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Sex + Relationships

Hookups vs. Relationships in College: Is One Better Than the Other?

For most college students, hookups are all the rave. No commitments, emotions, or strings attached. You basically get all of the physical benefits of a committed relationship without actually being in one, right? Well, the answer is complicated. 

Usually, a hookup goes down like this: you’re drinking at a party, then you find yourself talking to someone, going back home with them, and casually hooking up. The next morning, you’re out by 8 a.m. Or, if you’re on a dating app like Tinder, you probably don’t even need to have a conversation before hooking up. 

This situation works well for some people, but it’s definitely not for everyone. Most college students have probably experienced something similar, but not all are into it.  

So what about relationships in college? If most people are into hookup culture, who’s down for a relationship? As a student at Penn, I’m genuinely surprised when I meet someone who’s actually looking for a relationship. I’m not going to lie — sometimes I forget that committed relationships exist. 

I’m so used to seeing people casually hooking up on campus, I can’t even imagine someone wanting a committed relationship, especially as a freshman. I know of so many couples who either broke up before college started or during the first semester so that they weren’t emotionally tied down to anyone during a time of exploration. 

Some of my friends have told me that hookup culture is just an excuse for people to get away with things that should be considered the bare minimum. Simple things like holding the door open, paying on the first date, and carrying a bag or opening the car door, especially for a female date, are all glorified when that really shouldn’t be the case. 

Based on my personal experience, I feel like most women I know don’t want to participate in hookup culture because they’re scared of catching feelings for a partner who doesn’t care about them in the same way. When you’re intimately involved with someone, it can be hard to separate the physical and emotional aspects of that type of relationship. And after hearing countless stories about friends being heartbroken over people they never even officially dated, I understand why a lot of people are against hooking up. 

Let’s take a look at the hookup culture at Penn. Based on my personal observations, most Penn students aren’t interested in committed relationships because they simply don’t have time. The culture at Penn is largely pre–professional, and one reason that the hookup culture is so prevalent is because students just have different priorities. Juggling academics, extracurricular activities, and a relationship with someone can be hard. The truth is that some people just need to fulfill their sexual desires without the emotional aspect of a committed relationship, and that’s okay. 

Despite the fact that hookups are a thing at college campuses, there will always be relationships between people who are looking for something serious and long–term. If you’re a college student who isn’t into hooking up, know that you’re definitely not the only one. It may feel daunting to communicate your emotions to someone, but it’s better to be clear about what you’re looking for from the beginning rather than finding out the hard way later on. In the long run, it’ll help to prevent yourself from falling too deep for someone who isn’t looking for the same thing. 

There are many college students in happy, long–term relationships, some of whom have participated in hookup culture and realized it’s not for them and others who never tried. Many couples began dating in high school and are still dating in college. So, if you want to find a college sweetheart, go for it! You never know what going against the “college norm” may bring you. 

One last thing: don’t ever feel like casual sex is the only option. If you aren’t comfortable participating in hookup culture, don’t do it. Though there are people on both extremes of the spectrum, you should make your own decision regarding what you’re willing and not willing to do. Whatever that decision is, it’s completely fine. Don’t feel pressured by what your friends or peers are doing. 

So, what’s better in college: hookups or relationships? There’s no right answer to this question. You just need to find out what works best for you and not feel pressured by what’s going on around you. Maybe at this point in your life, you’re not looking for a committed relationship or a hookup. 

Trust me, I know how complicated it can be to navigate through love — especially in college. So whether you want to be completely single, hooking up with no strings attached, or committed to a significant other, know that there are many other people in your boat.     

 

Beverly Feng

U Penn '24

Beverly is a freshman at UPenn studying Management and Marketing. Her hobbies include traveling, cooking, working out, and exploring new restaurants. She's super excited to be joining Her Campus!
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