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“Kill-Count:” Violent Terms in Hook-Up Culture by Danielle Palmer ’18

A Student Action project by Danielle Palmer ’18 for her WGSS (Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies) class:

Her Campus Colby partnered with Danielle Palmer ’18 this week to spread awareness about the use of violent terms in hook-up culture at Colby.

Two weeks ago, I conducted a survey for a student action project on the hookup term “kill-count” and its use at Colby. “Kill-count” in reference to hookup culture is a number that corresponds to the number of people one has had sex with, also known as “body count.” An alternate definition of “kill-count” is as a video game reference to the number of kills a sniper gets. The real definition of “kill-count,” according to dictionary.com, is the number of soldiers killed in a specific period or in a particular military action. Before revealing the real definitions to survey takers, I asked them what they personally thought “kill-count” is. I got a range of answers, but most associated “kill-count” with the number of women a man has had sex with, implying some gendered use of the term.

“Kill-Count” as a Hook-Up Term

After revealing these definitions to survey takers, I asked them to respond to their perception of “kill-count” as a hookup term. Here are some anonymous responses:

• “It makes me especially uncomfortable knowing its related to video games, because there are no consequences in the video game world (unlike the real world).”

• “It has a negative connotation of conquering sexual partner, which is inappropriate.”

• “So horribly violent, dehumanizes women.”

• “… It refers to number of people as deadbodies.”

Normalization of a Violent Word

One survey taker claimed, “I still think the term is used pretty harmlessly,” and another said, “People try and use it as a cool thing.” That’s exactly the point. Our society is not using the term “kill-count” because we see our sexual partners as dead or dehumanized, or that we’re all into necrophilia. However, due to the violent connotations of “kill-count,” using it when referring to our sexual partners normalizes the connection between violence and sex. So, next time you or someone around you uses “kill-count” in reference to hooking up, just think about it. After all, it’s all about awareness.

            Feel free to comment or email me at dcpalmer@colby.edu if you have any questions/comments, etc. I’d love feedback!


***Disclaimer: All of the responses recorded are anonymous and were given in consent when taking the survey. This survey was done under the IRB’s approval.  

Natalie Goodman is a sophomore at Colby with a double major in Government and French. Outside of class, she is a member of the French club, the theater club, and the Hillel on campus. She is in love with makeup, chocolate, and salt and vinegar Cape Cod potato chips.
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