Cosmopolitan recently surveyed more than 1,000 women and men at colleges across the country about their sex lives, the findings of which were compiled into a nifty infographic. The resulting study underscores that prevalence of casual sex and hook up culture on college campuses, and shows a variety of associated encounters and reactions between men and women.
Cosmopolitan’s effort to illuminate some of the realities of a hook up culture is timely and essential for starting a discussion. Yet, there are some gaps in the statistics, which prompt us to take this discourse one step further. Standing alone, the numbers themselves do not paint a full picture of what a hook up culture actually means or the surrounding perceptions.
I remember my Psychology professor once proclaiming to the class, “I would like to applaud your generation for successfully twisting the meaning of ‘hook up.’ I can no longer tell my students that we’ll hook up later without receiving confused and slightly disturbed glares.”
As my professor astutely observed, the meaning of a hook up has, in fact, changed. To current college students, the action of “hooking up” transcends its original definition — meeting up, following up or getting together. Instead, “hooking up” suggests an array of experiences ranging from making-out to sex and anything and everything in between.
The entire phenomenon seems vague, and it has to be in its definition. Hooking up doesn’t come with the same rules that relationships do. The dynamic, therefore, tends to rely on a lack of clarity and a certain degree of flexibility.
This hook up culture intertwines a spectrum of experiences with a spectrum of tolerance. While the more liberal side often accepts the hook up culture for what it is and adjusts its actions accordingly, the conservative side is more likely to try to shift the culture by enforcing somewhat outdated policies.
For example, upon arriving at Brigham Young University, a proudly Mormon university, freshmen are required to sign the school’s strict conduct code promising to pursue a “chaste and virtuous life.” Through this honor code, women are expected to dressed modestly in order to help men better control their thoughts. The students who do not sign or abide by the honor code risk expulsion from the institution.
Keli Byers, a sophomore at Brigham Young University and an active member of the Young Mormon Feminists, an unaffiliated group, believes that the majority of students at BYU live chastely with a consensus that making-out is permitted. However, admits that she would be considered a slut by Mormon standards due to her sexual activity. She credits the group for helping her to reclaim her sexuality and realize her sexual assault wasn’t her fault. By sharing her story, Byers hopes to provoke a dialogue and transform the honor code so that sexual women are accepted rather than punished.
This study leaves us with several questions about the hook up culture and its attached stigma: How can we promote consent, pleasure, and gender equality as the core of a hook up culture? What should we do to eliminate experiences of sexual assault in a hook up culture? How does a big campus’ hook up culture compare to that of a smaller campus? How can we ensure that young people participate safely if they choose to do so?
So many questions, so many experiences. Share yours below!