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*TW: Sexual Assault, Consent, etc.*

Hookup culture: the reason why I dread receiving the question, “Are you in a relationship?” at family functions. No, Aunt Patty, I am not. Seemingly more prevalent than ever – especially at Holy Cross – is the pressure to “get with” someone, no strings attached. I feel it, you feel it, we all feel it. It’s always “Wyd wanna come to the third floor??? My roommate isn’t here” on Saturday at 2 AM. It’s almost never “What are you doing on Tuesday? Would you like to grab a coffee or lunch?” 

How did we get here? And how can we navigate our way through the college scene while having fun and protecting our feelings?


Unbeknownst to many, we ask for consent everyday. When we ask, “May I sit here?” or “Could I borrow a pen?” we are asking for consent. As a Relationship Peer Educator (RPE) on campus, we use the F.R.I.E.S. acronym to easily define this important concept. F stands for Freely-given, meaning that an individual should never feel pressured into saying yes. Next, R stands for Reversible. An individual can change their mind at any point in the interaction. I stands for Informed, meaning that an individual must be able to make an informed decision free of incapacitation by alcohol or drugs. Going one step further, Informed directly relates to open conversations about birth control, STI testing, and monogamy or polyagomy between partners. Then, E stands for Enthusiastic. Just because an individual does not explicitly say “No” does not indicate a “Yes.” Lastly, S stands for Specific. An individual consenting to a particular act does not translate to consent for everything thereafter. It is imperative that both partners receive consent before engaging in sexual activity.

Setting Boundaries

In all areas of life, we can establish important boundaries for ourselves. Self-reflection gives us the time and space to identify what we want and need in both friendships and relationships. Maybe you love going off-campus every weekend and hooking up with different people. Maybe you would rather spend your Saturdays at the mall or watching Netflix in bed come 9 PM. Maybe you don’t want to hook up with anyone at all. Maybe you want a relationship. Whatever your preference, your feelings are valid. You are valid.

With Partners: Pinpointing and communicating where your sexual comfort begins and ends supports both mental and physical well-being. Just because others partake in a certain activity does not require you to do so, and just because others do not partake in a certain activity does not prohibit you to do so. On the other hand, when discussing romantic relationships, we must also consider our emotional boundaries. At a school where hookup culture entangles itself into almost every aspect of life, deciding what our hearts can handle serves as a significant step in maneuvering through ‘the best years of our lives.’ If you want to be exclusive with your partner, stand up for that. Do not sacrifice your emotions or your peace of mind by involving yourself with someone who will not reciprocate your efforts or provide you with what you need. No matter how into them you are, or how much your friends insist that college is for ‘fooling around,’ do not put yourself second. The same goes vice versa. If you feel pressured to enter a relationship and fear that you cannot give 100% of yourself, stand up for that and do not what you know is best for you. (Disclaimer: I am the furthest from a relationship expert. I am just a little sophomore who has shed one too many tears that could have been avoided had I set these emotional boundaries for myself)


Holy Cross Counseling Center: 508-793-3363

Holy Cross Chaplains’ Office: 508-793-2448

Relationship Peer Educators: @hcrpe [email protected]

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Riley Peck

Holy Cross '24

Sophomore at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA
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