Geertz and Levi-Strauss Reveal Summer Love! Tell Me More!

Ahhh… Summer Love: the hot romance so common among our youth is actually almost unique to American culture and sometimes incomprehensible to others. It can only be understood based on the exclusively American interpretation of what “love” is, in contrast to “hate.” Although all people may share the psychological ability and need to love, the cultural system of Summer Love is based off the American concept of a love that can be fleeting, mindless, dismissed.

The best way to describe what Summer Love symbolizes in American culture is through popular music. Clifford Geertz believes that culture can be found in the public performance of symbols, and what is more public and cultural than music?[1] Songs are “vehicles of culture,” holding vast meaning and significance and are easily communicated between and within cultures: learned, shared, influenced by and adaptable to change in the culture.[2] Society responds to, recognizes, learns, and shares the lyrics, and they are easily identified as cultural symbols. So, based on songs about  “having fun all summer long” [3] “running barefoot and feeling free while the love in our hearts blend,” [4] “on an island in the sun, playing and having fun…we’ll run away together,” [5] “fell deep in love and now we ain’t speaking…summer girls come and summer girls go,” [6] “I don’t recall a single care…then Labor day came…and we left our love,”[7] a symbolic anthropologist could characterize Summer Love in America throughout history as liberating, relaxing, fun, and intense but of limited duration. Friends, family, even the two lovers shrug off Summer Love as a phase of growing up.

Of course, there are songs in direct contrast to these happy tunes regarding the same subject of Summer Love: Taking Back Sunday’s “You Are So Last Summer,” with a chorus of “maybe I should hate you for this” is about the hurt of one youth when a summer fling didn’t last, was a lie. The binary opposition between the carefree love quoted above and the hate described here is a topic a Structuralist would be interested in. Levi-Strauss would show that despite being opposites, the concepts of love and hate mutually constitute each other: to hate someone does not make sense unless you compare it to loving someone. The unity of opposites theory shows how the concepts work together to create social meaning and structure. [8] Structuralists would reveal how the social structure of this romantic relationship mirrors the “psychic unity” of human love; specifically, the American mentality of the freedom to and be in love. The cognitive structure of the need for love but reluctance towards commitment created the cultural structure of Summer Love in America, where love is a not always taken seriously. Because it is linked to the thought process that is so deeply ingrained in American culture, Summer Love has become the norm here. Although all humans share the same basic psychological make-up, concepts of love are culture specific and each retains its own social structure: Summer Love is not a universal phenomenon.[9]

— Kendall L.


[1] Carole McGranahan. Lecture: Symbolic Anthropology. ANTH 2100: Frontiers of Cultural Anthropology. 10-13-10.

[2]Carole McGranahan. Lecture: Symbolic Anthropology. ANTH 2100: Frontiers of Cultural Anthropology. 10-13-10.

[3] Beach Boys 1964  “All Summer Long,”

[4] Dolly Parton 1979“ Sweet Summer Lovin.”

[5] Weezer 2001 “Island in the Sun”

[6] LFO 1999 “Summer Girls”

[7] Death Cab for Cutie 2005 “Summer Skin”

[8] Conrad Phillip Kottak, Cultural Anthropology (New York: Mcgraw Hill, 2009) 69-70

[9] Carole McGranahan. Lecture: Marriage, Structuralism. ANTH 2100: Frontiers of Cultural Anthropology. 10-6-10.



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47 Responses to Geertz and Levi-Strauss Reveal Summer Love! Tell Me More!

  1. Robin Fiore says:

    This was a really interesting topic. I liked how you brought in the Structuralist idea of binary opposites. It’s interesting to contrast “summer love” with other types of love. I’m wondering, would someone in another culture see this opposition? It’s possible that to an outsider most America relationships would look kind of relaxed and carefree. A lot of people participate in relationships they don’t expect to last, and not just during summer. This seems normal to us, but to an outsider this could look extremely strange. People in places like Nepal and Tibet would not carry on a relationship they don’t expect to end in marriage. In many of the love letters in “Invitations to Love” the women stress to the men not to end the relationship, or to not begin it unless it will end in marriage. Most all our relationships do not end in marriage, would they see all our relationships as “summer love?”

