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Expert lectures on dating, relationships

Nicole Michels | Monday, February 27, 2012

Boston College “date doctor” Kelly Cronin asked Notre Dame students last night to risk breaking their hearts.

Cronin gave a lecture at Legends sponsored by the Gender Relations Center (GRC) titled “Notre Dating: The Lost Art of Friendship and Romance.” She said the hookup culture has become pervasive at most American universities.

College students, Cronin said, often respond to pressures largely by substituting intensity for more personally intimate experiences.

“It’s crazy that a casual thing can be taking your clothes off in front of someone, but that asking someone on a date is this super formal thing,” she said.   

Cronin is a doctoral candidate in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. She is also associate director of the Lonergan Institute and a faculty fellow in Boston College’s Center for Student Formation. Cronin is a nationally known speaker on college campuses.

Cronin said current academic studies of the relationship between college students and sexuality falls far short of the reality that she has learned through talks with students.

She said the reality is the modern student is very unlikely to “date.”

“There is only a small sliver of people who do this thing called ‘dating,'” she said.

Cronin said the rest of the population pursues various levels of intimacy, ranging from the nonexistent intimacy of a casual hookup to an extremely serious relationship.

Cronin said that general conclusions could be drawn about college dating life.

“At [Boston College], I found about 23 percent were involved in what I call ‘pseudo-married couples,'” Cronin said.  “Pseudo-married couples have a problem because people hate them.  People hate them because they’re so … happy.”

But Cronin said some of these couples are secretly afraid their relationships have progressed too quickly.

“These people are often stuck in relationships or hiding out in relationships and are afraid that maybe their friends are right ⎯ they’re not fun after all,” Cronin said. “[These are people] who are suspicious that the relationship that they’re in is maybe a little further than they should be at that stage of their life.”

Cronin said the hookup culture is another characteristic of the college population. A strong trend during freshmen year, she said it generally fades somewhat in subsequent years.  

“High freshman year, [hooking up] settles down the second year,” Cronin said.  “However, juniors … [go] abroad and they say, ‘I’m going to go hook up in Scotland. I need hooking up with an accent.'”

A further portion of the population “opts out” of the culture entirely, she said.

The problem, she said, is the hookup culture is so pervasive it dominates the social scene at American universities.


“It’s not that everyone’s involved in it … But it’s the thing that gets talked about,” she said.

Though the culture has very strict rules, Cronin said those rules are unwritten.

She said “hooking up” means completely different things to different people.

Cronin said this hookup culture’s biggest problem is it instills exactly the wrong habits in students, degrades their sexuality and creates a harshly aggressive culture.  

She challenged students at the talk to ask someone out who genuinely interested him or her before spring break, but acknowledged the process is difficult.

“I have great hope that you guys can fix this,” Cronin said.  “I’m asking you to try, just try.”

Dr. G David Moss, interim director of the Gender Relations Center and assistant vice president of Student Affairs, said the Center wanted to address the lack of knowledge about dating and how to improve awareness.  

“I think that in many ways our students have lost the knowledge of what dating is … We want to give them a renewed understanding of what dating is and how dating can be done,” Moss said.  

Students appreciated Cronin’s candor and humor.

Sophomore Stephen Zerfas said the number one reason he attended the lecture was to get the complimentary Starbucks voucher.

“[But] I also was excited to come and hear about how to date and have healthy relationships despite how counter cultural dating currently is,” he said.

Sophomore Lissa Stolte agreed.

“Professor Cronin’s discussion of dating and the hookup culture was fun, hilarious and impressively accurate,” she said. “I also really liked hearing her tell stories about her students at Boston College — it was nice to have concrete examples of people who obviously felt as awkward about dating as a lot of Notre Dame students evidently do.”

Cronin said ultimately students must be courageous, but not fearless, when entering the dating scene.  

“You can fix this by dating people without it becoming super intense, to show care and concern and to be open to the beginnings of love,” she said.