Hookups Replace Dating on College Campuses
A truly horrifying story from the front page of tomorrow’s NYT (especially if you have three daughters, the oldest two of which are teenagers).
How can so many smart young women be so massively stupid?! Getting drunk and/or hooking up regularly is such a bad idea in so many ways, especially at such a young age and especially for young women.
It is by now pretty well understood that traditional dating in college has mostly gone the way of the landline, replaced by “hooking up” — an ambiguous term that can signify anything from making out to oral sex to intercourse — without the emotional entanglement of a relationship.
Until recently, those who studied the rise of hookup culture had generally assumed that it was driven by men, and that women were reluctant participants, more interested in romance than in casual sexual encounters. But there is an increasing realization that young women are propelling it, too.
…In general, she said, she thought that guys at Penn controlled the hookup culture. But women played a role as well.
“It’s kind of like a spiral,” she said. “The girls adapt a little bit, because they stop expecting that they’re going to get a boyfriend — because if that’s all you’re trying to do, you’re going to be miserable. But at the same time, they want to, like, have contact with guys.” So they hook up and “try not to get attached.”
Now, she said, she and her best friend had changed their romantic goals, from finding boyfriends to finding “hookup buddies,” which she described as “a guy that we don’t actually really like his personality, but we think is really attractive and hot and good in bed.”
Hookups can lead to things like this:
In November of Haley’s freshman year, a couple of months after her first tentative “Difmos,” or dance-floor makeouts, she went to a party with a boy from her floor. She had too much to drink, and she remembered telling him that she wanted to go home.
Instead, she said, he took her to his room and had sex with her while she drifted in and out of consciousness. She woke up with her head spinning. The next day, not sure what to think about what had happened, she described the night to her friends as though it were a funny story: I was so drunk, I fell asleep while I was having sex! She played up the moment in the middle of the night when the guy’s roommate poked his head in the room and asked, “Yo, did you score?”
Only later did Haley begin to think of what had happened as rape — a disturbingly common part of many women’s college experience. In a 2007 survey funded by the Justice Department of 6,800 undergraduates at two big public universities, nearly 14 percent of women said they had been victims of at least one completed sexual assault at college; more than half of the victims said they were incapacitated from drugs or alcohol at the time.
The close relationship between hooking up and drinking leads to confusion and disagreement about the line between a “bad hookup” and assault. In 2009, 2010 and 2011, 10 to 16 forcible sex offenses were reported annually to campus security as taking place on Penn’s campus or in the immediate neighborhood.
In January, Penn announced that it was forming a commission, led by a faculty member, to study the impact of alcohol and drug use on campus, with a particular focus on sexual violence.
When drinking is involved, Haley said, “Guys assume that the default answer is always yes.”
“I think a lot of guys get the idea: ‘O.K., this girl’s coming to this party, and she’s drinking. That means her goal of the night is to hook up with somebody,’ ” she said. “They’re like, ‘O.K., she came out, and if she dressed like that, it must mean that she wanted to hook up.’ ”
A friend of hers, Kristy, shared a story about a different kind of coercion. She had been making out with a guy at his house, not sure how far she wanted to go, when he stood up and told her,
“Get down on your knees.”
At first she froze. “I was really taken aback, because I was like, no one has ever said that to me before,” she said. Then he said something like, “ ‘I think that’s fair,’ ” she recalled. When she still hesitated, he pushed her down.
“It was at that point that I was like, ‘I’ll just do it,’ ” she said. “I was like, ‘ “It will be over soon enough.’ ”
I certainly hope that my daughters would never spend a second with a guy who would ever dare say “get down on your knees” – but if that happened, they would:
a) walk away
b) better yet, punch him in the mouth and walk away
c) better yet, kick him in the balls and walk away
d) better yet, pretend to go along with it, but when he pulls it out, squint, laugh, and walk away
e) better yet, bite it!
Lastly, after doing any of a-e, come home and tell me his name so I can buy my first gun and...well, you get the idea! ;-)
It’s good to see that at least some women have some good sense – and very interesting that it’s more likely to be those from “modest” (i.e., low income) backgrounds:
For all the focus on hookups, campuses are not sexual free-for-alls, at Penn or elsewhere. At colleges nationally, by senior year, 4 in 10 students are either virgins or have had intercourse with only one person, according to the Online College Social Life Survey. Nearly 3 in 10 said that they had never had a hookup in college. Meanwhile, 20 percent of women and a quarter of men said they had hooked up with 10 or more people.
Mercedes, a junior at Penn who is on financial aid, said that at her mostly Latino public high school in California, it was the troubled and unmotivated students who drank and hooked up, while the honors students who wanted to go to college kept away from those things.
When she went to Penn, she was surprised to see her elite classmates drinking, but even more surprised by the casual making out. She would go along with her friends to fraternity parties, but she refused to dance with strangers or to kiss anyone.
“Sharing that side of myself with a stranger just seems very strange to me,” she said in September. “I mean, if you break it down, it’s a very strange thing to do.”
Her unease was common among students from relatively modest backgrounds, said Dr. Armstrong, the University of Michigan sociologist. In one study, conducted with Laura Hamilton, now a professor at the University of California, Merced, Dr. Armstrong followed roughly 50 women from their freshman year at Indiana University in 2004 until the end of their college careers. They found that the women from wealthier backgrounds were much more likely to hook up, more interested in postponing adult responsibilities and warier of serious romantic commitment than their less-affluent classmates.
The women from less-privileged backgrounds looked at their classmates who got drunk and hooked up as immature.
At Penn, Mercedes said: “Everyone else seemed to live life, not really care about what they were doing. Like, ‘You’re only young once,’ they had that sort of mentality. And I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be, like, free-spirited, and not really care about the consequences of my actions.”
She added, “Nothing is stopping me from rebelling. I just didn’t rebel.”
By the start of her junior year, Mercedes had still never kissed anyone. Then in the fall, she found herself often getting into late-night conversations with a boy in her dorm. They talked about their studies, their families, politics. One weekend he invited her to a poetry slam off campus. The next night, they shyly confessed that they liked each other and had their first kiss.
Interviewed again in the spring, she said things were proceeding slowly but steadily. The two never had to hook up. They were just dating, getting to know each other in the old-fashioned way.
Physically, they had not gone further than making out, Mercedes said, and she thought she might want to wait to have sex until marriage. “It’s not like I’m doing it because of my reputation,” she said. “It’s not because a religion tells me to wait. I think of it more as, this is the way I want to emotionally connect to someone, and I think that only a person who deserves me to be emotionally attached to them should have that opportunity to see me in that way.”