    • biscayeg says:

      Robin, nice response, that’s definitely what I was getting at with my essay. it was inspired by the differences between me, an american girl (who grew up abroad, though), and my costa rican boyfriend, who was supppppooooosed to be a summer fling. But to him, there is no thing as a fling, and he doesn’t really see “Love” as being short like that. “Amar,” to love, is a very serious term for latinos: they fall in love deeply, commit, and want their partner to commit. Even at a young age: they don’t see 16 as too young, where as I think anything below 25 is too young. And C.R. is pretty damn developed, hip, yet this is still how it is. For a lot of teens there, the epitome of success in house, husband/wife, and children (many.) In America and the “West”, this is not as common. Women are ambitions, beyond the domestic sphere. Feminists anthropologists would definitely find the difference between our cultures as an interesting matter to study. Until taking Anthro and having this relationship, I would’ve never considered myself a feminists. Now, i’m pretty sure I am. There’s no way in hell I’d give up my life for a “love” because I am more focused, passionate, interested in my career/studies/research than love, which isn’t as…tangible, controllable etc. I want to (ideally) wait for marriage until I am “settled” down, which I don’t think will happen until my late thirties. Furthermore, I want to experience a variety of places and people individually before linking myself to a lifelong partner. Then again, I’m pretty romantic (like most disney-influenced ladies), and I do want love, but just in a way that complies to MY wants/needs/goals. I raise the question that why is it more OK for a woman to drop her life/career and move in/follow a guy and his job, than for a man to do so for a women? This is changing, but even in America, few men would drop their career and move to follow the career of their wife/girlfriend.

      • stephanie ahlgrain says:

        I have also noticed this change in culture between American views on relationships and ones in Latin America. When I worked with children in an orphanage in Peru this summer, they were most fascinated with my relationship status over any other part of my like in the U.S. “Tienes un novio??” (do you have a boyfriend?) Estas enamorada? (are you in love?) I asked the girls who they liked too, and they told be about their “boyfriends” at school. Most of the girls from this conversation were about 10 years old. I don’t think kids in the US are dating quite this early, though they may have crushes and take notice in the opposite sex. The fact that they think about relationships at a younger age proves Gabie’s point that Latinos think about relationships more seriously.

        Also as a side note I have heard the word “novio” in Spanish to mean both boyfriend and also fiancée. A linguistic anthropologist may interpret this to say that relationships in Latin cultures are not as conducive to Summer Love, but rather serious relationships with more focus on marriage.

      • Hannah Limov says:

        That is such a great question, about the acceptability of a man dropping his career to follow his wife’s (or maybe husband’s) career path. This use of Feminist Anthropology seems to completely tie back to your original discussion of Summer Love. Because Summer Love is something fleeting and non-concrete, it allows both people involved (whether guy or girl) to throw away gender ideologies and not worry about long-term commitments. This may be why girls are so enamored with Summer Love in the first place: it is a way for them to step outside their designated gender role as the “follower” and instead be equals as the “pursuer,” knowing that ultimate commitment may not be eventual. Although the beginning of the relationship still allows for exercise in gender roles (the man probably pursuing the woman first, etc.), the result of this relationship is less than static, and so allows both parties to retain that power role by beginning more relationships once the Summer Fling is done.

    • Veronica Vang says:

      Robin,
      I really liked how you incorporated that other cultures may not “carry on a relationship they don’t expect to end in marriage” because in the traditional ways of my culture, love relationships between a man and a girl were allowed in which led to a potential marriage. If it didn’t lead to a potential marriage, it was forbidden by the elders/parents. I strongly believe that in many cultures, love is seen differently and is expressed in diferent ways.

      • celia anderson says:

        I really enjoyed reading this essay and it made me think about some of my past relationships that i knew would obviously not end in marriage, but i think that we can look at these “nonsense” relationships in a different sense. We can use these relationships as a way to sift through and learn about ourselves and our own mistakes we make in some of these relationships and then we can grow on them so as not to make these mistakes again. They are like practice relationships to help us for more serious ones in our future

  2. Halle Bennett says:

    I think it is very important that we recognize that “summer love” is culturally specific to western cultures and, specifically, the United States. We are a country that prides itself on our freedoms and rights, and while we have these freedoms, not everyone does. In class, we discussed how in certain cultures women are not even supposed to talk to men, let alone have romantic relationships that could cause contestation to wether or not they are virgins. I think it would be interesting to involve Practice theory and see how summer love relationships differ from the love relationships in everyday life or even over the other nine months of the year. Do we have longer, more enduring relationships throughout the rest of the year? Why do we feel a need to break off relationships when summer comes around? Does this have anything to do with our nature as animals and the fact that mating season is fall and the season for, typically, bearing children is in spring?

