Students think 'hook up' culture isn't so terrible after all

by Judith Phillips and Valerie Silverman | 10/17/01 5:00am

"I was at a party at his fraternity, and I was there with some friends. I actually hung out there a decent amount, but I had never met him before. A guy I knew there introduced us, kind of. We had actually met one time before that, but we didn't really know each other. It was a room-to-room tails party so I went into his room We were both drinking, we hung out, and then I guess we just ended up hooking up at the end of the night. It wasn't sex hooking up. The next morning, we woke up, and he said, 'Hey, I don't want this to be a one time thing.' And I was like, 'OK,' and that's how we started dating."

--'02 woman who preferred

to remain anonymous

It would be nave to suggest that all random sexual activity at Dartmouth ends in long-term relationships, or for that matter, any sort of communication.

But according to students who talked to The Dartmouth, this sort of behavior, known loosely as "hooking up," might not be as destructive and morally out-of-kilter as some experts would suggest.

The most recent academic research on the subject, a report commissioned by the Independent Women's Forum, called "Hooking Up, Hanging Out, and Hoping for Mr. Right -- College Women on Dating and Mating Today," put a negative spin on hooking up.

The report was based on interviews with 1,062 women on college campus around the country. The study was authored by Elizabeth Marquardt of the Institute for American Values, an organization that supports the "renewal" of marriage in America.

It blamed coed dormitories and alcoholic parties for contributing to the phenomenon of "random hookups," which it defined as "a distinctive sex-without-commitment interaction between college women and men without commitment or even affection."

It added that the interaction could mean anything from kissing to having sex.

Dartmouth sophomore Jesse Cross joked about the ambiguity of the term when he said, "It's physical contact of any sort They don't like that much, the ladies, when you touch their head and tell the whole campus you hooked up."

According to the report, people choose to hook up instead of date for three main reasons:

Hooking up lets people avoid the possible hurt and rejection that can come from talking openly about feelings.

Some college students don't have time for relationships.

Some students would prefer to avert the pain of a break up all together.

One woman in the survey noted that "sex and hooking up are not necessarily tied to as many emotions as talking face-to-face with someone. And especially when you can pass off sex as something that happens while you were drunk."

While those reasons might apply for many at Dartmouth, some students offer more positive reasons for preferring hook ups to dating.

"It seems that people are worried about closing themselves off," Kerri Entin '04 said. So, she said, in place of devoting energy to forming close relationships, people opt for simply hooking up.

For some Dartmouth students, the casual nature of hook-ups is just more in line with Dartmouth weekend mode.

"There is a definite work hard, party hard attitude here," Caroline Newman '02 said. After a stressful week of work and other obligations, students frequently view free time as a release and relationships as restricting.

The report said the emotional results of hooking up can run the gamut, but it focused on the negative end of the spectrum.

"Women said that after a hook-up they often felt awkward and sometimes felt hurt," it said. "A number of them reported not knowing if the hook-up would lead to anything else, which made them feel confused if they wanted something more from the encounter. At the same time, a number of women also reported feeling strong, desirable and sexy after a hook up."

The report stigmatized alcohol and the other hook-up catalysts as well as the effects of hooking up, which it said includes guilt, regret, shame and awkwardness.

Vedad Osmanovic '02 and other students who talked to The Dartmouth agreed that alcohol often plays a role in the hook-up culture.

"Drinking is one of the main causes of one-night hook-ups," he said.

Despite this similarity, and its overall accuracy, the Women's Forum repot does not provide a full picture of sentiment at Dartmouth.

According to Newman, many simply "want to live the single life now," to have the freedom and the fun, even when they are tied to negatives.

This attitude clearly opposes the report's emphasis on marriage as a goal for the majority of college women. It reported that "83 percent of respondents in the national survey agreed that 'Being married is a very important goal for me,' and 63 percent agreed that 'I would like to meet my future husband in college.'"

Frances Uptegrove, a physician assistant at Dick's house, generalized that Dartmouth women might not fit into those majorities.

"Dartmouth women are very career-oriented and are not looking to find a husband," she said.

When asked if he noticed an active widespread interest in marriage among his peers, Brett Martin '04, noted, "I see no problem with picking up an Ivy League biddie before heading off into the real world."

The general sentiment, thus, lies with career over carat. Says Kerri Entin '04: "College is sort of a time for your own ambitions and to develop yourself."

The article also asserts that when two people do become involved in a relationship, the independence and convenience that college provides tend to accelerate and intensify the relationship. College couples can, and often do, enroll in the same classes, study together, eat together, sleep together, and socialize together. As a result, they often become "joined at the hip."

Moreover, the article maintains that "traditional dating," romantic interactions that fall in between hooking up and being joined at the hip, are rare.

In fact, "In the national survey, only 37 percent of respondents said they had been on more than six dates of this kind, and a third said they had been on six dates or fewer." However, dates in the sense of watching a movie or studying in a dorm room are slightly more common than traditional dating.

Meg Thering '05, however, said she and her boyfriend, who hit it off at a Kappa Kappa Kappa fraternity dance party, go on plenty of "traditional" dates.

"Everyone talks about how no one dates," she said. "But my boyfriend and I date. We've gone out to dinner at Molly's and Zin's. It's been very nice and romantic. He bought me flowers before our date on Friday. We also do stuff that's probably more typical of Dartmouth dating: play pong together, go to frats, hang out, study. It's fun, and dating here is definitely possible."

The report maintained that if the current generation were to possess what it calls a "set of social norms and expectations" like that of the previous generation, the hook-up trend would shift towards one of dating and long-term relationships.

Yet Uptegrove believes that instead of a strict social code, the current generation has a more valuable sexual dialogue. He said that "health is not reproductive anatomy, but also risk taking [There now is a] heightened awareness about sexual assault, and a better discussion now then there was 20 years ago."

The hook-up culture described in the report has many parallels to that at Dartmouth. Yet many here don't necessarily want that changed.