Sunday, June 05, 2016

Most women don’t enjoy hookup culture, so why do we force ourselves to participate?

A must-read article for anyone for anyone with an interest in college-age youth:

At Middlebury College, I lived a double life.

On the surface, I was successful. I was surrounded by diverse, intellectual friends. I led a popular student website and was active in the arts and athletics. I loved learning and made Phi Beta Kappa my junior year. I'm also a white, straight, cisgendered female. If you're thinking, "Please. Your privileged ass has nothing to complain about," you're right.

But my internal life was characterized by paralyzing anxiety and depression. I judged myself harshly, to the point of disgust. I drove myself to excessive exercising and near-anorexia. I felt this way because of men—or so I thought.

While there was a major gulf between my public self and my private one, the one thing that remained consistent were my politics. I told myself that I was a feminist, despite subjecting myself to unfulfilling, emotionally damaging sexual experiences. And I believed it, too.

…My research gave me a sense of solace. Most Middlebury women were "playing the game," yet almost none of us enjoyed it. I went on to publish my thesis online, and stories from students around the country came pouring in. It was clear we were far from alone.

The truth is that, for many women, there's nothing liberating about emotionless, non-committal sex. The young women I spoke with were taking part in hookup culture because they thought that was what guys wanted, or because they hoped a casual encounter would be a stepping stone to commitment. In doing this, we actually deny ourselves agency and bolster male dominance, all while convincing ourselves we're acting like progressive feminists. But engaging in hookup culture while wholeheartedly craving love and stability was perhaps the least feminist action I, and hundreds of my peers, could take.

Men's experiences with hookup culture are equally complex. It's worth noting that the vast majority of males I interviewed and surveyed also ideally preferred committed relationships. But they felt strong social pressure to have casual sex. Culturally, men have been socially primed to believe they ought to "drive" hookup culture, and that a crucial part of the college experience is sleeping with many women and then discussing these "escapades" with their male friends. So despite what men might truly want, pervasive hookup culture prompts them to predicate their public identity as heterosexual men on the number and physical attractiveness of the women they've slept with. Needless to say, the detrimental effects of this performance pressure are countless and severe.



Most women don't enjoy hookup culture—so why do we force ourselves to participate?

Leah Fessler

May 17, 2016

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