Opinion Poll: Hookup Culture

By Taylor Galla ‘18
Opinion Poll Columnist

This week, I want to discuss something that affects everyone, regardless of how often they go out, drink, or participate in Claremont’s weekend festivities: the 5C hookup culture. I define this as the phenomenon that most sexual interactions between students are in casual hookups, rather than committed relationships. It’s evident, it’s unhealthy, it’s perhaps fun and it’s not necessarily specific to Claremont.

However, there are some specific facets of Claremont’s environment that I believe reinforce the hookup culture—I will discuss these in more depth later. Like other prominent aspects of our institution’s social environment, the hookup culture affects everyone, no matter how often you go out.

One hears about troublesome experiences, wild encounters that a friend experienced or how one gross and sweaty party was full of people making out, and when you do go out you will probably come in contact with it in one way or another.

As there is a spectrum of participation in hookup culture-- from partiers to those who would rather cuddle up to Netflix on Saturdays-- there is inevitably a spectrum of opinions about it as well. I also want to preface this by saying that I am a straight woman, and my experience and knowledge of hookups that do not include exclusively straight people is very limited. I want to acknowledge my bias and apologize for not including everyone that takes part in this culture in my discussion, but due to my limited knowledge and utter lack of experience, I feel that I cannot accurately portray and talk about the experiences of LGBTQ+ folks. However, I hope that despite the lack of this information, there are still parts of this article that everyone can find relatable.  

In this week’s poll, I asked the question: “How do you feel about the 5C hookup culture?” with the responses breaking down as such: out of the 59 responses I received, 2 people(3%) chose the “Other” option with comments that I will discuss later, 2 people (3%) chose “I like it and have fun,” 4% chose “I don’t feel strongly about it one way or another,” and the top 3 responses were “I hate it, it’s unhealthy for everyone involved” with 29% or 17 votes, “Don’t like it but I find my ways around it” with 29% or 17 votes and lastly “I feel that it inevitably comes with partying in college and is not specific to the Claremont Colleges” with 32%, 19 votes.

These responses surprised me, as I honestly expected more people to like the culture, and more people to not have strong opinions about it overall, as I think way fewer people go out than people realize. However, there are many parts of these responses that I find fascinating, such as the fact that essentially a third of the people who responded committed to saying that they absolutely hate the culture and find it unhealthy for everyone involved. I was unsure about offering this as a response, because it is full of extremes, but the responses show that people feel it. This could potentially be because of its detrimental emotional consequences, the damage people see done to their friends by it, etc. Yet despite this hatred, the culture persists.

There are several reasons as to why this could be— is it that our world, even our progressive, predominantly- young world at the 5Cs mirrors the misogyny of the real world that favors men? There are exceptions, but college hookups in which a man and a woman are involved tend to favor the men in terms of enjoyment and fulfillment. This is purely anecdotal and not evocative of a larger pool, but with the majority of my friends who participate in the hookup culture, much more often than not the girl builds up expectations and seeks fulfillment from the attention from essentially a stranger— and ends up orgasm-less and cringing every time she and her previous hookup make awkward eye contact in the dining hall. I recently read an article (http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/orgasm-gap-real-reason-women-get-less-often-men-and-how-fix-it) about how college hookups perpetuate a sexist favoring of the guy to get what he wants and that girls feel that they can’t ask for what they want without seeming bitchy or demanding. It mirrors the reality I experience in classrooms, dining halls, in hallways, bathrooms, etc., where women simply feel that they cannot take up the space they need. They seek the attention and sexual fulfillment from guys at parties and expect to have fun— and some do, but for many, the rush of getting that initial attention at the party is the last truly positive aspect of the hook-up experience.

This is a sad reality, and begs the question that I can’t stop asking myself—why would anyone participate in party culture? To put it bluntly, it’s a system that fuels off of insecurities and socialized lack of sexual intimacy between not just people romantically attracted to each other, but people in general at college. Although many go toparties seeking someone with whom a profound connection can grow, the idea of a party hookup does not evoke this level of intimacy. They are seen as the release of a sexual impulse and nothing more, no strings attached and no feelings to be shared. Although outside of these party situations many people, in fact I would argue most people, are searching for “the one” so to speak, but our predominant way or socializing on the weekends is entirely counterproductive to this goal. In an effort to continue to try to understand the experiences of others, let’s turn to some comments this article received.

One of the most notable ones stated that the hookup culture can be freeing in many ways, as there is no expectation of a relationship after you hook up with someone; however, they also described the difficulty in providing consent, and beyond that an enjoyable hookup for your partner due to the presence of alcohol. They described how “[T]here are plenty of one-night stands that are lacking in consent because both parties may be inebriated. I also think it makes consent even more difficult to do when the parties may lack a knowledge of wants and needs of their hook up. Consent is already difficult so random hook ups can make it even more awkward and difficult.” Many points in this quoteare extremely valid. Along with the list of other very negative repercussions that come with the hookup culture, including emotional damage, lack of intimacy and feeling repression, sexual assault is definitely another possibility. When there is the presence of alcohol, on a legal level one is not able to give consent under the definition of consent held by Scripps College as well as the larger Claremont Consortium. In addition to this, decision-making while under the influence becomes even muddier, adding to the risk factor in terms of trusting one’s feelings, trusting the individual and having the courage to ask for what you do or do not want.

So, one sees that the hookup culture contributes to a lot of potential risks both during and after the hookup in terms of one’s feelings, which are, contrary to what our campus culture tells us, okay to feel. Hooking up with someone does not have to be glamorous or totally fulfilling, and does not have to result in some great story to share with all of your friends. More often than not, I think, few to none of these things happen. For those who enjoy it and find it empowering to go out and get what you want without having intimate feelings involved, I applaud you. I simply do not have that strength or courage to risk my own feelings. But, for other people who have resonated with some of the points I have made in this article, I want you to know that you do not have to participate in this culture because you feel like it’s part of the college experience. When you look back on your years here, do you want to look back and see a lot of awkward, negative experiences you endured while trying to live up to someone else’s ideal of what you should be experiencing? Or do you want to have carved your own path, protected yourself and waited for something that was totally worthwhile? I can tell you firsthand it’s not and should not feel like a necessary part of partying in college— and while I totally get that the positive attention is nice, it can stop there without rushing into anything, and one can wait for something more significant to come along.