my professors wanted me to get my Ph.D. All I wanted was to be happy. My mother told me any relationship before I was 25 was a stupid waste of time, and that dating is a numbers game so I should just date multiple people at the same time and just focus on furthering my career.

    Well at the end of this month I am 23, and am living with my future husband and I couldn’t be happier. My career is just starting and I’m not sure I like it, but at the end of the day, my career is not what defines me. My relationships are. And I have an awesome one with a man who has enhanced the quality of my life tenfold and encouraged me to take up hobbies and pursue things that truly bring me joy, not necessarily what my “potential” dictates I should do.

    The biggest struggle with being so young is that neither of us know what we really want to do. We are both employed, and both pretty dissatisfied with the jobs we have. We both want to go back to school, but in our financial situation it feels like if one of us is in school the other will have to continue working, and since I am the breadwinner I feel like that will be me. It’s something we will have to tackle together, and I would rather have it this way. We are greater together than we are alone.

    • Lauren

      I CAN’T EXACTLY THIS ENOUGH. My mother literally told me I needed 20 boyfriends before I could get married. (Depending on how loosely we define boyfriend, I might be there! hah.)

      And this:
      “My career is just starting and I’m not sure I like it, but at the end of the day, my career is not what defines me. My relationships are.”


  • Lauren

    Oh Hannah, you are my hero for writing this. The whole thing just hits so close to home. Every. Single. Comment. deserves an Exactly! Since everyone has been so thoughtful and intelligent I don’t have to add anything, but I’m going to anyway to make myself feel better.

    I participated in the hookup culture in college between relationships (I had year+ boyfriends in HS and college, started dating my boyfriend now at the very end of college). It was so damaging to me in two very big ways.

    First, it just destroyed my self-esteem and my sense of who I was. After my big breakup in college I decided I’d try “having sex like a man” — yes, that is how I phrased it to my friends — and went around hooking up, and having short relationships with men. Some of them were so far below my standards it was pitiful. Others, I didn’t even like as people, but again, I was trying “to have sex like a man” so I rolled with it. One, who I still ache to think about — I wanted to date him so bad. A month and I could have told him I loved him. He let me lower my standards of good behavior in a relationship again and again and again, until my self-worth was demolished, and he didn’t even have the good sense to end it. I found myself with these guys, miserable and lonely, because I thought it was empowering me. I thought it was what I was “supposed” to do.

    And second, it made me think, in my good feminist, gender-studies-thesis-writing way, that I couldn’t get married until after I’d established myself in my career and my life. That getting married before 30 was “too young.” That it would be settling and unfeminist and failing if I shacked up before then, because what harm could come of waiting until that arbitrary deadline of 30? I had this domestic fantasy that was the polar opposite of the typical domestic fantasy and I stuck to it forever.

    Even when I found my guy, and we were 21 and 20, I knew right away in my gut that this was a big one. But we had both been so damaged by the hookup culture — thinking independence was better than interdependence — that we almost didn’t make it past those first six months. Here I was thinking it would be a good 10 years before I’d get married, so why was I dating him when I was so young anyway? How could I be thinking “forever” when “forever” wasn’t going to start for another decade? And he, too, had had a string of failed mini-relationships, all with people below his standards. He wanted a girlfriend but didn’t really know how to find one without the hookup culture.

    And now, it’s three years later, and it took me this entire time to realize that IT’S OKAY that I want to marry him, and IT’S OKAY if I want to do it sooner rather than later. He is my guy and nothing is going to change that. He’s my family. I don’t need to wait until 30 to make it official.

    I guess if there is one bonus from all of this, it’s that I know what a relationship should not look like. After that string of guys I didn’t like, but didn’t dislike enough to break up with, it makes my current relationship all the more solid.

    TL;DR = hookups suck, my guy is great, I am finally okay with the fact that I want to get married, and soon.

