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The Hooking Up Phenomenon: Is it Ethical For Young Mormons?

by Caroline

I recently listened to this podcast on the hooking up phenomenon from Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. According to the story, hooking up (which can mean anything from making out to intercourse and is characterized by no commitment or emotion) is becoming a widespread phenomenon on college campuses, nearly taking the place of dating and romance. Inebriation, particularly on the part of the women, is often a factor.

Scholars disagree on the ramifications of such behavior, with some claiming that such behavior does harm to these people’s ultimate ability to settle down and be happy with a monogamous relationship. Others claim that it’s just a phase and that people do get tired of it and eventually become ready to settle down.

I couldn’t help but wonder how this hooking up phenomenon transfers to the world of the Mormon university. From my brief experience of summer school at BYU, I can claim that there definitely was quite a bit of hooking up going on. Not sex necessarily, but heavy making out. Ten years ago we called it NiCMO. I also remember the term ‘kissing buddy’ being used. I imagine the phenomenon is still going strong there.

Listening to the podcast, and the central debate over whether hooking up behavior did long term harm to its participants, made me wonder if the Mormon form of hooking up (NiCMO) does harm to its participants. Does it make them less interested in settling down? Are they wracked with guilt afterwards? Does it make them callous? Or does one just smoothly move on from such behavior toward a more mature desire for physicality within a caring and committed relationship?

I suspect that most NiCMOing Mormons weren’t heavily negatively impacted by their NiCMO experiences (particularly if they kept it to relatively chaste heavy kissing and embracing). But I do wonder about the ethical implications of this behavior. Is it ethical for young Mormons to make out with someone just for that momentary rush of excitement, with absolutely no plans to try to form some sort of relationship?

If I evaluate the situation from various ethical standpoints, I think different people can come to different conclusions. Within an ethical framework, a justice orientation might lead someone to say, “Hey, I’m not breaking any chastity rules. We kept our clothes on and our hands away from sexual areas. The other person understood what this was all about. I’m keeping within the letter of the law.”

However, a care orientation (this is the orientation that feminists in the 70’s and 80’s advocated as an alternative to the more traditional justice one) might lead one to say, “This behavior does not only affect me. What about the other person? Could I potentially be hurting him/her by getting their hopes up? The highest form of morality for me is caring for other people and developing relationships, and I just don’t see how hooking up is showing concern for this other person.”

What do you think? Does NiCMO behavior have negative ramifications for young Mormons? Is it ethical? Or is it ultimately harmless?

 

Caroline

Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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38 Responses

  1. Jessawhy says:

    This is a great post, Caroline.
    I think what’s going on now is a LOT more than the NiCMO of 10 years ago.

    From what I can gather from singles (especially those in their mid-late twenties), they’re more closely following the “no intercourse, but everything else is okay” rule. I don’t know where commitment fits into this scale, but I know at least a few women who aren’t that interested in committing.

    As for me, I wish I had done a little more NiCMO in college. As long as both parties are considerate of each other and enjoy each other’s company, I don’t see why making out can’t be fairly casual. Perhaps long term it can be detrimental, but I wouldn’t know.

    From first kiss to marriage I had 2 years and 3 months. And somehow I managed to kiss 9 guys. (Really it was 18 months, since after I started dating Mark I didn’t kiss other guys). Obviously I wasn’t looking for too much commitment with the other 8.

    So, perhaps my short dating life skews my perspective on this topic.

    But, it’s really interesting to talk about. I’m interested in what others have to say.

    BTW, I don’t remember if you defined NiCMO: Non-Committal Make-Out.

  2. Kaimi says:

    9 guys in 18 months? Go, Jess. You were quite the wild child. 🙂

  3. adamf says:

    I don’t know about the ethical ramifications, but ultimately it could be harmful. Any intimate physical behavior between two people involves all kinds of biological functions, not the least of which is oxytocin and certainly large amounts of dopamine. While mutual orgasm without commitment is probably the most harmful, any kind of significant dopamine spike shared via NiCMO-ing may lead to later difficulties with securely attached relationships.

    The whole thing seems avoidant to me, and no offense Jessawhy, but your example illustrates well that people get caught up in these dopamine/prolactin roller coasters, and even after “9 partners” they still aren’t/weren’t satisfied.

