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Off the Hook-Up Culture

Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014

The first 20 student comments on "Off the Hook-Up Culture" win a $5 Yiftee gift to a local business of your choice! Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, February 2nd, 2014. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.

**DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**

Frank is a college junior at a small private university. Before coming to college he had a girlfriend for two years, ending abruptly because they were going separate ways. His attitude coming to college was to remain single, grow academically and professionally, and enjoy youthful experiences.

In his freshman year, Frank found that the culture at his college largely matched what he was looking for. Hooking up was very common, and long-term relationships were rare. During his first year at school, Frank saw a lot of different women and had sex with several of them, rarely more than once or twice. He had some good experiences with women who he would have liked to pursue longer, but he just didn’t think the culture allowed for it.

All the students seemed to be focused on bettering their future. They were academically and professionally driven, not driven by relationships and finding love. Some of Frank’s peers explicitly said they didn’t have time for a romantic relationship, and had no interest since they didn’t know what state they would be living in after graduation.

At the beginning of his junior year, Frank got involved in an uncommitted sexual relationship with Susan, a girl he always had been interested in getting to know better. After hooking up once, they both discussed how they weren’t looking for a relationship but enjoyed each other’s company. Frank and Susan continued this exclusive, hook-up relationship for the first half of the semester. While they both enjoyed time with one another, the uncommitted relationship ended unexpectedly when Susan wanted more and Frank was still unsure he was ready to fully commit.

Frank went back to his routine random hook-ups, but he soon realized that he wasn’t enjoying them anymore. There was no long-term fulfillment and growth that he had started to feel with Susan. Frank stopped hooking up with girls randomly, and instead started searching for something deeper. He spent the rest of the quarter not hooking up with anyone and realizing how difficult it was to find a relationship in college, especially after he had built a negative reputation after hooking up with so many women around his small college campus.

Frank’s friends approached him one day in an “intervention.” They were genuinely concerned about him because he was acting so different than usual and seemed depressed. They told him that he was in a funk after his time with Susan. He needed to get back out and hook-up with girls again, so that all would be normal again.

What should Frank do? Is Frank just heart-broken from Susan? Should Frank be hooking up with more girls? Should he not be? Why do students hook-up? In the college hook-up culture, is the choice to not hook-up just as acceptable as the choice to hook-up? Why or why not?

Useful Resources:

A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

American Psychological Association: Sexual hook-up culture

Does Hookup Culture Hurt Women?