    • Meghan McFarland says:

      Halle, your comment that “in certain cultures women are not even supposed to talk to men” reminded me of the scene in Sex and the City 2, in which Sarah Jessica Parker gets in trouble with the law when she physically touches a man in Adu Dhabi. This scene exemplifies the stark differences between physicality between cultures.

      Also, I agree with everyone’s comments about the difference between the American definition of love and other cultures’. One of my best friend’s lived in Curacao (an island near Aruba) and she had to constantly remind me that romantic relationships in Curacao were long-term (although, not necessarily leading to marriage). It was a definite culture shock for her, she was used to the causal dating system in the United States rather than the longer-term relationships that exist in Curacao. A structural-functionalist would look at the setup of social structures within these two cultures. What does it reveal? Are relationships a means to an end (ultimately, marriage)? Is this determined by the length of a relationship?

  3. Alex Bayer says:

    The topic of summer love jumped out at me and how it really is a American Concept. Taking a cultural ecologist stand point what is it about summer that allows this kind of care free love to have developed?

    • Jodye Whitesell says:

      I was thinking the same thing when I read this. I think that there are three factors of summer that make it ideal for “summer love” to occur: the heat, the association with “breaks,” and the length. First, the heat. Hot days demand that people find methods of cooling off. These tend to be going to the beach, lounging around in bikinis, playing in the park, etc. – all activities that are typically associated with relaxing, easy, carefree days. This leads directly into the second one, the association with “breaks.” Not only are these carefree activities used to avoid heat seen as breaks from everyday life (work, etc.), summer as a whole has been typified in our society as a break. American schools generally operate on a 9-month schedule wherein students have the end of May through the beginning of August off. This creates the idea of contrast, an actual “break” wherein students are almost expected to do something different, something new and exciting — love perhaps. Summer’s length (this May-August idea) further supports this idea because it implants the idea of brevity into these breaks. Summer vacations, hobbies, and here, love, are inherently brief. They represent a change in the environment that psychologically implants itself on the activities that occur in its three-month spread. Summer love is branded to be hot, brief and carefree because summer is hot, brief and carefree.

    • Morgan Piper says:

      In response to your question about what would a cultural ecologist say about why summer love is different from love in any other season, I believe it mainly has to do with the fact that summer is a time of new found liberation. Every year when we get out of school you get the same “ahhhhh” feeling. The feeling that you are free to do what ever you would like for the next two to three months and in the American society that includes with love. We apply this liberation to every aspect of our lives, sleeping until noon, staying in our PJs all day, staying out until the crack of dawn and dating a person just for fun with no intention of it ever going anywhere. This type of relationship would not logically work for a young American adult at any other time because during other times of the year we take on responsibilities which ground us and aid us in making more responsible decisions (for the most part). The responsibility of school and working set a guideline for us and when that guideline is removed in the summer we chose to “rebel” in all aspects of our lives, including “love”.

    • Alex McNa says:

      In my opinion I think that it is not the physical environment per se, but rather a the cultural environment of freedom and sexual expression that has always been engrained in our culture, whether it be the roaring 20s or the free spirited culture of the 1960s. In my mind this also brings in some issues of practice theory, especially during the 1960s. The sexual and intellectual revolution that was the 60s was in stark contrast to the status quo of a perfect life following World War II. The same could equally be said of the 1920s when women began smoking cigarettes and social norms on the topic of sexuality and intimacy were going through radical changes. This same spirit and ideas have continued to be influential still today.

  4. Molly Small says:

    I really enjoyed that you looked at summer love through the use of songs and specifically their lyrics. The symbolic anthropology approach was a great way to look at these lyrics but I would like to look at the lyrics through the views of a feminist anthropologist. Since you included Grease as part of you title, I thought about the part in the song where the girls sing “tell me more, tell me more like does he have a car?” and the boys follow up by singing “tell me more, tell me more, did you get very far?” We can really look at what women look for in men as opposed to what men look for in women, or at least how it is portrayed by Hollywood. The most recent wave of feminist anthropology looks at the diversity of gender ideologies and how it effects the way we see the world. The girls are worried about the material possessions the boy has while the boys are concerned about his ability to seal the deal. In many ways we are culturally gendered in so that men are supposed to “get around” while women are supposed to find a male who can treat them well (thus represented by a nice car etc.)