    Or maybe I’m just envious on a subconscious level. 😉

  4. Jana says:

    I engaged in my share of NCMO as a teen and it seemed fairly harmless. I made sure I was up front with my partners about not wanting a relationship. A few of the guys seemed to want to get more serious than I wanted to, but I think most realized that it was all in fun.

    I don’t think LDS teenagers are approaching this issue with a care orientation. They’re thinking with their gonads–and if their hormones are pushing them in a sexual direction, a bit of NCMO seems a highly normal and safe behavior.

  5. EmilyCC says:

    Interesting post, Caroline! I’ve never had a NCMO, and one of my nicknames in high school was “Grandma,” so you can see how lively my love life was pre-marriage. So, really, I don’t have much authority here.

    As long as the two parties understand the boundaries, I think it’s fine. But, then again, I wonder if engaging in an intimate act has the potential to make one participant change her/his mind about their feelings for the other. It seems like a way one’s heart could get broken, which makes me think that it could be harmful for both participants: the one who gets hurt and the one who reacts to the hurt person.

  6. laurenlou says:

    as an occasional ncmo-ing single mormon girl in my mid-20s, here are my two cents and a bit of personal experience 🙂 i was definitely in the no ncmo camp until a few months ago, when i realized there was no one around who i would consider getting serious with, but who definitely had fun potential.
    i agree with adamf that it can certainly be risky in terms of forming attachment where you don’t intend because of oxytocin and other hormones. i find myself thinking about my recent “make-out buddy” a lot for a few days after we make out and have to remind myself that aside from physical attraction and a shared sense of fun, there’s no reason i would ever choose to be with this guy long-term. we’re really up-front and direct with each other about it, and i don’t feel guilty.
    is it ethical? harmless? i’m not sure on either count. i guess it varies from case to case. in some sense i still feel that there’s a good case to be made for only being physically affectionate with someone you honestly care for. on the other hand, having a making out buddy is a great distraction from grad school and is actually helping me learn to communicate better with boys (in a non-scandalous way, despite how that sentence sounds…haha).

  7. alesueur218 says:

    As an outsider, it seemed that those who participated in NiCMO were more likely to run into some sexual sinning (I couldn’t figure out a better way of saying that). But that’s not all persons. And it could have been just the people I know. But I think it could be compared to those who date before 16. Dating before 16 doesn’t mean a person has sinned in any way. But it makes the likelihood of being sexually active before marriage higher.

    As far as whether or not it is ethical? I really don’t think it is. When you are in a committed relationship, kissing as an important way of showing love and care for someone. NiCMO cheapens physical intimacy for the persons involved (and may make future relationships more difficult due to reputations or just inability to wait for the emotional ties to form before making physical ones). When kissing and embracing are just considered a good distraction rather than a loving action, it becomes just another appetite like eating or drinking, only in this case you are consuming eachother. That sounds drastic. I don’t mean it to be. But I really hated NiCMO when I was in college. It made dating so much more difficult. And I saw a few friends get into trouble when they began NiCMO relationships with young men and couldn’t let go. And when I was determining if there was mutual dating interest in the boys I dated, I had to be careful when trying to decipher if the boy’s interest in me was legitimate or I was simply his next NiCMO session. That was annoying. I think that NiCMO gets abused, so often only one party is aware of the “non commital” part.

  8. MJK says:

    You know what’s funny is that throughout the two or three years I was experimenting with NCMO (where did that i come from guys?) I only found one guy who was interested in the totally non-committal part of it. All of the others wanted to date seriously, which I wasn’t interested in at the time. And that one guy was not LDS. Sooo I think that the way we are raised in Mormon culture tends to pre-dispose a lot of the population toward wanting to find that eternal mate and it can be hard to make sure both people are on the same level regarding the relationship or lack thereof. See also “acronyms: DTR” the dreaded “Define the relationship” talk.

  9. Natalie says:

    I think this is an ethically dangerous area. I’m going to quote C. S. Lewis on this, even though he’s talking about intimacy, not “making out”:

    “The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union. The Christian attitude does not mean that there is anything wrong about sexual pleasure, any more than about the pleasure of eating. It means that you must not isolate that pleasure and try to get it by itself, any more than you ought to try to get the pleasures of taste without swallowing and digesting, by chewing things and spitting them out again.”

