Defining hookup culture

A couple is cozied up to one another as they wait in line for their food at La Paloma.

Kaia Hubbard | Asst. Copy Editor | The USD Vista

As the traditional bounds of romantic relationships become more fluid, college students today wrestle with labels, and the newly minted term: hookup culture. Armed with the perspective that both the media and their peers provide, students explore whether dating plays a part in their college experience.

Professor Lisa Nunn, Ph.D, informs the students in her sociology class about the origins of the latest relationship trend.

“It’s really unclear when this new type of romantic relationship, coupling started happening,” Nunn said.  “Maybe the 80s, 90s. Today it has a name: we call it hookup culture.”

Nunn defined this unorthodox college phenomenon.

“Hooking up is when two people engage in some sort of romantic or sexual activity,” Nunn said. “It ranges from kissing to complete intercourse and everything in between. The route to relationships happen quite often these days through hookups.”

Although common in today’s world, older generations may find the practice to be drastically different from previous methods of dating.

Nunn described the traditional dating style, and pointed out its faults.

“In the dating culture of a few decades ago it was almost always the responsibility of the man to invite the woman on a date,” Nunn said. “It was the woman’s role to wait to be asked… to make herself appealing and available, and that kind of sucks.”

Despite the widespread stigma, Nunn believes hookup culture has its benefits.

“One great thing about hookup culture is that it’s much more egalitarian, although in the data we find that men are initiating more often, there is at least this potential and greater sense that women are not sitting around waiting to be asked out on a date,” Nunn said. “Women go to parties and they go out with their friends and they have a good time and if they’re interested in having some sexual encounter they can have it. It’s very much an arena of sexual empowerment for women.”

Despite the fact that hookup culture has grown side-by-side with gender egalitarianism, some students still acknowledge the existence of a stigma. Although this idea may surprise older generations, the existence of a hookup culture is not a shock to some college-aged students.

First-year Lucas Chase understands why the phenomenon exists, but finds some aspects to be a problem.

“I think it’s definitely more common for hookups to happen because a lot of college students don’t want commitment, especially first-years like myself,” Chase said. “There’s a lot more hookups and less talking today. There’s a lot less respect. You don’t see a lot of chivalry; dudes holding the door open. I don’t think that’s right, but I kind of contribute to the problem.”

Students like Chase are accurate about the commonality of hookups. According to a Stanford University study which included students from 20 colleges, 72 percent of students shared that they have “hooked up” with someone.

While some accept the realities of hookup culture, sophomore Rachel Scheumaker commented on the negative implications that come with it.

Many couples in committed relationships enjoy holding hands as a symbol of their affection.

“If anything, hooking up can give yourself a bad name,” Scheumaker said. “When girls hear about guys who don’t hook up with a lot of girls it’s a good thing.”

Despite some students’ disagreement with the practice, the culture continues. Junior Christian Yee-Yanagishita described the pressure and expectations behind this new dating culture.

“Men are taught to value a body count; that is the expectation,” Yee-Yanagishita said. “People will compare how many people you’ve been with.”

However, when asked about USD specifically, Yee-Yanagishita concluded that things are different here.

“I think USD is actually a little different than what you see in the media or hear about at other schools,” Yee-Yanagishita said. “It seems like a lot of people are in meaningful relationships at USD. That’s not to say that hookup culture isn’t a thing, but I just feel like I see a lot more relationships here.”

Meaningful relationships may exist, but many describe hookup culture to be full of double standards. Chase commented on the existence of a double standard and its relation to slut shaming.

“I know sometimes girls are slut shamed, but when guys do it it’s like ‘yeah bro, look at you,’” Chase said.

Professor Nunn spoke to this double standard, and why it still exists despite a more equitable society.

“In hookup culture, women still face the sexual double standard of being slut shamed, while men are almost never slut shamed,” Nunn said. “In fact they’re high-fived for more partners or intensive sexual activity. These old, old ideas about ideal femininity and masculinity die slowly. Both men and women slut shame. It has always been a powerful tool under a patriarchal model to control women’s behavior and to control women’s sexuality, which is why it’s so confusing. The idea of what an ideal woman is just an impossible mix of being sexy and appealing and at the same time also monogamous. ”

As society continues to move forward, relationships also change with it. With all of this talk of hookup culture, one may wonder where the traditional date has gone. Scheumaker commented on what traditional dating style says about people.

“The people that you would want to be in relationships with are the ones who are asking you on dates,” Scheumaker said. “It says a lot about who they are.”

First-year Halle Campbell described the common viewpoints on dating and hookups.

“Hooking up is more common, unfortunately,” Campbell said. “People think that dating means dating forever and they don’t want to do that at this age; they view it as a death sentence. People just want to have fun.”

Over time change has occurred — however, some may wish to return to a more traditional approach to dating life.

“I wish things were more old fashioned,” Campbell said. “I want to go swing dancing, I want to go out to dinner, and I would like to go watch the sunset at the beach.”

Sophomore Maria Aiello accurately summarized students’ outlook on relationships.

“It’s a hooking up generation,” Aiello said.

It seems as if college students have their work cut out for them, but starting the conversation about dating culture may be the first step.

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