At some point, you’ve probably heard the phrase “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”
I have. I’ve gotten it from a friend justifying a spontaneous hook up with some guy she barely knew at a party. A couple of times, I’ve heard it from people who made a habit of leading others on, just for the attention. Once, tragically, it was all the explanation a friend could give me right before he cheated on his long-term girlfriend.
So, I figured it was about time I took them up on the offer. This post is about hating the game.
“The game” is hookup culture, the underlying societal pressure that encourages people to have casual hookups on a fairly regular basis. A “hookup” could mean sex, making out, or something in-between. What it definitely means is physical intimacy without commitment.
In his book If You Really Loved Me, Jason Evert noted that the idea kicked off in the 1960’s with the “free love” movement, which assumed that if there were mutual feelings between two people, then they should feel free to have sex. There was just one fatal flaw: the promoters of this so-called sexual revolution had no idea what “freedom” or “love” actually meant.
Like Jason, I absolutely believe that we should be free to do whatever love is calling us to do—provided it really is love that is calling us.
But I don’t think even the players are kidding themselves that “the game” has anything to with love. The guy looking for some company on Tinder at 2am likely wouldn’t say he’s searching for “true love.” People grinding on a dancefloor generally aren’t convinced their soul mate is hiding somewhere amidst the sweaty bodies.
In the past, I think I used hookups like a kind of shield. “The game” was a good way to avoid my deeper fear: that I actually couldn’t handle a lasting relationship. It was also an attempt to find self-worth. I got it into my head that if a lot of people wanted to hook up with me, then it was because I was worth a lot.
In reality, I found the opposite to be true. See, in a way, this kind of sexual “freedom” was just proclaiming myself to be available for free and usually, when something is free, it’s because it doesn’t have any value. So, the longer I lived like this, the less self-worth I had.
Now, I’m not saying that a person who lives like this is worthless. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Your kisses, your body, and your heart are an infinitely big deal. That’s why its messed up when people act like they aren’t.
See, when we consider hook up culture, it’s really important to think about sex. Writer Frank Sheed said that “modern man practically never thinks about sex.” Players will fantasize about sex, they’ll joke about sex, but they never actually pause to think “What does sex mean? What is its purpose?”
A huge part of sex is vulnerability—imagine if someone looked at your body and instead of taking you into their arms, they laughed at you. Or they took a snapchat to share with their friends. Or they recommended five, 30-minute sessions of high intensity cardio a week. The thought is terrifying, its sickening, and the reason why is because you’re putting it all out there. In that moment, you are totally giving yourself to the other person.
When you give yourself to a person is this way, a bond forms. I’m not just being poetic here. When two people have sex, they release a hormone called oxytocin, which works like a kind of chemical superglue, psychologically bonding the two lovers together. It’s called “making love” for a reason.
Unsurprisingly, breaking this powerful neurological connection often causes a lot of emotional pain. Our bodies, like our hearts, are not made for casual hook ups. This is one of the reasons why Catholics (and a whole bunch of other people) believe in saving sex for marriage. It’s not because physical intimacy is dirty, bad or impure. It’s because sex is good, it’s sacred, and it has the power to bond people together.
Intimacy is meant for so much more than just a “game.”
Samuel Brebner is an under-graduate, studying theology and law at the University of Auckland. He lives in New Zealand, loves to surf, and hopes to challenge youth to be everything God created them to be. Samuel works part-time with Real Talk, a Catholic organization that speaks in high schools on the topics of sex, relationships and personal identity. For more of Sam’s writing, visit his blog https://parttimeprophet.net/.