    • I got married in my 30s and I really hate when people think I got married when I did so I could start my career and live my life before “settling down.” I hate when people think I “put off marriage” or children so I could be independent first. I got married in my 30s because that’s just how it happened to work in my life. When somebody else’s life works out with marriage sooner than mine that doesn’t mean they are putting off anything to get married, it just means they got married earlier. Good on you for being okay with the way your life is working out.

  • Mrs May

    I found this article and discussion fascinating! Count me in for “I do what I want when I want and I like it that way!”. Also, 8 people in college is slutty now? I didn’t get that memo. I thought I was fine, since I could count the number and didn’t have drunken encounters. I didn’t feel judged for my promiscuity at all.
    At the time it was great! I got to explore in so many ways, mostly about my own identity, and it was valuable to me. I love my marriage, as well, of course. It is definitely less drama than those days of the flings, but it is also way more important, and I am happy that I’ve had it all. I would say that my twenties were a time of trying stuff on in general, jobs, sexually, everything. Now that’s not true, which coincides with my marriage. I will say I wish I’d already had kids because now I’m feeling too old. But it didn’t happen that way which is fine. We wouldn’t have been ready five years earlier for each other. Reading this I felt really grateful not to be straight and stuck in these scripts of frat boy/ slutty girl, or horny boy/ chaste girl, or whatever. I wonder how other lgbtq people feel about this controversy.

    • meg

      “Also, 8 people in college is slutty now? I didn’t get that memo.” Ha. Clarification: 8 people that you may have not slept with. Just fooled around a little with. Dear lord.

      Anyway, I would love love love a LGBTQ post on the subject.

      • Mrs May

        8! I know! I will say right here I did loose count in my mid twenties. But, you guys, it is in the double digits, definitely, and I think under 50, so am I still Okay? There are so many things I could say on this incredibly sensitive and personal topic. And, I want to say, just because I slept (or, uh, fooled around with) dozens of people, I had and have feelings and it wasn’t cold and calculating. It was hot, and complicated, and we all had a good time. I realize at this moment, sometimes, my marriage makes me feel I sold out on my radical, queer identity, and sometimes my actual history makes me feel I sold out on my marriage. Not that my wife doesn’t know that stuff because she does and I am not ashamed of it. But there is a real dichotomy there.
        One thing I love about being married is knowing that I’ll have this sexual relationship for years and it can change and grow with us. It has a real different feel. But, I take fewer risks now than I did then, and I mourn that sometimes. But that could change too.

        One thing for me in general about being queer is that I don’t expect partners to act a certain way with me. And that is such a blessing. I recall being 18 and in a house with a group of boys and over and over doing the dishes and the cold feeling of dread, dishes forever because I’m female. I thought then, oh hell no. It did spur me to think about what things would be like, with women.
        Ha. I do, like, all the dishes these days. And I LIKE them. You just never know how things will turn up, seriously. To me that’s the takeaway here: 20 year olds have NO fucking clue what they are doing or why! If they sleep around its not out of some master career plan. They may end up married, pregnant, or neither…. Really it’s luck. What matters the most is that we can choose, and get to ask, What do I like and want? There is so much power in answering that.

        • Copper

          “But, you guys, it is in the double digits, definitely, and I think under 50, so am I still Okay?”

          I wish we could all stop asking this question! It’s so telling that women who sound otherwise liberated, confident, and happy, still feel the need to ask it (you’re not the only on in these comments doing so either). As long as you’re happy with it, then you’re ok. I’ve always said it’s only too many if you regret any of them.

        • meg

          I had no clue what I was doing and why, relationship wise, when I was 20. FACT. I know there are women here who are different, but, the idea that 20 year olds are acting on a master feminist plan with their hookups makes me laugh, thinking of 20 year old me.

  • Sarah

    Before I was married, I took for granted the idea that marriage could derail an education or a career. Now that I’ve been married for a few years, I really don’t understand why that would be the assumed case. What does being married or not have to do with getting an education or succeeding your career? In this day and age, does that just happen to women, if they don’t want to leave a career? Children may cause that, but I think we all agree here that marriage doesn’t automatically equal children.

