Published: Monday, January 24, 2011
Updated: Monday, January 24, 2011 11:01
I'm not entirely against the "hookup culture" — a culture marked by casual sexual encounters, referred to as "hookups," which are often accompanied by a nonchalant, no−strings−attached attitude — that is typical of our generation.
I am an avid believer that it should always be "your body, your choice." But I think a major aspect of "your body, your choice" is that whatever decisions people make concerning their own bodies, they should only get involved with partners who can respect their boundaries no matter if those boundaries are viewed as "prude" or "promiscuous."
I'll admit that the current hookup culture does have advantages. Some genuinely do enjoy hookup culture and feel empowered by dictating the terms of intimate encounters. But there are also disadvantages. Because a dating culture is nearly nonexistent on college campuses, some students (male and female) are pushed into this hookup culture and have found it to be dissatisfying and degrading. The feelings of empowerment that many participants of the hookup culture describe are frequently contentious, at best, and are often disputed by sociologists, psychologists and those who are spectators to this foreign culture.
While I do not completely agree or disagree with critics' claims regarding the impacts of hookup culture, I do believe that there is one downplayed, but troubling, consequence: Perhaps we, as a generation, are failing to form functional and meaningful relations with others.
Eavesdrop on Sunday brunch conversations and you'll notice that many people in our generation have had countless sexual encounters, but few have had meaningful relationships. Most of us know how to race from first base to home plate before the night ends, but we don't know how to ask someone out on a date (before hooking up), how to interact with someone (sober) that we're interested in (after hooking up) or how to (tactfully) communicate our feelings. The problem is that having only casual, rather than meaningful, sexual experiences can sometimes damage people's self−esteem and self−worth — male or female.
Yet, hookup culture is utterly pervasive.
How did it happen that when some of us decided that we "don't do relationships" in college, we applied this reasoning to all relationships? Apparently, having anyone — a friend or a partner — care about us, depend on us, need us, love us, is just too much to handle. We're in college, why care now? But if not now, then when do we start caring? And by then, will we still know how?
This is why most students on college campuses have lots of "hang−out friends" — friends that they can drink with, smoke with, go out with — but only a handful of real friends that they actually trust and confide in. When I say most of us are lacking "real" friends, I don't mean the friends to whom you would say, "I did horribly on that test" or "I got some this weekend." I mean real friends: the people with whom you regularly interact and who understand your deepest fears and greatest desires; the people to whom you feel comfortable revealing yourself without fear of repercussion or reprimand.
Perhaps it is because hookups often lack conversation that many of us have become mute in our own interactions — even with basic friendships. We've forgotten how to talk to each other and how to share experiences with each other — heart− and gut−wrenching experiences, like the time your girlfriend cheated on you. Like when you used to cut yourself. Like the night your loved one died. Like the day your parents divorced. Like the time you felt alone.
We now avoid having serious conversations and sharing serious secrets, even with the people we call friends, in the same way that we avoid serious relationships. We stick to easy statements such as, "This is what I did today," and "This is what we should do this weekend," because these are socially safe topics. Discussing anything weighty would be too serious and consequently, by our generation's standards, too much to deal with. I think that when we lose the ability to trust others with our secrets and our sorrows, we lose part of ourselves.
Maybe hookup culture is our own way of grasping at the safest alternative. After all, if you don't reveal yourself and if you act indifferent, then you're invisible, infallible and incapable of getting hurt. My suggestion is that maybe it's time we, as a generation, start taking risks — whether it be by asking someone on a date or by sharing something embarrassing or even shameful with a friend. I challenge all of us to accept a bit of vulnerability in exchange for a meaningful connection with someone. I am glad the hookup culture has allowed us to be open with our sexuality, but it has taken away our ability to be genuinely open with each other.