Conventional wisdom tends to oversimplify the situation to something along the lines of: Boys get to have sex, which is really all they want. They are seen as predators, and girls, their prey.
Reality is far more complex than this, in ways that can affect young men socially and emotionally well into adulthood, according to Steiner-Adair. It’s “insufficient, superficial and polarizing when boys simply get cast as aggressors and girls as victims,” she said. In her view, girls can certainly suffer negative consequences from the hookup culture. Her point is: Boys can, too. “It’s such a bad part of our culture to think that boys aren’t also harmed,” she says. “We are neglecting the emotional lives of boys.”
In interviews and focus groups, Steiner-Adair talked with boys and girls ages 4 to 18 at suburban public and private schools, with consent from parents and schools, about their relationships and influences. Kids from the fourth grade and up shared their private texts and Facebook posts, unveiling the dating landscape. In one case, a boy sent a naked snapshot of himself to his girlfriend, with a suggestive caption. The girl, who had never seen her boyfriend naked, was shocked, and said she felt the relationship had suddenly lost its innocence. “I was so mad about that,” she said. The girl’s reaction, in turn, surprised the boy. He really liked her. His behavior, said Steiner-Adair, was “aggressive in a way that boys don’t understand.”