The Brain, Sex, and Our Hook-Up Culture (McIlhaney & Bush)

 This is a unique and helpful book: Hooked: The Brain Science on How Casual Sex Affects Human Development by Joe McIlhaney and Freda McKissic.  Hooked is an in-depth look at what sex does to a person’s brain.  Most people in our culture think that the casual, hook-up kind of sexual encounter is a no-strings-attached, easy-come-easy-go type of relationship that doesn’t really affect a person.  So you can do it as much as you want with whomever you want and suffer few long term repercussions.  The authors of Hooked take that cultural view head on and prove scientifically that it is simply false:

A 2017 survey of high school adolescents illustrates that sexual activity has more ramifications beyond the physical.  The survey showed that both boys and girls who have had sex are more likely to be depressed than their friends who have not (p. 19).

…With the aid of modern research techniques and technologies, scientists are confirming that sex is more than a momentary physical act.  It produces powerful, even lifelong, changes in our brains that direct and influence our future to a surprising degree (p. 21).

Some individuals have been disappointed to find that as they move from one sexual partner to another, they not only are not finding ultimate pleasure but are feeling worse about themselves and their many sexual partners.  In fact, studies show that those in casual relationships find that these sexual patterns often prevent such relationships from blossoming into romance.  They wonder why they feel this way (p. 23).

…Engaging in sex almost always carries long-term psychological consequences, either life-enhancing or life-limiting.  The brain chemical effect of sex has happened, in varying degrees, to everyone who has experienced sexual intercourse (p. 71).

This book isn’t necessarily a Christian book and I don’t necessarily agree with everything in it.  But it is a great resource to have as we think about our “hook up culture” from a Christian perspective. When God told us to live sexually pure lives and to keep sex in the realm of a man-and-woman marriage relationship, he wasn’t cruelly putting shackles on us out of spite.  Instead, he was giving us parameters to live within for the sake of human flourishing, freedom, and safety.  It shouldn’t surprise us to learn from scientific studies that promiscuous sex is harmful for people while sex inside a man-and-woman marriage relationship is a good thing.

I’ll come back to this book later.  For now, do check it out: Hooked.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015