If you’ve ever seen Love, Actually, you’re familiar with the line, “If you look for it … you’ll find that love actually is all around.” Living in Isla Vista, what I’ve observed more so than love is the sexcapade trifecta: hookups, sneaky links, and situationships.
“Hookup culture” is more than an everyday term for college students; as the name would suggest, it’s a full-blown culture complete with its own set of “shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices.”. Now a normative practice, hookup culture represents the recent evolution in the sexual and romantic behavior of collegiates away from dating and towards “casual, commitment-free, and relationally ambiguous sexual encounters.”
We’re currently living through a transformative era with respect to the male-female relationship dynamic. Intrigued, I began to wonder how this affects intergender relationships. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with casual hookups; however, as a member of what some may call the heart of college hookup culture—the Greek life community—I’ve observed a discrepancy between male and female perceptions and emotional reactions to the pseudo-relationship culture that surrounds us.
If the college experience is synonymous with casual hookups, and we all know the expectations that come with that, then why do men and women seem to have different experiences? I’m no expert when it comes to college guys (they don’t exactly make it easy to be). However, as the algorithm would have it, TikTok led me to our very own UCSB-guy guru: Mia Neglia. It’s no surprise that her TikTok (@mianoelia_) following count exceeds 12k.
Her understanding of the Isla Vista male’s perception of women is unparalleled and enlightening. If you’ve ever wondered what’s going on in UCSB boys’ heads, look no further; Neglia was kind enough to discuss her findings with me. To preface, the following information is by no means universal truth, it’s simply a summary of the patterns that emerged from her numerous conversations with random men on the UCSB campus.
It all started with a casual conversation between Neglia and her male coworker on the dynamics of male-female relationships. When asked what percentage of males he perceived to be “good guys” versus “bad guys”—not in the general human decency sense, but in regards to the way they perceive, talk to, talk about, and treat women—his response estimated 75% bad and 25% good. Shocked by his answer, the conversation sparked a new era for Neglia: for two months she asked UCSB guys the same question, and in turn, she received answers to far deeper ones.
As it turns out, male subject zero’s response was emulated by the majority of other guys. Far more intriguing, however, was the difference in the conversations Neglia had with boys who had relationship experience versus boys who did not. Guys with relationship experience more typically fit the “good guy” category. Having been involved with a woman on a deeper level, they were more likely to perceive women as their equals and value platonic female friendships. In contrast, many guys who lacked relationship experience seemed to perceive women as an entirely different species.
So, for those men lacking prior relationship experience, how exactly do they view us? One such man views women in three ways: the girls that he’s not attracted to but flirts with for fun, the girls that he’s attracted to and flirts with for a hookup, and the nice girl that he’d genuinely want to be a good guy for. When girls fit either of the first two categories, guys seem to “feel vindicated in perceiving them as a separate species.” Since they don’t perceive these girls as “the take-home-to-mom type,” they feel justified in not treating her as such (i.e., not talking to her regularly, not asking her on dates, etc.). Neglia found that the majority of guys without relationship experience considered this explanation genuine and accurate.
So, if guys truly classify women in these three ways, how does this play into intergender relationships? Consider the following story about one of the polled guy’s roommates: finding a girl at the gym attractive, he decided to approach her. The two began to regularly engage in platonic conversation, sometimes working out together. After a month, the guy asked her out. Though she loved hanging out with him, she respectfully declined and asked that they remain friends. Rather than remaining friends, he wrote her off for “wasting his time.”
Posing this example to other guys, Neglia noticed another discrepancy between guys who had been in long-term relationships and guys who had not. Relationship guys were more often than not the ones that said they’d still be friends with a girl that rejected them. As they saw it, regardless of romantic progression, they clearly enjoyed hanging out with her for a reason, so why shouldn’t they continue to hang out? They valued her as a human being, not just for the idea of hooking up with her. On the other side of the spectrum, guys without relationship experience often claimed they’d be quick to dismiss the girl and move on to the next. In their view, she was more of a character in their lives than a human being.
So there you have it. After a couple of months’ worth of conversations with UCSB’s male population, Neglia delivered the impossible: an insider view of the male-female perception. Ultimately, guys are more likely to perceive girls as entirely different entities. This is apparent even in the way that guys converse with males versus females; women are typically able to talk to guy friends in a similar manner to how they would their girl friends, whereas men typically communicate with other males much differently than they do with women.
Furthermore, it was less common for girls participating in hookup culture to view men as characters in their lives, and those who did revealed so in an almost apologetic manner. In contrast, when men classified women into their three categories, they displayed no remorse, as their perception and treatment of a girl were a direct result of her respective classification.
I’d like to reiterate that this is not a universal truth, it’s not a shot at UCSB men, and it’s not a certified research study. This is merely an observation, garnered from a series of conversations, of the male-female relationship dynamic through the lens of participating UCSB guys.