Edited By: Malavika Suresh (UG 21)
With Valentine’s Day having just passed, it’s fair to admit that you will not miss the week-long fuss around this unspectacular day. This doomed day inevitably entails not only the pressure of having to be in a romantic relationship, but also the snide but persistent pressure of having sex. The collegiate atmosphere is heavy with a culture of hooking up that is inadvertently established and that one believes it is quietly expected to be followed. This is true for sexual partners of all natures along with opposite sex sexual partners, in a campus such as Ashoka’s, with its arguably open-minded rules around cross-access to opposite sex residences (as compared to universities across India). Because of this, it doesn’t take too long for the feeling of inadequacy to settle in for not being comfortable enough to indulge in this culture. This article is for those who are secretly intimidated by the ease with which you are expected to ‘hook up.’ It is for those who, like me, take a while to get used to the normalcy with which the hook-up culture is practiced.
It is especially around this time of the year that thoughts of otherness and incompleteness pervade a lot of minds, but are often left unstated. However alienating it may seem, it is common to be plagued by the constant reminder that you are not in a relationship. You are not hooking up with anyone. There are condoms and other contraceptives in the tuck shop (convenience store) that you are not getting any closer to. You simply watch as people make their way out of rooms at 12:30 am, self-satisfied smiles on their faces. It is a hard topic to bring up, and an even harder one to admit to. Who would’ve thought the real taboo (at least in university) would be sitting in the common room while your friends all get it on?
It is unsurprising then, that this constant pressure of having to be with someone and be sexually active could make even the most secure and confident of us feel unsettled and quite honestly, inadequate. A lot of factors add to this – the constant sights of hickey-ed necks, stories from friends and strangers alike of their charged Thursday nights, steamy orgies, or even just the friends they made from hilarious shared experiences over sex. “You’re only normal if you have sex” – is all you hear, without anyone having to say it.
As a first year, I know it’s incredibly hard to get used to a different atmosphere from how it was back home – where, to hide my relationship from my family, I’d have to plan my days carefully with my boyfriend. It’s overwhelming to suddenly step into a place where all at once, everybody is unabashedly vocal about their sex lives. It’s only normal to feel intimidated by this expectation and unshakeable belief that it’s easy to hook up. Nothing about it is inherently easy, because it requires you to really know yourself and know what you want. From exploring your own comfort zone to finding people you trust and feel safe with, a large part of hooking up is simply knowing what you are comfortable with and where your boundaries lie. Everyone has different boundaries – it is entirely up to you to explore yours. Sex is no longer a taboo when you’re in university – it is omnipresent and hard to ignore, but the confusions around it prevail. Still, there is a lot you can do to break out of this cocoon of confusion. Sex is expressed in a multitude of ways, and not only through heteronormativity and monogamy. Sexuality is truly a spectrum – and you have one of your own to explore. You have time on your side; there is no compulsion to rush into uncharted waters. A lot of times, talking about it to friends, adults or professions and being open about your inhibitions helps to get out of feeling as if you are alone in this.
The pressures of it all may make you feel obligated to have sex, even when you aren’t comfortable with it. Despite this constant pressure, you must put yourself first. It is completely okay to take a step back and realize that if you don’t want to be a part of this all-consuming hook up culture. You are not missing out on your university experience by choosing to abstain. It’s up to you to tailor your own personalized university experience – you could choose to spend time with your friends, or better yet, by yourself. At the end of it, you could still change your mind and want to hook up – that’s okay too!