    I think that any situation where you try to divorce physical sensation from emotional closeness is kind of cheating. I won’t lie– I did it myself a little when I was younger. But I wish that I had not.

  10. Sue says:

    I don’t think it’s harmful if both parties realize that’s all it is. Too often though, one person doesn’t realize it’s just NCMO, and feelings are hurt. I think it would be pretty unrealistic for us to expect that teenagers/young adults are going to refrain from not only sex, but casual kissing too.

    Of course it can stop being casual at some point – I married my last NiCMO partner. He was too young for me, not done with school, did not meet a whole list of the criteria I had in my head – but man, the guy could kiss. (And he really was a fantastic guy – we’ve been married for 13 really good years.)

  11. mb says:

    I think the real problem with hooking up is that it is driven by a selfish motive; what physical pleasure I can get out of it.

    Indulging in relationships that are based on selfishness reduces the amount of time you have to be involved in relationships that are based on better things.

    In discussing this topic we need to not only look at the hooking up itself, but also on the time and attention it takes away from developing experiences with relationships that are built on more lasting values.

    Many NiCMO indulgers think nothing of it because they have no idea of what they are missing out on in life. It’s rather like the TV addicted child who doesn’t miss playing outside on a beautiful day. The time taken to be involved in the former reduces the time available to learn and grow in the latter.

    That’s a ramification we need to consider.

  12. Caroline says:

    Jess, I too don’t think I was negatively affected by my very few NCMO experiences. In my mind, I’m also drawing a line between making out with a date and making out with a guy you met at a party. It seems to me like the latter is hooking up. The former to me seems like it’s just a normal part of dating, even if there’s no commitment. (And by the way, I don’t think kissing 9 people in 18 months is all that extreme. I’m sure a lot of those were on dates.)

    Jana, I agree that some NiCMO seems like it might indeed be a healthy way to let off a bit of steam. I know I’d rather have my kids do that than do other risky sexual behavior.

    Emily, that’s hilarious! “Grandma!” I love it. I can’t even imagine – you’re so much fun to hang out with. And I think you’ve hit on the major ethical dilemma in my mind – the possibility that you might hurt the other person, even if you are upfront about your expectations.

    Lauren, I like your point about how NiCMO is helping you learn to communicate with the opposite sex. I too sense that experimenting with a bit of NiCMO might be a good learning opportunity.

  13. Steve says:

    I think it’s interesting that, outside of a few comments related to isolated incidents, the bretheren haven’t weighed in much on NCMOs, while they’ve weighed in plenty on hanging out (which in my mind are two separate things, although I could see how they might be related). I don’t want to turn this into a threadjack, but it might be interesting to see a similar thread on the ethics of hanging out vs single dating.

    Speaking for myself, I have no NCMO experience whatsoever. In high school I was a fat, pizza-faced, sports hating, heavy metal loving nerd. Girls good, bad and indifferent avoided me like the plague. I’d imagine most NCMO suggestions would’ve been met with an “ewww” at best. 🙂

  14. Caroline says:

    alesueur and Natalie,
    I think I agree that in an ideal world, physical intimacy should take place between people who were committed and caring. I think that is most likely to protect the feelings of both partners. But the pragmatic side of me, the side that knows about hormones and young people figuring out how to interact with the opposite sex, sees it as a generally not unhealthy way to experiment a bit.

    MJK, I agree that Mormon culture is substantially different than American culture at large when it comes to marriage. I think that it is played up so much for us as kids and young people that we are very much disposed to wanting to find that eternal companion. So perhaps even NCMO sessions might be some people’s way to see if there’s potential in the other person…(?)

    Sue, you articulated something I was wondering about – the potential of NiCMO actually leading to a serious relationship. I can see how that can happen – you hang out with them, they are fun, you have chemistry, and suddenly someone who didn’t seem to be a possibility turns out to be one.

    mb, you make some interesting points. I can see how NiCMO can be driven by selfishness, but I can also see how it can be driven by simple curiosity. And experimenting with this kind of behavior could, it seems to me, be an important learning experience on some level. As for the idea that people get addicted to hooking up because they don’t know what is out there that is better, that seemed to apply to the college students in the podcast I listened to. They liked just hooking up and didn’t want to find that special someone. I sense, however, that most Mormons, who are so programmed to want to get married, really do want something more meaningful, they just can’t find it at the moment.