    If anything, my marrying young has helped both me and my wife in our educations and careers. We know we can take risks because someone is there to support us if we fall flat in our plans. And because I’m not still dating or looking for a partner, I can actually focus a good part of my energy to my career, instead of being caught up in new relationship drama. If I wanted to get another degree, my marriage would fully support that, much more easily than if I wasn’t married.

  • Jess

    I’m not sure if this has been noted, because I’ve only skimmed the comments, but the Atlantic article is adapted from Rosin’s book “The End of Men: And the Rise of Women,” out tomorrow.


    • meg

      Someone read it real quick and report back please!

  • JC

    I think that someone’s relationship status is completely unrelated to their career status. Yes, you might have a limited geographic range if you are tied to a location by another person, but to blame a poor career trajectory on a steady relationship is a cop out. I went to college in the midst of the “hookup culture”, having just graduated in 2010, and have had the same steady boyfriend since 2005. We were long distance through all of college and his Masters degree, and then he moved to join me as I complete my DVM. Neither of us has compromised what we want to do with our lives for the sake of each other (I told him back in high school that I wasn’t going to amend my plans for him, so he should think carefully about amending his for me), and it has worked out just fine for us. Great, even.

    I think the ability to maintain a steady relationship speaks volumes about someone’s dedication and drive, not their propensity to be a house wife. I would also argue that most of the girls I knew in college who were big into the “hookup culture” were on track to get a nice MRS degree (nothing wrong with that, just an observation), while those with long term boyfriends had a more delineated career path that they were working toward.

  • DNA

    I’m so excited that this week’s posts are all centered around feminism. This is a great post. I find Hanna Rosin’s article in the Atlantic problematic as well because it doesn’t seem to take into account the social/cultural context in which hookups occur. Lisa Wade, over at Sociological Images, has an excellent post in response to the article (http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/08/27/a-response-to-rosins-ode-to-hook-up-culture/), and she’s done some very interesting research on hookup culture too. (You know a phenomenon has gone big when academics have started writing peer-reviewed articles on it! :D)

    Personally, I think that hookups are fine as long as they are mutually satisfying, strongly consensual (not the result of coercion), and all parties are on the same page in terms of what they want out of it. I think serious relationships should be the same way so I don’t think there’s anything inherently good or bad about hookups or serious relationships in and of themselves, but it is very important to look at the context in which hookups/relationships occur.

    In terms of relationships vs. career, I would be lying if I said our relationship has had no impact on my or my partner’s career. We’ve both made compromises. My partner relocated because of my career a few years back, and now I’ve relocated because of his career. It’s been difficult to find a job because I’m limited geographically, but he’s had to do the same for me, and after 4 years of being in a long distance relationship, we’re both hoping that we don’t have to live apart again. I have hope that things will work out in the end. :)

  • Maire
  • Please let me know if you’re looking for a article writer for your weblog. You have some really great posts and I believe I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d love to write some content for your blog in
    exchange for a link back to mine. Please send
    me an email if interested. Regards!

  • JU

    Thank you so much for writing this article. My husband and I have been married for 5 months and I’m almost 24. We got engaged on my 21st birthday after 5 years together, and my parents were immediately concerned and said things like “But don’t you want to travel?” When we moved in together after I graduated from college they also told me I was making a bad financial decision, despite the fact that I’d had interviews in my field and already was working 25-30 hours a week while looking for a full-time job (my now-husband was in a full-time master’s program). I took the LSAT 2 months before our wedding and have been accepted to 7 law schools. We’re planning on moving to whichever I choose and my husband is pursuing licensure as a social worker and will be graduating in May. I’m honestly not sure I would be able to do law school without his support, financial and otherwise, and he feels the same way about his master’s program–I’ve been working full time and paying for most of our expenses while he goes to school.

  • Pingback: Five on Friday | Gina Marie Rose()