The Maneater

Column: The problem with college hookup culture

Since when is feeling intimate, honest emotions about another human being a bad thing?

NOTE: This column was inspired by Lisa Wade and her seminar entitled “What College Students Really Think About Hooking Up” held last week on MU’s campus. For more information about Wade and this topic, please go to her website

When we grew up, being in love was shown in such a good light. We’d see princess movies where true love was the solution to every problem. We’d see superhero movies where after saving the world, the hero would always have love to count for his true happiness. Even bedtime stories gave us the chills and allowed us to believe that one day true love would come upon us, everything in our lives would be magic and we’d live our own happily ever after.

But that’s not what we pictured when we left for college. Our image of college wasn’t true love or magic or happily ever after. Our image of college was sex, partying, hookups and the perfect single life. Our image of college was absolute freedom. People went into college thinking that if they were doing these things, they were winning. They were having the experience that we saw in “American Pie” or “Blue Mountain State.”

The first week of college I can remember time after time girls telling me, “I had a boyfriend all through high school, and now I can’t wait to live the single life and just do college the right way.”

But what is the right way to do college? The truth is, there isn’t. There’s only an image in everyone’s mind of what college should be. And because we have this image of what college should be, people are afraid of feeling anything.

Feelings have become something evil in our minds. We don’t call it “falling for someone” anymore. No, that would be too serious. We view falling for someone as something negative, so instead we call it “catching the feelings,” as if the feelings were some sort of flu that we’ve been infected with.

Many would expect that because of the lack of true feelings, people turn to the situation of “friends with benefits.” However, I wouldn’t consider “friends with benefits” a very common thing in college. Not because people aren’t hooking up outside of relationships … they are. But how can we really consider it friends with benefits if the “friends” part is often non-existent and the benefits only come in the bedroom?

People hook up and then never talk to each other again. Even a simple “hey” in passing is almost frowned upon. It’s weird to think that two people can share something so intimate, yet the second it leaves the bedroom, it’s as if it never truly happened.

We’re all human, and it’s normal to feel something after sharing a night with another person. However, this college life we have embraced makes us hide our feelings and makes us feel nothing. Physical pleasure has been made paramount to any kind of emotional happiness.

We always assume that it’s the other one who doesn’t want anything more. But many times, that assumption can be wrong. How can we know what someone else is feeling until we ask them openly and honestly? We can’t.

The reason we don’t ask and we don’t talk about our feelings honestly is because we’re all afraid. We’re afraid to be an outlier to the college single life expectations. We’re afraid of being rejected or ridiculed. We’re more afraid of being called “desperate” than anything else.

So instead of letting this whole college hookup culture define us, we can stop it by losing our fear. We shouldn’t be afraid to feel something or even to say something to someone we feel something for. This is something that can only be solved if we change it ourselves.

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