Ask the average college student in America if he/she is dating, and the answer will most likely be no. That’s because we, the students of the 21st century, don’t “date” anymore. We “hook up.”

If you’re in your 40s, “hooking up” might mean meeting a friend downtown for lunch. But to people in their teens and 20s, the phrase often means a casual sexual encounter – anything from kissing and touching to oral sex or intercourse – with no strings attached.

Vagueness is its hallmark. A girl can say, “I hooked up with so-and-so,” and no one knows what she did. It protects her and makes her a player at the same time.

Unfortunately, dating has gone completely down the drain, replaced by group outings that lead to meaningless affairs. It feels like it’s the only game in town, and if you don’t do it, you’re left out.

Let’s face it; we live in a culture where teens and young adults take pride in having guilt-free sex with partners they barely know. People have become so blasé about sex to the point that oral sex isn’t even considered sex anymore.

We’re even coming up with a vocabulary that softens the impact of the behavior. “I hooked up with someone” sounds a lot better than “I had oral sex with someone whose name I don’t even know.”

Now I’m not saying that girls shouldn’t have sex; just that they should have it in the context of a meaningful connection. I am not prudish or unrealistic enough to call for an end to hook ups. I simply think girls need to stop and think about what they are doing, and where it’s going to lead them.

Most girls say they want to be in love eventually, they want to marry eventually. My question is: Will hooking up get you there?

Too often, young women proudly say that they like the control “hook ups” give them – control over their emotions, their schedules and freedom to focus on things like schoolwork and careers. But no matter how hard girls try to act emotionally detached, my guess is that 99 percent of the time, girls feel hollow and empty the next day. They are hoping the guy will call or text, knowing he isn’t going to and then pretending they don’t care.

If girls keep this behavior up, they are going to pick up a lot of bad habits with it that make it hard to sustain a long-term commitment. Ten years from now, my classmates will be 30-years-old, ready to settle down and are not going to know the first thing about commitment.

They won’t be able to trust or share or know how to disagree and make up. They won’t know the difference between making love and having sex. But worst of all, they won’t even care.

I don’t think that we should look at this from a moralistic viewpoint – as in, today’s youth is in decline – but I don’t think we should celebrate it either, in a “Sex and the City” sort of way. The problem is that, for whatever reason, our generation hasn’t really been conditioned for dating and courtship. Most girls don’t know what it’s like to not kiss on the first date or view sex as something special.

The solution to the “hook up” epidemic is simple. Remember when your mother told you the old adage, “Don’t give the milk away when nobody’s bought the cow?” This is what she was talking about. In other words, cross your legs and act like a lady if you want to be treated like one.