Healing the Wounds of the Hookup Culture

A Review of Kevin and Lisa Cotter’s Dating Detox

“In a recent survey of college students, both men and women had nearly double the number of hookups compared to first dates. How many reported feeling desirable or wanted after the hookup? A grand total of two percent. In fact, about seventy percent of college students admitted that they would rather have a traditional romantic relationship than an uncommitted sexual one.” (page iv)

If you are a Catholic who has graduated from college, chances are that you have heard of FOCUS (an acronym for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students). Renowned FOCUS missionary couple Kevin and Lisa Cotter have written a book that has the potential to revolutionize (or, at a minimum, revitalize) the entire “dating” scene for Catholics, or anyone of good will, for that matter. In fact, an alternatively fitting term might be “courtship” scene; after all, Catholics should be more interested in marriage than in serial dating.

In December 2016, the Cotters’ quickly-popular book, Dating Detox: 40 Days of Perfecting Love in an Imperfect World, was released jointly by Ignatius Press and the Augustine Institute. The following are some reasons why you should read this book, whether you are preparing for marriage yourself or you know someone who is.

A Reminder About Chastity

Our modern culture would have you think that chastity is impossible – that we are little more than roving beasts of animalistic impulse, incapable of saving sex for marriage, or of abstaining from further sex once already in a sexually active relationship, or even of fidelity within marriage. Ideally obvious terms such as fornication and promiscuity, to say nothing of ideally admirable phrases such as virginity and abstinence (other than when such designations are used pejoratively), rarely enter into the parlance of the broader culture. Chastity ends up seeming an anachronism of a bygone era. Yet we Catholics must celebrate our common “Vocation to Chastity” (paragraphs 2337-2359 of the Catechism), and Dating Detox stresses that need in modern times.

Avoiding Toxic Relationships

The word “toxic” is frequently used in modern times to describe what relationships (if they even reach the level of a relationship at all) often devolve into. It is curious how our society is more sex-saturated than ever, yet more unwelcoming to the prospect of marriage and children than ever before. In order to present a hope-filled reversal of this trend, Pope Francis has emphasized the great need for the witness of commitment shown by faithful marriagesDating Detox focuses attention on fostering such healthy relational dynamics.

Widespread Acclaim

Dating Detox has received the acclaim of prominent voices with expertise in how to combat our hedonistic, pornographic, and otherwise self-indulgent culture. Leading figures dedicated to furthering the Church’s teachings on chastity, marriage, and the family, including Jason and Crystalina Evert, Matt Fradd, Fr. Mike Schmitz, and Sarah Swafford, have endorsed Dating Detox. These prominent Catholic voices excel at not merely transmitting the faith element inherent to the need to restore chastity in the broader culture as a reflection of the Gospel, but likewise to identifying the sociological elements that those of all faiths can appreciate regarding the necessity of strengthening society, beginning with the institution of marriage and the family.

If you are looking for the prospect of purity (especially renewed purity), marriage, and a family, and to counteract the modern culture’s relentless toxicity, please read this book! At just under 200 pages and able to be read for only a few minutes a day over the course of a little over a month, it is a good choice for many readers, perhaps particularly during the period between the summer months and the approaching academic year for college students. As we reflect on Christ’s teachings on marriage, especially those centered on Matthew 19:1-12, we are likewise enthused by the reminder that everyone of good will ought to celebrate purity, marriage, and the family because they ultimately reflect the will of him in whose “image” and “likeness” we are made (cf. Genesis 1:26-27). Get a copy of this book after checking out a preview at Amazon!

“[This book is] for those who are tired of the empty promises of our culture’s plan for love, dating, and sex. It’s for those who are worn out from giving away their hearts and bodies, only to have them returned bruised and broken. It’s for anyone who, after a hookup or breakup, has thought, ‘That wasn’t right, that’s not what I really wanted – there must be something more. There is more. But getting to that ‘more’ requires a willingness to take a journey – a journey from where you are to where you hope to be.” (page 4)

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Justin, his wife Bernadette, and their children live in Bowie, Maryland. Justin has taught theology and Spanish at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland, since 2006. He has degrees from the University of Maryland - College Park, the Universidad de Salamanca (Spain), and Staffordshire University (England), and he has studied philosophy and theology at Seton Hall University, the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and the University of Notre Dame's Satellite Theological Education Program. Justin has written for Ave Maria Press, Aleteia, EpicPew, Our Sunday Visitor, Catholic365, Church Life, and various other publications. He is on Twitter (@McClainJustin).

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