  15. alesueur218 says:

    “I sense, however, that most Mormons, who are so programmed to want to get married, really do want something more meaningful, they just can’t find it at the moment.”

    I really like this statement and agree with it to some degree-and I sincerely hope it’s true.
    I do believe that most Mormons are looking for (and are programmed to do so) for an eternal companion in the midst of the NiCMO. I just am not sure how disengaged youth truly are from the wider society where ‘hooking up’ and ‘hanging out’ are encouraged (interesting point Steve on hanging out…) instead of finding real lasting relationships. Isn’t it possible to ‘have fun’ and build communication in dating without NiCMO? Isn’t it important to develop honest and open communication with the opposite sex without relying upon the physical part to force it?

    I do wonder though-can the NiCMO behaviour keep some from finding that person? I do like Sue’s story-proves that NiCMO can end up facilitating persons finding compatible partners. I’m still skeptical though.
    What about the idea that we will marry who we date? If someone is continually spending time with persons (through NiCMO) who are not up to their standards-and continues to do so-they’ll end up marrying one of those persons, or not marrying at all. In Sue’s case-it worked. But is that common?

  16. HundredsOfNCMOs says:

    “And experimenting with this kind of behavior could, it seems to me, be an important learning experience on some level. ”

    This may well be true, but in my experience – which unfortunately is fairly vast – things always, and I mean ALWAYS escalate.

    If you get into the NCMO culture and stay there, eventually your standards and your limits shift.

    Every “make out buddy” I have ever had (that lasted more than 3 sessions) has slowly loosened her standards of acceptability until clothes came off or were reached under – by both of us.

    Every “wild girl” I ever hooked up with at some point was a nice girl that got caught up in lots of NCMOs.

    I do not think that making out with a serious relationship is a big deal, more internal controls are in place. With a hook up, things get out of hand (or should I say into hand) because of the “It will be just this once” or “I won’t let this happen again” or “I will never see this person again” attitude.

    Particularly with women, going too far in a NCMO situation damages them way more than they realize. If a girl starts hooking up, starts letting guys fondle her, or starts climaxing as they bump and grind, or does anything she considers outside of her “limits” they begin to see themselves as slutty or that they are damaged goods and no longer deserve a “real” relationship. Then they put off real dating and just get deeper into the hooking up lifestyle.

    I have met with many women (again, in and out of the Church) that are extremely bright, fun and attractive, but don’t really date. Instead they have sunk into the habit of chatting dirty on line as they masturbate or meeting total strangers from social networking sites in total secret for a quick physical fix. Even if they just make out and don’t cross any lines, the overall effect of only being able to meet a total stranger in secret to get a kiss really messes them up.

    This takes place in or out of the Church. It seems to me that caving in to their base desires when they know they don’t initially intend to greatly damages the self esteem of most women. This is true with men to a lesser degree. The “hanging out” and “hooking up” lifestyle is being perpetuated because kids today in a very real way see themselves as trapped in it. As not deserving what they really want.

    In general, after a long a difficult path, I would say that It is much better all around to date someone and make out with them. Then break up if it doesn’t work out. A NCMO is just a start down a very slippery slope.

  17. HundredsOfNCMOs says:

    I also need to add, that the crushed self esteem of many women engaged in the “hooking up” lifestyle is something that some men count on.

    There are a ton – and I mean a TON – of predators that prey on insecure women caught in this trap. They know they can hook up, get some skin – or more – and never have it mentioned again because the woman agreed to it at the time, most likely had good fun also, but in the light of day is ashamed by what happened.

    Even if the goal is just a hot make out, the predators are out there. They thrive on social networking and chat sites.

  18. Minerva says:

    “This may well be true, but in my experience – which unfortunately is fairly vast – things always, and I mean ALWAYS escalate.”

    This was not my experience at all. I have had three boyfriends but kissed I think 17 guys. The only time things escalated was when I was in a committed relationship.

    Maybe I’m sort of self-destructive but I don’t really see the harm in getting your heart broken a few times. I’ve had my heart broken and lived through it. Maybe my life would be better if I hadn’t had these heartbreaks, but I sort of doubt it.

