Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, navigating through hook-ups can be extremely difficult. No amount of alcohol or friendly encouragement can completely erase the insecurities we have about a potential anything, whether it’s a hook-up or a relationship. Cases vary depending on the individual, but the big questions are the same: Do I want to hook up with this person? Is this all he or she wants from me? Am I protected?

These days, it may seem that the so-called “hook-up culture” has taken over campuses and replaced traditional dating. Everyone, from sex researchers to prominent news sources, seems to be freaking out about it (although to be fair, topics like North West and where Kate Middleton had lunch are also “major” issues). However, a recent study from the University of Oregon has made this phenomenon even more confusing, suggesting that there have actually been little differences between the number of hook-ups in the 1970s compared to now. With all of this conflicting information, it doesn’t hurt to ask: Does the hook-up culture even exist, and if so, how do we know if we want to participate in it?
I’m not going to bore you with all of the research that’s out there dedicated to this subject (it starts to feel like you’re watching an episode of Lost after awhile), but I can share what I think. As college students, it’s perfectly reasonable to hook-up with someone, as long as it’s consensual and safe. Because these decisions affect the entire community, it can be considered as a culture. Though I try to avoid situations where my partner and I are drunk (and foreplay consists of a lot of giggling while the morning after is an impromptu scavenger hunt), you can’t always and usually don’t plan when and where you’re going to hook up with someone. And that’s OK as long as you’re being smart about it.
It’s easy to say that if you’re attracted or think you’re attracted to someone, the best way to get to know him or her is to find a time when you can both hang out. But the issue becomes how likely the is other person to say yes? Although meeting new people is especially easy in college, there is still plenty of reluctance to be had when approaching someone new to start a conversation. After all, when was the last time we took our own advice and introduced ourselves to the person sitting next to us in a class? Even worse, because this is actually not the norm here, many people may get the wrong idea, and apparently asking how someone’s doing can be perceived as a desire to “get it on.” I’m not going to even start on the number of times a brief smile or a hair toss resulted in misunderstood and greatly exaggerated interest.
It makes sense, then, that many hook-ups take place or are formed at parties where there’s access to alcohol. Many of the friendships I made during my freshman year were through repeated semi-intelligible conversations with lots of excited noises and screaming held at the Frat Quad. The benefit of approaching someone when you’re drunk is that you’re a lot more confident and a lot more willing to do things you ordinarily wouldn’t do (“Let’s have sex on the rooftop of Rush Rhees.”) On the other hand, the benefit of approaching someone when you’re sober is that you can actually stop and figure out whether you actually want to go through with something (“Will my health insurance cover me if I fall?”). But what if there were no alcohol and no parties allowed on campus (keep breathing)? Whether you’re hooking up, dating, or staying abstinent through college, the hook-up culture will no doubt affect you in some way. Maybe you’re the friend who doesn’t really want to go to parties but doesn’t want to abandon your roommate. Perhaps you really want to pursue a relationship with someone but know he or she is only interested in sex. And let’s face it, we don’t really know what we want until we explore our options. So the next time you see a cute girl or guy in class, keep in mind that the only person judging whether you should start talking to him or her is probably going to be you. And despite what you may think, you’re probably just as impressive when you’re attending class (probably fighting a hangover) as you are drinking somewhere. So why not go for it?
Gao is a member of
the class of 2014.



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