    • Dana Melby says:

      When discussing sexual selection in biology is often described as the female wanting quality and the male seeking quantity simply based on what they invest in reproduction. I think it is interesting how a biological concept has made its way into the way culture looks at what the counterparts of summer love seek to gain from it. The quote from Grease corresponds perfectly to this concept; it would be interesting to see what a cultural ecologist would have to say about this.

    • Ben Perkins says:

      I also think its a good example of how men have the expectation of making the first moves on the girl instead of the other way around. This shows that perhaps the man needs a car not to only to show that he can treat them well, but to also captivate a girl, helping him to “get very far”. I also dagree that we are culturally gendered to believe that men are “supposed” to get around. Could this notion derive from the cultural expectations of Men approaching the female? Perhaps many feel that men are “supposed” to get around because they are the one who must make the first move, resulting in inevitable rejections. A man is expected to get around, be rejected and eventually find the right woman as women are culturally expected to wait for the mens action.

  5. Everett Warner says:

    I really enjoyed this essay, the use of song lyrics and binary oppositions worked beautifully with your point. And I think that the point of this essay is demonstrated well when upon breaking up the response to their partners sadness and disbelief is “what did you expect?” or “where did you see this going?” As in, did you think that we were really going to be together forever and get married and have children? It’s almost expected that you’re going to break up with your partner at some point during the relationship. And this is amplified among the youth. For many of the relationships that people have pre-college and pre-career, you go in without any intention of being with this person for the rest of your life. Plus the fact that people go to college and have careers creates a wall of obstacles that a relationship must go through in order to reach the final destination of marriage. It is simply easier to find your mate after you have traveled for college and for your job and have settled down. In many other cultures and cities, such as in Junigau, people do not travel to distant places for a job or school because either it exists right in your own community, you don’t have the means to travel to this places, or there is no formal schooling or job for you to do. In Junigau I imagine the women rarely ever leave the village and men do so only when they are fighting in the army. Therefore, it is much easier to find you mate at a young age and stay with the with ease throughou your lifes.

    • Chrissa Maury says:

      I agree with what you are saying about the responses broken hearted partner’s sadness – especially in this day and age and with young adults and teenagers, dating really is something that is supposed to be frivolous and can easily get “too serious” where the couple has to begin to “take it slow.” I think it would be interesting to look at the different cultures in the United States. For example, my entire family is from the south and all of my cousins have been married at the ages of 24-26 and I have one cousin who is 27 and does not have a serious boyfriend and I remember the whispers going around at family events asking why she isn’t married and if there is “any hope for her.”

  6. Anna Hermann says:

    I think this is a fascinating subject because I’ve noticed in the past several summers how prevalent the social concept of the “summer fling” is, and I think one of the reasons this idea is rooted in American culture has to do with the construction of the school year; in the summer, not only are you out, enjoying the weather and being outdoorsy, but you are also free from the mental and physical constraints of school, giving you time to become infatuated with someone in a new setting. One thing that stuck out to me was reminiscent of my own experience. Because during one summer I started dating someone, everyone labeled us immediately a “summer fling.” We were not seen as dating, or really seen as even a couple during that summer. It wasn’t until we continued to date through about October, when summer was long done, that people finally started to realize we were actually dating each other and took it more seriously. It seemed to be an imposed idea that meant other people actually judged our dating based on seasonality…make it through the month of October and suddenly it’s serious! That was new.

    • Allison Metzger says:

      I agree with your comment about how our construction of the school year most likely affects the concept of “summer love” within American culture. The freedoms presented during summer does allow for ones attention to be placed elsewhere, and who better to spend the long summer days with than a harmless and casual love interest? It is thought provoking however, to think about the differences between thus cultural ability to have a relationship with so little strings attached, versus the expectations and cultural traditions of other places around the world.
      A few people commented on how the idea of dating or becoming emotionally involved with someone is much different in Latin America, and used the specific example of Costa Rica. Having been there myself, I also witnessed similar behaviors and was asked the same questions by my host family and new friends. They wanted to know if I had a boyfriend, and if I did or had in the past, did I love them? Before traveling there, I had never given much thought to the social constructions of love and how they might vary across space. It is especially interesting to me, to think that the idea of ‘summer love” is unique to western cultures, most notably the United States. This was not as obvious to me, until I read this essay, and I think it is a very intriguing reality to point out.
      I also thought that the correlation presented in this essay between “summer love” and song lyrics, was a valuable one. Music is indeed a “vehicle of culture”, and it definitely paints a picture of how summer relationships are performed in American culture.