    I like NCMOs and miss them. But I have a promiscuous soul 🙂

  19. Jessawhy says:

    Wow, this thread has gotten interesting!

    Caroline, you’re right, most of the guys I kissed were friends or dates. I don’t think I ever kissed a guy I met at a party.
    So, I don’t really understand the hooking up thing.
    But, the 100sofNCMOs comments made me really sad. I hope that the women caught in that cycle can get out of it.

    My guess is that there is quite a spectrum of experiences and definitions of NCMOs and hooking up. Thus, there is quite a spectrum of responses to them.

  20. Jessawhy says:

    Oh, and like Sue, I married my last NCMO buddy. My goal was to find a cute guy in each of my classes to “study” with.
    It was the cute guy from Astronomy that I married nearly 9 years ago.
    (That kinda makes me sound like the predator, doesn’t it?)

  21. Jana says:

    In my experience, NCMO was just that. When I sought a relationship with someone I didn’t call our intimate practices NCMO. So sometimes NCMO was with a friend, sometimes someone I’d just met, sometimes a person who became a BF. We’re all different and practices like NCMO have varying impacts on our minds, our spirits, and our future choices.

    Also, I don’t accept the gender essentialism of a comment that suggests that NCMO affects women more deleteriously than in does men. However, if women do feel shamed after NCMO (which leads to predators taking advantage of their shame), I say that we should foster a culture where NCMO is seen as a normal part of sexual development rather than a deviant practice.

  22. Minerva says:

    I also disagree along with Jana that things like this are inherently more harmful for women. I honestly don’t feel like I’ve been damaged by my various experiences; I certainly don’t feel like I’m unloveable or less able to commit because of them. I don’t feel like I’ve been a victim to anything because I was a willing and conscious participant in everything I’ve done. I’m not helpless. I also seriously doubt I’ve permanently scarred any of the boys I’ve been with either (though there was the NCMO I met in the park who carried my phone number around in his pocket and then rather dramatically gave it back to me when I told him there would be no more kissing). People are people and they like to touch each other. It’s only unethical when it’s not consensual or there is lying involved (i.e. false proclamations of love or leaving out important details like that you’re married).

  23. mb says:

    Steve, you said:
    “I think it’s interesting that, outside of a few comments related to isolated incidents, the brethren haven’t weighed in much on NCMOs”.

    Actually I believe they have. The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet is clear on it’s counsel on the subject as it specifically mentions not getting involved in passionate kissing *with anyone*, as well as counselling against more advanced forms of NiCMO.

    It just doesn’t use the word NiCMO.

  24. Minerva says:

    mb,

    I may be wrong on this, but I just don’t think For the Strength of Youth guidelines can be transferred unaltered to fully matured adults. No way am I going to marry someone if I have not made out with them. No way.

  25. Starfoxy says:

    I don’t think HundredsOfNCMOs was describing the dangers of NCMO for women as something inherent to the act, or to women- but rather as a byproduct of the stud/slut dichotomy so widespread in our society. There is a positive correlation between sexual abuse and promiscuity. Which doesn’t mean that all ‘promiscuity’ is unhealthy, but that there are promiscuous women/girls who act that way as a result of poor self-esteem. And that women who are promiscuous are disparaged or abused until they have poor self esteem. In a society where unapologetic sexual activity among women is considered an aberration, then healthy sexuality is hard to develop especially in emotionally volatile settings such as NCMOs.

  26. Bookslinger says:

    To the last comment, childhood abuse in various forms (sexual, violent non-sexual, and verbal/emotional) generally leads to low-self esteem in the first place. Childhood abuse of girls can also lead to promiscuity, and an early start of sexual activity. Not all promiscuous female teens or young adult women were abused, but I think the vast majority of sexually abused girls go on to have low self-esteem and/or become promiscuous. I’m not sure how it works for boys, but it can really mess them up too.

    Eating disorders, both among men and women, also have a high correlation with various forms of childhood abuse.

    On another point… “hooking up” has evolved to include a lot of things. To some it may mean a form of physical contact, but it can also be used for just meeting or contacting someone.

  27. mb says:

    Certainly, Minerva. I certainly don’t advocate abstaining from kissing the beloved friend you wish to marry. But I think the topic is NCMOs, which are with people you have no commitment to.