9 Reasons ‘Hookup Culture’ Hurts Boys Too

Comments Comments

J said on Jan 21, 2014
It sounds like Frank has reached a phase in his life where he is more interested in a committed relationship than sexual pleasure, which is perfectly valid. However, Frank is acting like a spoiled child because he cannot find a long-term relationship in several weeks. Instead of giving up and looking for more casual sex, which has obviously become unfulfuilling to him, he should accept the fact that maybe he will not be able to date someone for a short period of time and perhaps think about other things in his life, like hobbies, exercise, or even just cultivating platonic friendships. I am not an authority on "college hook-up culture", as I am a shy nerd who has been to all of two parties, but as far as I can tell most college students would not disapprove of someone entering into a long-term relationship. Many of the examples people seem to draw about "hook-up culture" were apparently cribbed from a sitcom, as it seems very unlikely for many of these to happen in real life. - Like - 1 person likes this.
D said on Jan 22, 2014
Frank is at a turning point because he has been engulfed in the hookup lifestyle but finally meets someone who cares for him and wants more than a hook up. Susan gave him a deeper connection with emotions that were foreign to Frank. He pushed her away emotionally and physically and probably regrets doing so. Frank should not hookup with more girls. He is on the path to maturity and needs to stay on the path. If he still has feelings for Susan, he might want to explain his true feelings with her and/or ask her out on a date. I understand that asking someone on a date that you just rejected is awkward and an unlikely thing to do, but Susan might see Frank's maturity and decision to shift away from hookups. I'm not sure if hooking up is more or less acceptable. I feel that students do it because it is easier than a relationship. Maybe "herd mentality" is involved because students might think that is what students do in college or maybe their friends are doing it so they should as well. Talking about hookups is very common in college and a fun subject to talk about with friends. However, students should not feel pressure to engage in hookups. If someone really likes another person, then feel free to ask that person out on a date to get to know each other. - Like
Roofus said on Jan 27, 2014
Frank, I think if you wanted a relationship than you would have been ready to commit to Susan. Seeing that you are regretting this decision and realize now that you want a relationship similar to that you had with Susan, I think you should tell Susan about the relationship you desire to have with her. If she does not want a relationship with you anymore, then at least you were confident enough to bring this up with her. I think there will be other women on campus looking for the same relationship you are interested in. Try broadening your friend group on campus or even be open to possibilities off campus. You shouldn't feel trapped in your situation. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Justin D. Fitzsimmons said on Jan 27, 2014
What should Frank do? What Frank wants to do. Hooking up with random girls after Susan did not help him in the slightest. He wants something deeper. Its good to see his friends are concerned, but they do not know that he is looking for something deeper. He should explain that to his friends, who would understand and support him. Frank may be a little broken-hearted for Susan, but probably more what she represented. Here was a chance for a girl that he was genuinely interested in, and he let it go. He should try to get back with Susan if that's what he wants. If she rejects him or he finds out she isn't for him, that's alright as well. He tried to do what he wanted to do. He shouldn't be discouraged, but as J said, focus on finding himself as was his original goal when enrolling. Hooking up is "easy" in college. Everyone enjoys it and its what many busy, young adults are looking for. College is a place to find yourself, which may be difficult to do with a committed relationship. However, part of finding yourself is knowing who you are in a relationship. Relationships are harder to maintain, but may be more rewarding. It seems like it is time for Frank to find a relationship, which is perfectly understandable if not commendable. The question to hook up or not to hook up can only be answered by you. What are you looking for? For fun? For deeper meaning? For something in between? College is the place to look for and find these things. - Like
Katrine Trampe said on Jan 30, 2014
The protagonist Frank is burdened by a city where relationships and even love are condemned. We live in an age where hooking up is more normal than holding relationships. Is this normal? Should Frank live up to this expectation? Frank is helpless; he is a young man with a longing to find sustenance in a relationship. Therefore, Frank should go against what his friends say and listen to what his soul, mind, and body tell him. In this situation, Frank deserves to find love. However, what happens if there is no one else who wants a relationship? Frank should just wait, because in the end, most of us want to get married. Frank will find someone over time, just maybe not in college. If he continues to have casual sexual encounters, he will continue to go down this spiral, until he reaches rock bottom. So, what I suggest to Frank is to follow his moral instinct and to follow the more ?outdated? ethical judgements regarding relationships. - Like - 3 people like this.
kkirasich said on Jan 31, 2014