  7. Irina Vagner says:

    I really liked how you interpreted summer love through songs, and binary oppositions. Not to be critical, but I think you are being a little too categorical saying that it is ONLY American thing. Such approach, in my opinion, is a little bit ethnocentric. I would probably (not certainly) agree that it might be a feature of Western Cultures, but cannot be limited just to one.
    From my own experience, it exists also in the cultures that show less Western attitude, and might be happening not only among youths. As I can remember from my teens (I’m Russian, by the way), most of the kids would be going away from their homes for summer: to a village to grandparents, to summer camps, summer schools, to a different town, etc. Most of the girls would be going away with a hope – I’m gonna meet a boy for summer: first date, first kiss, first hook up, fool around… It also wouldn’t be continuous, and would have the same purpose as American summer love. Yes, they would miss them after it’s gone, but if it was L O V E, how wouldn’t you miss them? And maybe the best way to get over it is to hate his/her guts.
    As for what I’ve mentioned “not only youth”, there would always be articles in women’s magazines like: “Prepare for “summer love”, or “Best ways to fall in summer love” and alike. I also recall a couple movies from the 80s (then it was communist USSR). One was about five relatively young people (two ladies and three men in their 30s) who went to a famous USSR beach, and fell in love with each other. Except for the third man, who was being grumpy and saying something like: “Oh, you fools, why do you even care to start what’s not going to last until the leaves start falling”. Those couples’ love ends with their vacation.
    Another one was called “Autumn love” – opposing to the summer one. It was about relationships between an employee and his manager, who were probably the weirdest people at the company, and oddly fell in love with each other in September, unlike other normal people who fool around in the summer. They were in their 40s, and members of the party. They relationships lasted until the first snow.

    It might be a very different perspective, though, to look at this phenomena through Cultural evolution. Is the notion of love dependent on the political and economical situation of the country the culture is in? If so, why the mentioned Costa Rican idea of love is so different, and can’t go along with American one at least for the convenience of travelers? (I am just being sarcastic here, sorry. But you got the idea.) How it can be connected with promiscuity, and development? … a lot to ask, thus a great topic.

    • kellyloud says:

      I agree with Irina. With movies out there like “Divorce, Italian Style” and even “Hostel” it’s hard to believe that Americans are the only ones with open-minded relationships. How could this kind of sexuality be unique to our own culture when we get so much outside inspiration? In fact, in Grease, the musical your title originates from, isn’t Sandy Australian?

      • biscayeg says:

        If you remember, in Grease, Sandy does not see it as Summer Love. She goes comes back to the States and hopes that Danny will remember her and they will be together forever etc. because they bonded and “got friendly” and what not and to her, that meant something. Danny, meanwhile, wasn’t used to this approach of Summer Love and was prepared to blow her off until he got jealous etc and realized that, as he grew up, he wanted to be with someone who truly loved him and not just “flings.”
        I wasnt arguing that Summer Love is exclusive to American culture, but America has definitely popularized it. AMerican LIterature/songs/film is filled with such themes, and has been for a while since the contemporary movement.
        Having lived and travelled abroad extensively, American Girls and Boys (teen-young adults and even adults tourists) are known as heartbreakers. That’s not to say that many foreigners vacationing here are not doing the same thing, but I’d say that Aamericans are more notorious for it. Although, Italians may gave us a run for our money, they are more notorious for being great lovers, pleasure-seekers, true artists of love and not so much teases…
        but as anything, no idea on a culture is completely concrete!