    Looking back at the relationships I had with men, my experience was that the ones that were deeper and more beautiful were the ones where the physical affection came after the kindness, sacrifice and commitment, not before.

    The trouble with NCMOs is that the physical comes before the caring and giving. That caring and giving on the part of both partners is the part, in my experience, that makes life and relationships the most profound.

    Certainly some committed marriages come from NCMO relationships, but my sense from what I’ve observed is that most relationships that are simply NCMOs are much more likely to fail to bloom, simply because there is not enough unselfishness and thought put into them to ever allow them to become profound.

  28. mb says:

    And if you are spending your time in non-blooming relationships, you are losing the time you might be spending learning how to build ones that are much deeper and more emotionally and spiritually (as well as physically) satisfying.

  29. Kaimi says:

    This has been a fascinating thread and comments. A few thoughts:

    -In case it’s not clear, I was just teasing, Jess. I don’t think your comment shows inappropriate wildness at all.

    -Teasing aside, I do know some Mormons who see kissing while dating (or while not dating one’s future spouse) as a sort of soft-line chastity failure. These are people who talk with pride about how they only kissed their spouse; who called themselves names like “virgin lips” while dating; and so forth. It’s not a large contingent, but it does exist. It’s amazing how quick people are to draw lines.

    -I also saw some major predatory behavior among friends of mine. I think that NCMO can be just fine, as long as both parties are okay with it. But what I saw — and it’s curious, given the extent to which women are defending the idea, here — was a very gendered pattern of manipulation. Some men would prey on younger (especially 18-year-old freshman) women.

    Mormon women are sent message after message — must get married, must find a guy, must become a mom. There is a contingent of young Mormon women who absorb these messages and who really really want to find an RM guy to marry. And there is a group of male RMs who prey on those women. They often don’t get sex (though they often try), but they’ll take whatever physical contact they can get — making out, fondling, and so on. And they do it without intending to follow through with the relationship the woman is after.

    I don’t want to be prude or Victorian or suggest that no one should ever kiss. But in practice, a lot of the NCMO that my friends and classmates were doing was only really NC for one of the people. And that’s not good.

    I don’t mean this in a gender essentialist way, that women are naturally more fragile or anything. But I think that the way that gender is socialized in LDS culture sets women up to be more easily harmed by NCMO. I’m not sure what to do with that. I don’t want to demonize the idea; but I think it’s hard to deny that in LDS culture as presently constituted, it can negatively affect women more easily.

    -Also, I’ve known a few friends who bemoan their relative lack of NCMO before marrying. I don’t know if this is a uniquely LDS phenomenon, but it’s kind of funny (especially to see those friends encourage their single friends to kiss as much as they can while they’re unattached).

  30. Starfoxy says:

    But in practice, a lot of the NCMO that my friends and classmates were doing was only really NC for one of the people. And that’s not good.

    Among the young women I went to college with acting disinterested in a relationship was something they did in order to attract men, a first step towards their actual goal of having a relationship. They (and I) wanted to distance themselves from the unattractive “I’m just here to get my MRS” stereotype. At least one of my roommates took this far enough to agree to several NCMO with a young man that she really really really wanted to date.

    They often found themselves very hurt by the men who took them at their word.

  31. Caroline says:

    Hundreds, very interesting points. Thanks for sharing your experience. Like Jana and Minerva, I don’t like the idea of NCMO’s hurting women more than men, but I do like Starfoxy’s interpretation of your comment – that this is all about the stud/slut double standard that is an inescapable part of American culture.

    Minerva, that was my experience too. It was a lot easier for me to keep NCMO’s under strict control than physical stuff in committed relationships. I also agree that For The Strength of Youth standards shouldn’t necessarily be applied to single adults.
    Like Steve, I don’t remember GA’s talking about NCMO among adults, but I do remember Oaks’ talk on hanging out.

    Bookslinger, yes, that’s a good clarification about the term ‘hooking up.’ Apparently that is the term of choice for these college students engaged in the behavior.

    mb, I think that what you describe with the caring coming first and then the kissing is absolutely ideal. But I do wonder – what about those people that would really like to develop that profound relationship, but there just isn’t anyone around that works? I can see in that situation a person just wanting to have a little fun and excitement with whoever is available, and I don’t necessarily see that as distracting them from finding that profound relationship. It would just be an acknowledged poor substitute in the meantime – but at least it’s something, they might say to themselves.

