Forget ‘Hook Up’ for ‘Off the Hook’

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A few weeks ago, college students around the country flooded their campuses with red posters bearing a simple message: #BringDatingBack. Each one offered simple tips such as "Keep it casual. Think fro-yo, not filet mignon."

"It's a lighthearted way of calming people's fears about dating, whether they think it's too complicated or too awkward or scary. People equate a date with asking someone to be in a relationship," said Jackie Herrick, president of Off the Hook at James Madison University in Harrisonburg.

The flyer campaign was a way to encourage college students to reject the prevalent hook-up culture and search for authentic love.

Love and Fidelity groups, like Off the Hook, tackle the hook-up culture and other issues of sexual morality, like traditional marriage and pornography. Though often filled with students motivated by their faith, the work they do is presented through the lens of philosophy and social science. The parent organization, Love and Fidelity Network based in Princeton, N.J., provides students with access to ample scholarly research to bolster their beliefs.

This approach has many benefits according to the students. Once, explained Off the Hook Vice President Melody Sarno, a friend of hers was confronted about why she didn't like birth control. She only knew the theological reasons, which held no weight with the person questioning her, said Sarno. "This club really pushed me to do more research on the other reasons why we believe what we do," she said.

Greta Haussmann, president of the Anscombe Society at Catholic University in Washington said her group has hosted the documentary "Eggsplotation" about the exploitation of poor women for their eggs. Last Valentine's Day, they had a fundraiser called "50 Cents, Not 50 Shades," which raised money for a local women's shelter.

Recently, they've focused on creating one-on-one conversations with peers in the student center on topics like the harms of pornography and the prevalence of domestic abuse.

"People are always pleasantly surprised when we have statistics to back up our claims," said Haussmann. "It's made me a strong Catholic advocate for my beliefs."

The University of Notre Dame's club, Students for Child-Oriented Policy, focuses on traditional marriage, adoption, pornography, drug abuse and education. They held a lecture about the Supreme Court's decision on same-sex marriage, a discussion on drug policy and a panel with adoptive parents, said president Tim Bradley.

Though the beliefs they espouse are not always popular, members know the importance of their work. "It's easy to be discouraged, but the faith gives us hope and gives us strength to carry on," said Bradley.

"These issues affect everyone," said Vice President Hailey Vrdolyak. "We have the truth, and this truth will affect a lot of people's lives and the decisions that they make."

Bradley, for example, believes that the institution of same-sex marriage will diminish the unique role mothers and fathers play in the lives of their children. "Moms and dads bring different things (to parenting) and are very important to the development of their children," he said.

Though many of his peers have an "attitude of indifference" about the relationships of others, Bradley said, whether it's a same-sex marriage or a one-night stand, people's actions will affect their families, which in turn affect society at large.

The harms of the hook-up culture are easy to spot on campus: "It leads to a lot of pain, in ways that (the partakers) maybe don't understand," said Bradley. Sarno noted, "There's incredible confusion about how your emotions integrate with what you do with your physical body.

"There's this mindset where everyone else thinks everyone else is (hooking up)," said Sarno. "There's this shared silence. In reality, there really are a lot of people who think there has to be something more, but they're hesitant to speak up about it."

"Hooking up isn't OK, and we're here if you feel the same way," said Sarno.

Di Mauro can be reached at zdimauro@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @zoeydimauro.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016