By Cierra Pierce
Last semester, in Honors Colloquium, my partner and I led a discussion on hookup culture at St. Mike’s. I should say, we tried to lead a discussion. Students who normally spoke up fell silent. Apparently, no one had anything to say. This was surprising to me because the hookup culture arguably affects almost everyone, whether directly or indirectly. I was inspired to ask the question, anonymously, what are students’ experiences and views on hookup culture at St. Mike’s? Although hookup culture has definitely changed due to having classes online and living off campus, I made a survey of 45 questions that asked students about their experiences with hookup culture while they were still on campus. Perhaps transitioning to remote learning worked to my advantage. 192 students responded eagerly to my survey and their responses were more honest than I could’ve hoped for. What I want to focus on is what was most surprising.
I think one of the common misconceptions that people have in college, especially first-years, is that everyone is having a lot of casual sex. Nearly 75% of people think going home with someone means you’ll have sex every time, yet almost half of the people reported only having sex some of the time or none of the time. Half of the juniors and seniors reported having five or less hookups in their entire time at college. Nearly 95% of survey participants thought that others on campus were looking for one-night stands with no commitment (and often happening under the influence) or talking a little first, snapchatting, and hooking up, but not putting a label on anything. When asked what participants were looking for however, 45% of people said they were looking for a relationship. Only 10% were looking for casual, one-night stands. Where is this thought that everyone wants casual sex and no one wants a relationship coming from, then?
It’s important to note that what people consider “sex” is not the same across and within gender and sexual orientations. What people consider a “hookup” varies widely. Perhaps most importantly, what people consider consent varies from “enthusiastic kissing” to “not saying no” to “body language and gestures.” 3% of participants even consider “vaginal lubrication and erection,” consent, when these are in fact, involuntary physiological responses. Only 46% of participants said that a verbal yes is the only way to communicate consent. This number should be 100%.
You are not alone if you are unhappy with the hookup culture at St. Mike’s. 33% of people felt used or unsatisfied more than half the time after a hookup. Everyone at St. Mike’s thinks they have to be having casual, unattached sex in order to hook up at all, but that’s just not true. The bottom line is that you should decide what hooking up looks like for you, explore your wants and desires, whether you do it every day or never at all. The misconceptions about hookup culture are just that, misconceptions.