    • Clair Trousil says:

      I agree with Irina too. I really doubt that America is the only country that experiences summer love or even popularizes it, as Biscayeg argues. I think this really related to Dr. McGranahan’s lecture today about how America is not the only culture that starts “trends” or “leads the way”. I think this idea can apply to much more than the sphere of technology that Dr. McGranahan was connecting it to and thus, I think it can apply to this idea of summer love. There will always be some members of a culture that defy that culture’s “norms”. Although the norm for one culture could be NOT to engage in summer love, there will always be members of that culture that do. I think one reason that Biscayeg experienced this with her Costa Rican summer love is because Latinos are notorious romantics. I myself am in a relationship with a latino guy and we’ve been together for three years and I think a big contributor to the long length of our relationship is his strong commitment to it. I think using an example of a latino to base this paper off of may be a strong generalization, as latino culture seems to be an exception to cultural ideas of love.

      • Courtney Antone says:

        It really goes to show the different values that people hold as a result of the place where they were raised. In America, our values center around individuality, but of course they do, when we are raised with a “rise to the top” capitalistic mindset! Our commitments, instead of being focused on others and enriching relationships with very few people, are commitments to ourselves to enrich our personal life and further our positions to attain personal success. Summer love is fun, it feels good while it lasts, but when it comes down to crunch time and responsibilities, we fall back on our commitment to ourselves.
        This commitment to ‘not committing’ doesn’t seem the case in societies where family, in general, is more valued, and people develop relationships over their whole lives with the same people.

  8. Bryan Daino says:

    I really enjoyed this paper, and how you connected summer love to western cultures. I think one of the main reasons for summer love is because kids are usually not in school and have a lot of free time on their hands. I think this summer love and the care free lifestyle started in the 60’s when hippies movements started to evolve and experiment with drugs. I think symbolic anthropologist approach is probably the best explanation for this topic.

    • miarizzo says:

      I definitely agree with Bryan. I had never really thought of summer love being only an American thing, But the way you illustrated it and explained it through a symbolic approach made that theory seem a lot more probable.

  9. KaliTown says:

    In your essay you express that “friends, family, even the two lovers shrug off Summer Love as a phase of growing up.” This more than anything else caught my attention in relation to your claim of summer love being distinctly american; it made me think of the concept of coming of age. Summer love often occurs during a stage of transition and seems to be an integral part of growing up (but not a necessity) if it happens to us. It is a carefree way to experience something new, something adult, without having to take much responsibility for it. This contrasts interestingly with other American coming of age situations like those portrayed in The Adventures of Huck Finn where Huck learns to trust in the validity of his decisions rather than those of adults and that skin color is not an indicator of value. Other examples include Scout in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird who learns to not place judgement on others before walking in their shoes, and Holden in The Catcher in the Rye who learns to come to terms with his identity and the importance of knowing who to trust. Compared to summer love, all these coming of age situations involve taking on much greater responsibility for our actions and understanding the consequence of our behavior and decisions. An interesting contrast I think.

  10. Megan Long says:

    When I was reading the list of lyrics you had for summer songs I couldn’t help but notice you didn’t mention Grease, which is one of the most well known summer romances in American film history! “Summer lovin’ had me a blast, summer lovin’ happened so fast!”. Great movie, great song. Anyways! I had never thought of summer romance as a cultural thing, just because I am so used to hearing stories about it, reading about it, watching movies about it, etc. In America, dating is seen as a very laid back thing. Summer, is also seen as a time of a lack of clothes and heat! This combination makes summer love an appealing thing to Americans, but something that is very foreign to other cultures. I thought it was very interesting how you brought up binary opposites, how it wouldn’t make sense to have hate without love. Most summer romances end in a mutual understanding that summer is over or they end in a tearful and messy break up. Binary opposites is something that is essential for the functioning of society.

  11. Ariane Robertson says:

    Americans seem to have a really idealized view of summer and especially summer vacation. This essay made me think of those people who listen to the Beach Boys during the dead of winter and tell everyone how their “summer music” helps them survive all the cold and snow. Reading all the lyrics you found dedicated to care free summers that have since ended made me wonder what a symbolic anthropologist would say about this almost grand narrative of summer and what that says about Americans. Are we just nostalgic people comforted by the happy memories we have of summer vacations when our fall/winter/spring lives seem overwhelming?

  12. Rachel Nussbaum says:

    I would be interested to analyze summer love with a Feminist gender-perspective. This approach looks at the roles that men and women play in society. It would be interesting to see if summer love is instigated by the male or the female and which sex is in control of the casual fling. Since females typically fantasize about summer love more than men, they might read into a mans signals more than they would during the rest of the year. Summer love always reminds me of the movie Grease when the girls are prancing around singing about flirtation and emotions and the boys are begging for x-rated details. Although this movie is outdated, I feel that it is still common for females to be more emotional and flirtatious in a relationship than a man, even if the relationship only lasts for the summer.

