The notion of “hooking up” has become just as prevalent as the selfie in millennial culture, and even more so when you find yourself on a college campus. Don’t get me wrong—it’s understandable why this is such a popular trend. You’re confined on a couple square miles of campus that is brimming with healthy, young people who are thriving off of new found freedom and raging hormones—it makes sense why hooking up seems to be everyone’s favorite pastime.
When the majority of your brunch time gossip is invariably dominated by the details of your friends’ exultant conquests from the night before, it is easy to feel left out or weird about the fact that it is never you who is sharing your own stories. Feeling this way is totally normal. Thinking that you are significantly different from everyone around you can make anyone feel awful, but guess what—not following suit with the craze of hookup culture is perfectly okay. In fact, according to hookingupsmart.com, 89 percent of college students actually hate the idea of hookup culture.
First things first, not EVERYONE is hooking up! It might seem like everyone you meet has a new acquisition every night, but trust me, it isn’t true. Only 15 percent of college students have hooked up 10 times or more during their entire college experience and only 10 percent have four hookups a year.
Despite these minuscule numbers, a study on hookup culture conducted by ABC News states that 91 percent of college women believe that hookup culture defines their college campus.
With a quick look at the actual facts revolving around this cultural fever, you can clearly see that you are not alone in your lack of participation in the hookup mania.
When collegiettes were asked the reasons that they don’t enjoy hookup culture, the first response that I received was, “My slam gave me herpes.”
When you find yourself mid-hookup at a party with some random hottie you just met, it isn’t exactly the best time to run down to the clinic and both get tested for STDs.
Just to give you a little insight about how many people are running around with STDs, according to stdcheck.com, the number of infectious cases of syphilis has increased by 79 percent in recent years and the number of gonorrhea cases has increased by 30 percent.
Even without the worry of possible STD contraction, what about the risk of pregnancy? It’s easy to slip up on your birth control methods and even when using birth control effectively, mistakes can still happen.
Related: 4 Reasons You Feel Sad After Sex
The emotional toll
Whether they are open about it or not, many collegiettes are hoping that their hookup will result in a relationship.
“After about one semester in college, I found that my frequent hookups were leaving me devastated,” says Casey*, a sophomore at the University of Florida. “I kept thinking that something would develop between me and the next hookup, but I was always left disappointed and even more heartbroken.”
Constantly getting your hopes up and having them shattered each time you meet a new potential partner can wreak emotional havoc on anyone. Many women further explain that the constant feeling of rejection was another negative side effect.
“I started feeling like there was something wrong with me when the guys that I hooked up with never wanted anything more,” says Tracy*, a junior at New York University.
Psychotherapist Mary Waldon says that hookup culture can have “a significant impact on issues of self-worth.” She explains that “unless there is a true desire for no emotional connection and a true lack of unspoken expectations, there are bound to be emotional issues.” Waldon also stresses the fact that this does not apply solely to women. Men also feel emotional anguish in similar ways and the idea that young men have no emotional ties is an “overgrown stereotype,” Waldon says.
With that being said, some women are entirely capable of hooking up and not wanting anything more. However, for those of us who find ourselves on the higher end of the emotional spectrum, random hookups aren’t exactly the best idea.
Unwanted sexual interaction
The pressure to participate in the hookup trend can easily get to you. Feeling a need to fit in with what everyone else is doing is a normal human desire.
The problem here is that changing your mind can sometimes be more difficult than you think. It is easy to walk into a party and start dancing with the first good-looking body that you see and tell yourself, “Okay, I’m going to hook up with them, I can do this, it is totally normal,” regardless of the fact that it might be the last thing you want to do.
With your friends giving you a thumbs up and an approving wink from across the room, you can surely convince yourself that hooking up with this total stranger is a great idea. Everyone else is doing it, right?
By the time that you end up alone with this stranger and realize that you are incredibly uncomfortable with the situation, it can be hard to stop. Either you feel like you “have” to go through with the hookup just to be normal, or this stranger could go through with it, despite your rejection. It is important to remember that no matter how much you feel like you “have” to go through with a hookup, you NEVER have to do ANYTHING that you do not want to do.
To many, the idea of the hookup culture has recently become synonymous with that of “rape culture” for exactly this reason. Whether you feel pressure from your peers or pressure from the person themselves, no one should feel a need to engage in any type of sexual interaction that makes them uncomfortable.
Mary Waldon explains that “lack of consent should eliminate any act of sexual interaction and that the hookup culture can definitely complicate that.” She further explains that “there is a complication that is created when hooking up without a relationship or the intention to be in one that muddies the waters when it comes to the issue of consent.”
Karen*, a sophomore at North Carolina State University, says, “I had always felt left out since I never engage in random hookups. One night I decided to try it out anyway and I have never felt more uncomfortable in my life. I didn’t want to do it, but I felt like I had to in order to really get the college experience.”
Hookups do not define you
Whether you have had zero or thirty hookups this year, your hookups do not define you. Hookup culture makes collegiettes believe that the more hookups you have, the prettier you are or the cooler you are. This could not be further from the truth.
Your college experience is going to be whatever you make of it and whatever you want to get out of it. Whether you want to characterize your experience by the number of hookups you got after each night out or the number of As you got, it is whatever makes you happy that matters and defines you.
Participation in hookup culture is totally okay for some people. Many collegiettes thrive in this type of practice and enjoy being able to hook up with people they have no attachment to, and that’s great. However, it is also perfectly acceptable to be a little bit more reserved in your sexual acquisitions and avoid this cultural phenomenon. Your sex life is your sex life, and it is important to remember that doing what makes you happy and comfortable is the most important thing.
*Names have been changed