College Hookup Culture Part I: She Says

Hollywood gave me a very false impression of what I should expect from the college-dating scene: the frat boy with the heart of gold, just waiting till the right strong-willed, funny girl comes along to show him what he has been missing? These things don't exist where I live -- not even close.

I don't understand married couples that met in college and survived all four years, nor do I understand the expression "Mrs. Degree." The college men I've encountered get scared enough when I ask "Will I see you later?" so I imagine the prospect of knowing me in 20 years would actually make them die of fright. The slim likelihood that I will ever have a meaningful relationship in college used to make me sad -- now it just makes me really angry.

I started my blog, Dateless Diva, because I want the women at my university to know that their friend groups are not the only ones having issues with hookup culture. I wanted a forum in which I could discuss the troubles that take up most of my friends' non-academic lives: forget getting paid 80 cents to every man's dollar -- at Tufts the real gender inequality is that women are overtly treated like disposable beings -- and no one really talks about it.

Except to their friends, of course.

While hooking up can be a lot of fun, it can also be emotionally painful. For those of you who don't know exactly what hooking up is, I don't blame you. The phrase "hooking up" is ambiguous. It means getting hot n' heavy, down and dirty, or necking, for those older generations out there. Usually it describes a make out that involves groping and grinding, fingering, oral sex, anal sex or traditional vaginal sex. When someone says they "hooked up" last night, you would be wise to ask them to clarify.

On small liberal arts campuses the "hookup" has taken the place of traditional boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. A mangy beast of epic proportions, the hookup wreaks emotional havoc on most women at some point in their college career, leaving them with anything from Plan B to a broken heart.

Why my generation has chosen this self-destructive path to STD heaven is beyond me, but I can take my best guess.

Since we were tweens, we were told that college is the time for experimentation. If students worked hard enough in high school to gain admittance into a college that accepts less than 20 percent of its applicants, chances are they weren't out raging every weekend; more likely they were told to save that type of behavior for college.

Thus, some students enter school with four-plus years of restraint built up in their system and alcohol-laden parties, in addition to hormones, are the perfect recipe for a lethal hookup culture.

I'm certainly not saying that all hookups are bad. I think it's great that girls can go out and have a single life -- even have no strings attached sex -- before they are relegated to the baby-making corner. How can a woman know what works for her if she doesn't try a few things out?

Unfortunately, even repeated hookups between the same people can turn sour quickly -- a man's attention wanders and he isn't trying as hard to please his partner; meanwhile, the woman wants the relationship to develop into something more along the lines of boyfriend/girlfriend... but it doesn't.

The woman isn't getting what she wants and she begins to feel bad. But, she rarely tells the guy about these feelings -- she tells her friends instead. She feels she can't be honest because men and women in college are expected to be cool and casual about relationships. The prevailing thought is that guys are skittish creatures who will basically die if the woman is too affectionate or attached. Thus, college women become wary about revealing too much, too fast. Because of this attitude, guys are in a position of power in which they control the intensity of relationships and determine when (and if) a relationship will become serious. Sometimes it seems like a woman's only power in a hookup is to say "no" (the power to withhold.)

Things a woman is not allowed to ask for include: hanging out in daylight, being exclusive (aka monogamous), and (forbidden!) going on a date. The college woman has very little power in initiative to move the hookup into relationship territory, and is often made to feel bad about stating such a desire. Though men are not perceived as feeling guilty for not wanting a relationship, a woman generally feels stupid about telling a man if she does. Furthermore, if a woman does try to initiate more in a relationship she is labeled as "desperate" or "aggressive" and sometimes even a "slut."

Women go to great lengths to preserve their façade as a chill girl, frequently offering themselves up as sacrificial lambs to maintain the image.

I've often been told, "Hey, I'm not looking for a relationship right now," and instead of responding, "You could only be so lucky," and leaving the room, I've heard myself respond, "Yeah, no problem, me neither" -- all to keep the night from getting awkward.

It's not that I am looking for a relationship with every guy I meet because, trust me, they are not all winners... but it would be nice not to rule out the possibility before we even have our first kiss!

Unfortunately for many a college woman, accepting an arrangement that she doesn't necessarily want is Hooking Up 101. It could be 11:30 p.m. on a Sunday night, the first time her crush has texted her all week, and she drops everything to go see him. If she doesn't he will move on -- or at least that's what she's been conditioned to believe.

At small schools like the ones in the NESCAC, men have to do so little to win a woman's affection that it is actually humorous; this is partly because there is only a limited pool of people to choose from, so what is the alternative (other than celibacy)?

If a college man talks to a college woman at a party once, then texts her on Saturday nights and lets her sleep over, chances are she is sold. This is a large part of the problem that hookup culture presents. Why are girls so impressed by so little effort? It's treated as some sort of miracle if a guy texts his hookup sober ("That's so sweet! He must really like you!"), and an act of God if they see each other in the daytime ("Oh my God, are you two like, together?!").

But shouldn't that just be the standard? It would seem that a college man only has to be nice to a college women 10 percent of the time and ignore her the other 90 percent of the time to hold her attention.

That's because for that 10 percent of the time, she feels like everything could finally change, like she's in control of the couple's destiny, and could actually bag herself a boyfriend!

I see it happen every weekend. Women love to violate the No. 1 established rule of hooking up: don't get too attached. They commonly use hookups as a way to move an acquaintance with a guy to the next level, and then continue to hook up with him in hopes that it will lead to something more.

In the modern college hook-up culture, that is a surefire way for a woman to get her heart broken. If a guy wanted to treat her better, he would. If he wanted her to be his girlfriend, she would be.

College women have been taught to value male attention so much that when they're not getting enough out of a relationship, the first thought is often "How can I change things so he'll want me more," instead of "He should change things so that I want him more! I'm out."

I've come to realize that a woman has to either abandon her façade as "the chill girl" and demand what she wants or move on.

The best feeling I've ever felt while hooking up at Tufts was that I was special, like I was worthy of notice or something. But, as sappy as it sounds, I've come to the conclusion that I am worthy of notice regardless or whether or not I receive it from a man, because the best I've ever felt participating in hookup culture does NOT outweigh the worst I've felt. The words I would use to describe those emotions include "used" and "interchangeable" -- because for many college women that's how hookups resonate.

In the past I've felt like I could be Jane or Sarah or Jennifer... but I'm not. So -- next time I kiss a boy -- he's going to kiss me because I am me and not because it's Saturday night.

This post was co-authored by DeeDee and Deb.

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