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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

As Feb. 14 approaches, some of you may find yourselves filling with dread or FOMO, while others may be buying discounted chocolate in bulk or reserving a table at a dimly lit restaurant of your choosing, but who am I to judge? Differences between the FOMO feelers and the chocolate connoisseurs are sometimes dependent upon relationship status. Those with significant others tend to embrace the occasion or respectfully decline to observe it, while those without tend to insult the concept or ignore the holiday altogether. I find myself somewhere in the middle, as I’m in a relationship but was previously anti-Valentine’s Day. College makes navigating this distinction all the more difficult since Valentine’s Day, like many other things in our day-to-day lives, is influenced by hookup culture.

As college students, we are surrounded by the constraints of hookup culture both in the media and on campus. It often determines where and when we go out, the ways we act in certain social situations, and, most importantly, our perceptions of romantic relationships. By its very nature, hookup culture emphasizes that casual sexual encounters are superior to emotional sexual relationships. Even if we don’t realize it, hookup culture affects the ways in which we do, or do not, celebrate Valentine’s Day as college students. Don’t get me wrong, I unconditionally respect the individual right to express one’s sexuality in whatever way they choose and don’t believe that anyone else should have any say in this expression, but I do acknowledge the negative outcomes of hookup culture. In recent years, hookup culture has become increasingly prominent on American campuses as college is often the first taste of independence for many. As a student at Florida State, an admittedly rowdy, large state school, hookup culture is a considerable part of the social scene. Though hookup culture has been a staple in western media for years, public perception of college as “the best four years of your life” has established a link between higher education and a carefree lifestyle. YOLO, am I right ladies?

Because Valentine’s Day is a “holiday” defined by the mutual exchange of presents and affection, it is understandable that the hype surrounding hookup culture, specifically in college, seemingly reaches its climax around Feb. 14. This hype often manifests in one of three ways: in disregard for Valentine’s Day as reflected by participation in Galantine’s Day on Feb. 13, increased short-term interest in casual sexual encounters, or fixationon the admittedly unrealistic ideals perpetuated by Valentine’s Day. On college campuses around the nation, Valentine’s Day themed social events, parties or date functions may enforce the romanticization of hookup culture and increase its prominence on or around Feb. 14. You can write Valentine’s Day off as a commercial holiday devised by big business to drain capital from consumers, but you can’t deny its influence on college culture and impact in the media.

Not only does hookup culture often increase sexual and mental risks and (potentially) lead to disappointment in participants, it also creates an environment where indifference is encouraged and closeness is discouraged. In certain situations, those who choose not to partake in hookup culture may feel isolated from those around them, while those who do choose to may perceive physical intimacy as transactional. Feelings of loneliness or desire may be heightened in students around Valentine’s Day because it can enforce societal expectations and unreasonable standards of desirability. This is, however, not always the case as some students enjoy casual sexual encounters and thrive in hookup culture. To each their own.

There are, however, ways to have positive hookup experiences in college, even around Valentine’s Day. The first steps in shifting this stigma are understanding the implications of hookup culture and dismantling the societal structures that encourage its growth. Developing positive sexual relationships in college is all about understanding and actively practicing consent as well as the ability and willingness to communicate emotional and physical needs with sexual partners. If you don’t want to involve feelings in your sex life, don’t involve feelings in your sex life, but don’t let a “holiday” that you love, hate or are indifferent to – perpetuated by a society that endorses an unhealthy sexual culture – influence your perception of intimacy. Happy Valentine’s (or Galentine’s) Day girl gang!

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Grace is a junior at THE Florida State double majoring in Media Communication Studies and Editing, Writing, & Media in hopes of pursuing a career in Media Relations. She is an avid reader, writer and podcast connoisseur, loves to travel, and is a self-proclaimed master planner.
Her Campus at Florida State University.