We Need to Talk about College Hookup Culture

Speaking my truth, while difficult, is truly essential. Time and time again I open up to the people around me to call out unjust and detrimental systems as I know the status quo will remain if we don’t take a stance. It frustrates me that we bury our reactions or confide only in close friends with our hidden stories. Why are they hidden when we share similar experiences? Today I decide to create a network of support and frankness. Something needs to change and hopefully this will start our dialogue.

The stigma surrounding hooking up, or whatever you want to label the casual encounters you’re bound to have in the basement of a frat, in your rabbit-hole of a dorm room, or on the beer stained couch in the common room on your floor, fuels the vicious cycle of self-deprecating thought.

For guys, it’s simple. Welcome to college—you are going to have an amazing time. There are thousands of beautiful girls for your choosing and you have the unique, or not incredibly unique as it is a weekly occurrence, opportunity to do whatever you want with them. Ten girls in one night? BET, I got 15 at lax last night. No commitment, no consequences, and certainly no common decency.

For us it’s different. Welcome to college—be mindful of what you wear: think sexy but not too revealing, don’t wear a skirt because you never know what might happen. Never walk in the dark on your own because you never know what might happen. Watch over your drink because you never know what might happen. Look behind you while you’re dancing because you never know what might happen.

The very nature of casually hooking up sets women against each other and against themselves. There is a cycle of guilt—how many guys have I been with? Am I giving it up too easily? Am I not giving it up easily enough? I want him to leave me alone but I can’t seem to reject him. Am I allowed to want something more?     

Yet there also exists a competing dynamic wherein women root for each other’s downfall. Do you see what she is wearing? Don’t worry you are prettier than she is. Is he hooking up with anybody else? Can you believe what she did, she’s such a slut. Why am I not good enough?   

College hookups are easy, there’s nothing to it, you aren’t attached. To some extent, I contend that the lack of chivalry present in today’s young adult relationships is a result of a surge in women’s empowerment, a movement of which I am proud to be a part. However, it has been flipped on its head. We are independent, free-willed, strong, sexual beings-- yes thank you for at least somewhat recognizing that. But where in the simple exclamation that women are equal to men is disrespect implied?

I contend that the concept of chivalry perpetuates the patriarchy. Chivalry offers further power to men as it puts them in control of the amount of autonomy they relinquish. Chivalry paints a certain picture of a gentleman. Today, when I experience chivalry I am pleasantly surprised, it is a rare occurrence; I fall in love with simple gestures like door-holding, walks home, and insignificant small talk. It’s no longer expected but greatly appreciated. What does that say about the nature of feminism? Today’s toxic culture includes women swooning over niceties that allow men complete control over their image and, in turn, their relationship.

At the death of chivalry, though, is the birth of outright sexism. Can’t we find a happy medium? When men no longer feel pressure to respect women, it becomes easy to push them aside and move on to the next. That is the definition of our experience in college. On to the next, and the next, and the next. While without chivalry the seemingly innocuous and gentle power men possess disappears, a new more explicit one emerges: a superiority and dominance characterized by conquer and disregard. It’s the norm.  

I don’t claim that this is the universal experience. Some women are the conquerors themselves, I salute them. But for those of us who aren’t, what are we to do?