  32. Caroline says:

    Kaimi, I loved reading your take on this. That’s so interesting about your predatory RM friends taking advantage of the young, marriage-minded girls. I can certainly see how our Mormon culture – which really does pound the idea of marriage and motherhood into young women – would sometimes make them vulnerable to men who show any kind of interest in them, even if it’s just physical. That was very different from my experience, however. I always felt pretty empowered within my NCMO experiences, probably because I really truly wasn’t interested in it turning into anything. I just wanted some fun, and was not desperate to get married. I think that NCMO also probably built up my confidence a bit by helping me feel attractive to the opposite sex.

    Wow, Starfoxy, the games that are played. I’m glad I never felt like I had to act disinterested to get a guy. I wonder if this is particularly a popular strategy at BYU? It wasn’t a strategy at all among my friends at the women’s college I went to.

  33. Starfoxy says:

    Caroline, I don’t know about BYU. I went to NAU in AZ. I think for at least some of the women I knew (including me), we realized that the dating scene there wasn’t great for women (5:1 ratio of active women to men) and acted disinterested because we wanted to *be* disinterested. (There was also that perverse notion that once you give up on finding true love then you’ll stumble over it. So we kept “giving up” on love.)
    But for at least a couple it was an affectation taken on solely to attract men.

  34. Steve says:

    mb, I’ll admit to being a little naive. I haven’t read the FTSOY pamphlet. I was referring to conference talks. Elder Oaks came out with a pretty damning talk a few years ago on the perils of hanging out. Several times I’ve heard general authorities and auxiliary leaders refer to the FTSOY pamphlet in their talks, but in my experience they’re usually talking about modesty.

  35. G says:

    cool! I’m mostly making this comment so I can get all the followup comments sent to email.

    Great post caroline.

    I identify a good deal with jessawhy- I went through quite a succession of make-out partners where I had no commitment intentions, then one finally stuck and I married him.

    For me this post and thread connects to the One that D’Arcy just wrote about confession and guilt; I believe that this culture of sexual forbidden-ness outside of marriage (an eternal commitment) and guilt feeds heavily into the need for sexual release, and it is manifest in early (and sometimes unwise) marriage choices. And NiCMO.

    Which is worse? Depends on the person.

  36. Minerva says:

    “I can see in that situation a person just wanting to have a little fun and excitement with whoever is available, and I don’t necessarily see that as distracting them from finding that profound relationship.”

    Thank you for making this point in response to mb, Caroline. During my NCMO years, I was not avoiding a real relationship (and now I’ve been in one for the last 2 1/2 years). I was just raised to have serious relationships with only Mormon men, and I just wasn’t interesting to them (my current boyfriend is Presbyterian). So I sort of figured if I was going to keep from being unable to relate to men, I had to have these flings with non-Mormon guys. I’ve had maybe one NCMO with a Mormon guy in my life. I’m always a bit in awe of people who managed to have NCMOs with Mormons.

  37. Anony Mouse says:

    If NCMO is harmless, and fun, and non-committal, then wouldn’t it be okay to do it after marriage too?

    Married people still enjoy physical contact and affection. As long as everyone is keeping their pants on and everyone agrees it’s not a relationship or commitment, why stop NCMO just because you get married?

  38. gina says:

    I’ll preface this by stating that I’m not a member of the church (though I have several friends who are).

    I actually stumbled upon this blogpost, and subsequent comments, after seeking out a little guidance. I’m 23 years old and found myself in an extremely foreign situation: arranging a tryst for some good old NCMO action. I’d heard this reffered to once in my freshman year at a conservative christian college in Idaho, but didn’t know it was so widespread! lol. I was prompted to post after reading Minerva’s most recent post about not engaging in this behavior with fellow LDS members. I was thinking the same thing when I agreed to the arrangement I’ve made with a young man I recently met and went on a date with. I, for whatever reason, feel much less uncomfortable “hooking up” with this guy who’s NOT a Christian. In fact, I don’t think I’d ever even dream about doing the same with a Christian guy. is that weird to anybody?

    thanks for letting me crash the party, albeit more than a few months late… 🙂

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