November 7, 2013
On Tuesday, professor and author Donna Freitas gave a well-attended and provocative lecture titled, “The End of Sex: Putting the Meaning Back into Sex for the Hookup Generation” (see cover story). Freitas’s basic premise, per the title of her new book, is that hookup culture is leaving a generation unhappy, sexually unfulfilled and confused about intimacy. Based on the results from research she conducted through surveys and interviews, Freitas argues that students privately desire more traditional dating and romance, but feel as though those ideas are taboo on college campuses where brief, emotionless flings are the norm.
It is undeniable that at Hamilton hooking up plays a prominent role in campus weekend culture. It is also likely that Professor Freitas’s conclusions hold true for our student body. The key question, in turn, is: Should the students and/or the administration do anything to change the hookup culture’s status quo?
With all due respect to the administration, hookup culture is an area that they should not (and realistically cannot) try to control. Any major efforts to change behavior would be intrusive, ineffective and, almost certainly, unwelcome. The best the administration could do is provide research like Freitas’s to first-years during New Student Orientation, so they know that students’ private feelings about hooking up often contrast with their public behavior.
Any real initiative to address the detrimental effects of hookup culture must come from the students. Students from the sociology department often conduct research on student feelings about sex and spontaneous hookups. We encourage these researchers to publicize what they learn and hold informal discussions on the issue. At the very least, the Hamilton community should talk about this important matter before the shots are thrown back and the deed is done.
Laudable events like speed dating and formal dances have led to some success, but are often too awkward and self-selective in audience. In reality, while student organizations can certainly do more to help facilitate settings for those who desire more traditional courtship, the budding “Romeos” will have to take the bold step of asking their “Juliet” out on a date themselves (or vice versa).
Of course, Hamilton students will hook up and engage in one-night-stands as long as the school stands. Alcohol, hormones and lenient views about sex are not in short supply on the Hill--and nor should they be. The best way to alleviate the worst aspects of hookup culture is to make sure students, particularly first-years, know that they have choices for their sexual lives. Moreover, committed couples, conscientious abstainers, libertine students and all those in between should feel as though their personal choices are respected. Hamilton’s hookup culture becomes truly detrimental only if it gets to the point that disempowering behavior is encouraged and rewarded. We should do everything in our power to avoid that scenario.