Sex is the most intimate way to share one?s passion for mutual love and emotion which exposes a deep vulnerability between two partners. This is why there is so much pain involved in breaking off a sexual relationship. We learn the most about the needs and delights of others in sexual relationships. However, we can brainwash ourselves by telling ourselves that there is no emotional connection and we will continually believe it. When Frank and Susan broke off their sexual relationship, there were probably many aspects of himself that Frank did not realize he gave to Susan. Frank should reflect on his past sexual encounters to see if there is potentially more to sex than gratification. He may not be heartbroken by Susan but he probably reflects back to the relationship with regrets. In college, many students hook up for the same reasons Frank did: they do not have time to study or develop professionally when they are tied down. Fears from being hurt in the past are also reasons many college students try to protect themselves from becoming emotionally involved. College students will never live be in a place where there are so many sexually available people. After college, not as many people are sexually available either in physical proximity or relationship status. This sets college as the perfect time to gain experience and explore various facets of sexual desire. There also exists gender role pressures for males to gain status or for girls to fit into the culture. - Like
Z said on Feb 2, 2014
After analyzing the situation, it appears that Frank has had his fill of casual uncommitted relationships. For many people, the thrill of casual hook-ups can be compared to the saying, "variety is the spice of life." In hook-up culture, this seems to hold true for the short run. Many people find it exciting to go out to parties with the intent of meeting someone new and progressing things quickly. In the long run though, while one's physical/sexual needs are being fulfilled, his/her emotional needs are being ignored. It is for this reason that Frank is suffering after his split with Susan. He appears to have gotten a taste of emotional connection, and now having lost it, he is left craving it more than ever. While it is normal for a short mourning period to occur after a break-up, Frank's issue seems to revolve around the lack of emotional connection -- not just Susan specifically. For this reason, I think Frank is doing the right thing by actively searching for a more meaningful relationship. His friends may think that he simply needs to get over Susan, but they seem to be mistaken. Frank needs to explain to his friends that his interest in hooking up is a thing of the past and that he is looking for something more fulfilling. As his friends, they should understand and be supportive. From my experience with my own friends, people who choose to hook up or not hook up aren't treated any differently. I have many friends who have serious relationships, and they are looked upon the same as anyone else who likes to "keep their options open." Ultimately, it is a personal choice for each individual that should be respected. I believe that casual relationships aren't necessarily a bad thing, and I also believe that committed relationships aren't a bad thing. I do think that at some point though, most people transition into a more committed, long-term outlook on relationships. This may come at different times for different people, but no matter how soon or late it occurs shouldn't affect their perception by others. - Like
D said on Feb 2, 2014
It appears as if Frank may be confused with what he wants. After having so many casual hookups he has become numb to the feeling he would originally get. Once he experienced a true personal and emotional connection he realized there was something previously missing. He very well could have ended it with Susan due to fear that things would not work out if he were to become fully committed to a relationship. At this point I think Frank seems better off to get away from the hookups and look into building a more committed with someone. In the college hookup culture I believe the view varies from person to person. Some people are only looking for hookups, while others want something much more meaningful. - Like
JG said on Feb 9, 2014
Not everyone is cut out for hookup culture. Being emotionally detached from our sexual encounters -- or being able to propitiate our physical needs without the addition of emotional gratification -- is something that may suit us at a certain point in our lives, but can quickly become inconsequential to us at another. Frank, after his "exclusive" yet noncommittal relationship with Susan, appears to have reached the latter realization. However, he is acting far too disjointedly. Frank has grown accustomed to the convenience of hookups and the relatively low amount of effort required to initiate them, and as a result is not prepared to invest the time and dedication needed to acquire and maintain a full-scale relationship. Instead of numbing his newfound desires with hookups, Frank should focus on changing his approach towards girls. Students hook up because it's fast, easy, and satisfying, but when they switch from engaging in sexual acts with an assortment of partners to sharing those experiences with one person it is difficult to not want something more. They should therefore evaluate their ability to separate sex and emotion before indulging in the appeal of hookup culture. - Like
IG said on Feb 11, 2014
Frank's casual sexual routine is tragic in my opinion, though it is not uncommon. Like many college students, Frank enters with a mindset to indulge in pleasure when he wants to escape homework and stress. What many college students do not realize is that guys and girls have very different interests in regards to sex and relationships. Guys often are interested in the physical aspect, while the girls want to be close to somebody. Many girls can be so heartbroken by the time they are in college that they will easily give in to one or two session with any guy. Susan, however, appears more stable. She likes Frank, and is not ready to give herself to almost anybody. When Frank realizes this, he is caught off guard. He has a choice now: does he respect the fact that Susan views him as special, or does he continue his normal routine? I think Frank is finally realizing that he never gained much by hooking up with many different girls, but at the same time he does not want to have to repent of his wrongdoing. It is one of those unfortunate college situations where you reflect and you have to admit, "I wish I knew then what I know now." - Like
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