  13. Noah Starburner says:

    Kendall,
    Your analysis of Summer Love as an American construct enhanced through music was very insightful. People never realize how much the society they live in is influenced by music. This brings up another possible field of study in Anthropology, the study of music. Yes, music falls into the category of symbols, but music is considered the universal language, so I don’t believe it can be bundled with other symbols.
    Another interesting route you could have took with this is to analyze the differences between the female lyrics and the male lyrics. From here you could construct male and female perspectives on what they believe to be Summer Love.

    • Taylor Deisinger says:

      I think Noah brings up an interesting point on the importance of music in cultures and how even though it is apart of symbolic anthropology it has such a large presence that we could look at it on its own. I also believe that based of his assertion that “music is the universal language,” music itself could be looked at from a structuralist point of view in that all humans think a like. But by looking at it in this light, i would say that this statement about music is not true because if someone who does not practice “summer love” heard a song about it, would they take it and understand it the same why you and I would?

  14. Joseph DeMoor says:

    This was a great paper, in my mind I kept wondering how the idea of summer love transcends into short lived marriages. Could it be that something such as music is dictating how long our relationships last? Perhaps, this seems to be unfortunate but looking at other countries divorce rates compared to the US, we are much higher than many.
    Instead of hearing songs about being in love for a lifetime or being faithful, which can be “boring” to some people, we hear about the exciting hook up summer love.
    In a way “summer love” seems to be translated into, 2-3 months of carefree love any time of the year…

  15. Michaela Clinton says:

    I found that it was interesting to talk about how men in Latin America take relationships more seriously, when at the same time, a fling with a Latin man is considered one of the ultimate things to do. This dream of having a short relationship with a foreign lover is often seen repeated in movies, TV and books. It is seen as a way to re engergized yourself or revitalize your life. It is interesting that in reality men of these cultures seem to take relationships more seriuosly, when we still pass on this concept of a summer foreign lover.

  16. Kara Gibson says:

    Our society seems to pride itself on its independence and free way of life. Summer love is one of the many freedoms many people desire because it symbolizes our ability to choose our own happiness over reason or expectation. Looking at other cultures’ views on summer love can be an effective way of understanding the importance of romance and the general value surrounding love and relationships. How do these elements relate to other aspects of the culture, such as women in the work place, the importance of family and simple gender roles?

  17. Rob Irvin says:

    I like the way music was used to represent the American concept of summer love. The music industry and summer love have a few things in common. Popular trends and music come and go just like summer loves. I’m sure there are many cases in which a summer couple shared a favorite song that was only popular that particular summer. This essay made me think about MTV. MTV is more of a social icon during the summer because a high percentage of its viewers are not in school. MTV in this case has the choice to decide what the songs of the summer should be. The shows they air or the locations they shoot from in many cases promote the idea of summer romance. MTV promotes higher levels of sexuality during the summer and especially during spring break.

    • Sam Eggleston says:

      I agree that television in general, not specifically (but also including) MTV plays a huge role in staging a romantic scene for the summertime. Not only television but all forms of technology have an influence on new generations and their according love life. Summer has always been portrayed as a time to relax and “explore” by television, radio, Facebook, and others so it isn’t very surprising to me that there is so much romance in the air during this time. I also find it surprising why summer love is almost strictly an American practice even though Facebook, radio, television and all these same technologies are in other parts of the world as well.

  18. Nick Brownson says:

    This was a very well written essay, I enjoyed your insertion of popular song lyrics immensely. I think ‘summer love’ can be very interesting when viewed from a Functionalist standpoint — it is just a sort of ‘filler’ for the downtime felt during summer. If, as have come to understand it, ‘summer love’ is something mostly experienced by the younger generation, those who are still in school, it is a product of the greater free time adolescents have during summer, due to being out of school. Without studying, homework etc etc to focus on, adolescents spend their time pursuing the opposite sex because they finally have exponentially more free time to devote to such matters.

