February 14, 2014
Since at least the release of the film Animal House in 1978, college and a loose sexual lifestyle have been inextricably linked. To this day, the popular perception of residential colleges often invokes images of libertine gatherings, with hormone-influenced young people drinking and engaging in ménages à trois with reckless abandon. In our first-ever “Sex and Love Issue” (the last seven pages of this issue), however, The Spectator seeks to find the reality behind these stereotypes.
In particular, our anonymous survey, which over 200 Hamilton College students answered, focused on three main questions surrounding sex on the Hill: How often, and with how many people, does the average Hamiltonian have sex? How large of an issue is sexual assault on campus? And how do students perceive the hookup culture, for both straight and LGBT individuals?
Unlike characters in popular movies and TV shows, most students at Hamilton are not, in fact, constantly having sex. Over half of the survey respondents did not report having sex in an average week, and only 23 respondents (11 percent) said they had sex five times or more a week. Moreover, most students reported having fewer than five partners during their time at Hamilton, with the majority having somewhere between zero and two partners. Previous studies by Dr. Lisa Wade of Occidental College—which stated that there is “no hookup epidemic on campuses” and that students overestimate the amount of sex their peers are having—corroborate The Spectator’s survey results.
More distressingly, 35 respondents (17 percent) reported experiencing sexual assault at Hamilton. These students are not alone: 90 respondents (43 percent) reported not having experienced sexual assault but knowing people who have. And the more-reliable national statistics are equally harrowing. At least 18 percent of college women reported experiencing either an attempted or completed sexual assault since they entered college, according to the Department of Justice in 2007. Although sexual assault does not constitute the defining factor of sexuality at Hamilton, it would be naive to ignore its insidious presence in a discussion about sex at Hamilton—and to not reiterate that these numbers need to, somehow, change.
In the written section of the survey, which asked participants how they felt about Hamilton’s hook-up culture, the majority of respondents expressed a desire for more serious dating on the Hill. “I wish it was more of an environment to foster meaningful relationships. It’s more than a little disturbing how mercenary the hookup culture is,” wrote one student. Although, with few students having as much sex as is stereotyped, and many students desiring interactions beyond one-night-stands, the recipe is there for such meaningful relationships to form.
When asked if Hamilton was friendly toward LGBT students finding sex, the responses were mixed. A slight majority said that environment was friendly, with one gay student even declaring that “gay hookup culture is the strongest hookup culture on campus.” Yet, at the same time, many others voiced dissatisfaction with the limited number of partners and “having to do a lot of stealth work” before starting a physical relationship. While it’s clear that certain environments are very friendly towards LGBT students—for instance, the Rocky Horror and Rainbow Alliance parties—Hamilton should work toward fostering a campus where there is not as much cloistering of sexuality.
Of course, we understand that The Spectator’s sex survey suffers from some expected weaknesses: small sample size, self-selecting participants and over-simplified questions. That does not, however, make its results irrelevant. We encourage all our readers to discuss our findings with their friends and to write us a letter if you have more to add. Just remember: “No” ALWAYS means “no,” and if you have sex, keep it safe and make it fun.