By Marissa Peck
As a senior, I have frequently discussed and experienced the struggles of relationships and casual hookups in college. I applaud Matt Wu for his article in last week’s paper, “When facing Union’s hookup culture, we need to be honest with ourselves,” for calling attention to this force that dominates our social culture. We need to talk more about sex and the way in which we, as a community, go about doing it; it is easy to participate in the hookup culture, especially when alcohol is involved, but it is much more difficult to understand the motives and the consequences of our sexual activity.
I believe that this hookup culture stems from the way in which we socialize. In general, our generation focuses on drinking first, and socializing second. What I mean by this is that consuming alcohol is the main event and focus, and the deep and serious conservations come later — if they come at all. I know this because I have done this. I also know that this is not how most of the world socializes.
From my experiences, life off campus is much more focused on socializing with alcohol on the side. The drink fosters the conversation and it plays into the activities of the night, but it does not dominate all of the activity. And while the effects of alcohol are still enjoyed, they are done so in a healthy way, where good friends and personal connections are fostered, not ignored or even destroyed. I have learned how to socialize first and value that over drinking. I still get drunk and I always have a lot of fun, but I enjoy the way in which I drink now much more.
With alcohol as the main focus of socializing, it cannot be denied that it is also very present in hookup culture. From my experience, especially on this campus, alcohol is the catalyst of this hookup culture and also its excuse. We get drunk, therefore we have casual sex. The sex was casual and emotionless because it was random and drunken. We were drunk and it was just sex.
An interesting and complex personal sexual experience is created as drunken hookups are the dominant kind of sexual activity that our generation experiences in college. For many of us, college is the first time we experience increased sexual activity and sexual freedom. To have many of our early sexual experiences while under the influence of alcohol and labeled as emotionless must affect our sexual identity and experience in ways that we cannot fully understand.
We are not allowing ourselves to explore our sexuality when we are completely mentally present. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it is common to alter our mental states and engage in sexual activity, and people have been doing it for centuries. But, there must be a balance and there must be a recognition of our actions. We must have sex with intent and we must accept this part of ourselves. There is nothing to be ashamed of, as long as we respect and are honest with ourselves and our partners.
I also believe that in order to fully experiment with and understand our sexual identities, we must have sex where alcohol is not involved. This balance is necessary to truly understand what is physical, what is emotional and where the two overlap. Sex is one of the most intimate and honest interactions you can have with another person. It is easy to hide from yourself when you drink, and it is harder to hide when sober sex occurs.
I think that this is a valuable campus dialogue to have and one that often stays in the confidence of a dorm room, or is just simply ignored. But it is something that we all experience. I would like to offer some advice from what I have learned in my time at Union.
1. Enjoy your freedom. Have sex. Have sober sex. Have drunk sex. Have safe sex. Have sex with whomever you want. But realize that with this freedom comes GREAT responsibility. You will be held responsible for your actions. You can choose how you want to have sex and with whom. You can choose what you want to gain from it, just like you can choose what to study, what career you pursue, who your friends are and what activities you participate in.
2. Be honest with yourself and with your partner. Respect yourself and your partner. If there is respect, you will not regret most of what you do.
3. Don’t get sucked into the hookup culture because you think it is the only one that exists. Trust me, there are other cultures out there (yes, even at Union), and if you can’t find a culture that you want to participate in, create your own. Don’t let the hookup and drinking culture of Union keep you from growing into the person you want to be.
4. Since college is a time for experimenting don’t just experiment with hooking up. Try dating someone. Date someone you like. Date someone who shares common interests with you. If we are lucky, we will all leave college with a degree and a handful of positive relationships. These relationships can be with peers who become friends, with professors who become your mentors (and even friends), and maybe even a boyfriend or girlfriend … a life partner. This will only happen if you take the time to create positive relationships. You truly reap what you sow.
5. If you keep questioning, keep talking, keep arguing and keep challenging yourself to learn, you will leave Union having grown considerably as a person. There probably will still be room to grow, but you will have laid the foundation for positive and productive growth, and you will be happy with the opportunities that lay ahead.