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