  19. Sara Helt says:

    I think the author picked an interesting topic, summer love. Summers for me in my childhood consisted of sleep away camp. My parents worked full time and didnt want me sitting at the house and doing nothing so they would put me in summer camp, not that this was punishment I actually really enjoyed getting away for 3 or more weeks each summer. But a large part of the whole camp thing was summer flings. At the beginning of the session everyone would check out the boys cabins and see if anyone looked interesting to pursue to have as their fling. It was every girls fantasy to grab a good one and have him for the session. Even working as a counselor, this applied just the same. But every single summer fling ended the same, in a break up because of distance and how the world outside of camp was very different. Basically what I am trying to get at is that summer flings are great, until they’re over, and then they just hurt, as the author perfectly explains in the last paragraph about binary opposition. I also really enjoyed how the author incorporated songs in order to emphasize her point that it is a general feeling to have a summer love.

  20. Tim Baker says:

    I like that you gave examples of songs to use in your essay to explain love. Symbolic anthropology is a really great way to show how some of our music can be interpreted to represent our culture and how it affects us. Music really is one of the most significant ways to spread culture that there is. Humans have been using songs to send messages and convey culture for ages now. I also like that you use structuralism’s binary oppositions to further explain how the concept of love is a component of culture. Many of the terms from both symbolic anthropology and structuralism were used very well in this essay as well. Good job.

  21. Alex Myers says:

    This is a very interesting topic. I think it would spice up the article if you maybe compared American Summer Love to notions of love in different cultures. Such as in “Invitations to Love”, in early Nepal, people thought love would come to them after they married. There are many different various and beliefs about what love is. I really liked how you linked our music to summer love though. There are so many different songs about it, made from various styles of music.

  22. Adam Sammakia says:

    Using songs to analyze summer love is an interesting way to approach this topic. Songs perpetuate and enhance concepts in a way that engrains them in a culture and I think the songs used in the essay are a good example of this. Summer love is an example of how love in this culture can be fleeting, short-term, and simply fun. It’s also serves a function in that it enables/ encourages us to postpone marriage, a trend that is becoming increasingly common and necessary in this country. A concept like summer love makes not marrying the first person you fall in love with seem normal and encourages us to wait and gain experience with love before deciding who to marry.

  23. Luke Nelson says:

    To me, summer love is a shifting from older dating practices to ones that are more characteristic of a generation that has experienced the sexual revolution. It would be interesting to approach this topic from a feminist anthropologist perspective, how these changing gender roles are affecting our attitudes toward love and quick romances? I liked the theories you applied, especially the binary oppositions of structuralism.

  24. Joe Zimmermann says:

    I disagree that love and hate are a purely American constructed duality. From my experience in other cultures this duality has also existed. I do appreciate that you are taking on this topic. I think this is a part of our culture that does not receive enough critical analysis. Is this healthy for our youth? An additional question for further research would be was there an increase in sexually transmitted diseases with the popularization of summer love?

  25. Forrest Jensen says:

    I think its interesting how internalized the concept of summer love is as a social norm. It’s almost like there is a mutual understanding going into to a summer relationship that you shouldn’t get your hopes up for the future. I can’t help but wonder when this really became prevalent in America. What factors have a part to play in the social transformation and reproduction of the concept of love. I would also have been interested to see the binary opposition of longterm vs. fleeting as it pertains to love and relationships.

  26. Jacki Altman says:

    This was a great essay! The binary opposites of love and hate is very relevant in summer love, but I thought that the dichotomy of work and play is also pertinent. Summer is associated with play, no stress, and no worries whereas the school year means work. A summer fling is meant to be fun and carefree. These qualities may be forgotten when summer ends and the work year begins because people may not want to associate work and play together. These are also unified opposites because to appreciate play and a summer romance, one must understand what it means to work. An American ideology is that to get somewhere you have to work hard. This belief does not apply to summer love because people may not want to work hard in the summer. Summer is playtime which may be a non-serious relationship. A relationship takes work which may not be able to be formed in the time of play.

  27. Rosa McAvoy says:

    This essay addresses an interesting topic of summer love. While I personally have never experienced this, I think to even refer to it as summer love is giving people the wrong idea of what love is. I feel like the concept of summer love could also encourage people to take relationships lightly and could end up hurting someone in the process when summer ends if both parties don’t feel the same. This is different for everyone but this concept could be related to the honeymoon period after people get married where marriage turns out to be a lot different than most expected. Love is not something that one can achieve over a 2-3 month period and just end once that time is done. It should definitely have a new name instead of summer love, maybe something like summer fling??

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