“Did you hook up last night?” This question has been sweeping across college campuses and has started to define the image of a generation. The definitions and effects of the hook-up culture are creeping into daily conversation. Recently, that same conversation came to John Carroll University through a recent event called “Hooked Up” that was designed to create a dialogue about the hook-up culture on campus.
“I think the hook-up culture is a fact. If someone wants to say, ‘No, we don’t have a hook-up culture’ then you are not really in touch,” said the Rev. Donald Cozzens, writer-in-residence of the Department of Theology and Religious studies, as well as professor of the Christian Sexuality course at JCU.
In an unscientific survey conducted by The Carroll News, out of 110 respondents, 53 percent (59 people), said that they had hooked up anywhere from zero to five times, but 50 respondents, or 45 percent, indicated that they believe the average college student has hooked up anywhere from six to 10 times.
According to multiple staff members and students, the perpetuation of the hook-up culture is largely tied into the culture and world people are living in today.
“I think the hook-up culture is unrealistically glamorous. We have movies and celebrities that we emulate and admire, and see people like George Clooney as popular and not committed to anyone but himself,” said Megan Dzurec, coordinator of health education and promotion. “Unfortunately, the perpetuation of the hook-up culture has given us permission to ‘test the waters’ and not be held accountable for any emotional attachment or physical repercussions like STIs.”
Amanda Rolf, coordinator of the Violence Action and Prevention Center, said that while she was not entirely sure what perpetuates the hook-up culture, she thinks that human desire, as well as the perception that it is all just a part of college life, pushes students to engage in the “easier” hook-up culture rather than start a committed relationship with someone.
Students also voiced their opinions on why the hook-up culture seems so prevalent among their classmates and peers, and what their concerns are regarding that prevalence.
“The hook-up culture is a reality of our society. Just think of the reality TV shows we watch, the magazines we read, the movies we consume and the stories we endorse,” said senior Chelsea Neubecker. “People who share hook-up stories with their friends are encouraged to spill the juicy details and some may be mocked if they don’t go far enough with a guy. Unless you’re in a relationship, it’s become common knowledge that you’re most likely hooking up with someone or on the prowl. Guys seem to expect it, and many girls go along with it as a self-esteem boost and as a quick fix for the pesky hormones that ravage our bodies.”
An anonymous source voiced their concern in the comment section of The Carroll News’ unscientific survey, saying that they think the hook-up culture could change the definition of romance and relationships.
“I don’t think JCU hook-up culture is different from any [other] school,” the commenter said. “I do worry that hook-up culture is becoming the culture for romance. People don’t go on dates when they’re interested in each other anymore. Or maybe I’m just not getting asked on them.”
Another anonymous source also used the comment section to say: “It seems to me that I hear of a different person hooking up with someone every weekend or so. I think it is part of our thinking that hooking up is a necessary thing in college, because everyone hears of at least one hook-up all the time. In a way, it’s almost like a necessity in college, or made out to be a necessity.”
One of the biggest challenges that seems to surround the hook-up culture is defining exactly what hooking up actually means.
In the unscientific survey in which respondents could select multiple scenarios about what they view as hooking up, 50 percent of the respondents included sexual intercourse as part of their definition of hooking up. Forty percent included kissing with touching but clothes on. Thirty-one percent included oral sex and 29 percent included kissing with touching and clothes off as part of hooking up.
In regards to actual sexual intercourse [oral, vaginal or anal], the National College Health Assessment of 2013 reported that 77 percent of JCU students had 0-1 different sexual partners in the last year and 11 percent had 1-2 sexual partners in the last year. Forty-four percent said they had oral sex in the last 30 days.
This data indicates that while students may be having sex, they are fairly exclusive when it comes to sexual partners.
Students voiced their irritation at the vagueness surrounding the definition of hooking up through the survey, saying that some people throw around vague words to impress others and that a lot of confusion surrounds discussion of hook-ups because of the varying definitions.
The impact of the hook-up culture on students is something that concerns faculty, staff and students alike.
“I think those engaged in ‘hooking up’ become complacent in obtaining physical pleasure while ignoring the emotional aspect of being intimate with someone else,” said Dzurec. “This isn’t good. Hook-ups are often times meaningless one-nighters, and may be the beginning of a spiral into anything from negative self-worth to high-risk drinking to sexually transmitted infections.”
An anonymous respondent replied through the survey: “I feel as though the JCU student population find themselves emotionally distraught over such hook-ups. Girls rely on hook-ups as emotional moments which, in turn, leads to their insecurities. Guys use hook-ups for name and the game, which turns them into egotistical monsters.”
Rolf said that she thinks that hook-ups impact each student differently.
“What can come out [of] that is feeling pressured to engage in the culture before you really feel ready, or labeling that impacts self-esteem negatively. For example, you might be labeled a prude if you choose not to engage in the hook-up culture or labeled something derogatory if you do choose to engage in the hook-up culture.”
Mary Beth Javorek, director of the University Counseling Center, agreed with Rolf in that individual perceptions influence people’s perception of the hook-up culture.
“So many factors influence an individual’s views and values regarding sexual behavior,” Javorek said. “I suspect some students are quite comfortable with hooking up while others would find it totally unacceptable. But that’s why it’s important to start the dialogue, so people can discern for themselves where they stand on this issue and make choices they are happy with.”
Overall, there is a growing recognition of the emotional and mental implications of the hook-up culture, even though the expectation of a hook-up seems to be that it is just supposed to be a casual sexual encounter.
In questions about what men and women should expect in the day or days following a hook-up, 65 percent of people responded that a woman should expect a text from the guy. 60 percent said that the guy should expect a text from the girl.
“My opinion is that I see a number of people being hurt and what I am learning from my students as well as the research that is being done today is that most women are not very happy with the hook-up culture, but dating seems to be passé, out of the picture and even many guys don’t like it,” said Cozzens.
Dzurec noted that the ease of hooking up and switching partners so readily is causing confusion for young people.
“We can switch partners just as quickly as we try on denim at Macy’s. I think most of us want the perfect relationship in the end, but as someone who got married in my mid-thirties, I can assure you that the hook-up culture only complicates our values and integrity and confuses our hearts.”
Students also responded to the emotional attachments that hook-ups sometimes have.
“Nowadays, people don’t think before they act, or there ends up being emotional attachment on one end when there wasn’t supposed to be,” said an anonymous source in the survey comment section. “A lot of people don’t think it is a big deal and some prefer to hardly know the person.”
“I’ve heard about it happening,” said a different anonymous source. “But for the most part, I think that both males and females on campus are generally rather respectful toward each other and don’t just ‘hook up,’ but rather try to have a more meaningful relationship.”
“Sometimes, it can be easy to forget that a physical relationship can create a strong emotional connection,” said junior Dave Schillero. “This is a connection that should be made between two people who are actually willing to stick with each other, not just bounce from one person to the next. With that being said, I know people make mistakes and I think anybody who tries to act like they are ‘above’ anyone else because of what they do is wrong. We are all flawed in some way shape or form, and our goal should be to help each other improve, not to demonize each other’s social lives.”
Yet another anonymous source approached hook-ups from a more black and white perspective.
“Hooking up shouldn’t be a big deal,” the respondent said. “If you are into it, let it happen. If you are opposed, don’t do it.”
In terms of how the hook-up culture is at JCU, many people pointed out how the small size of the school has impacted the prevalence of the culture.
“For the most part, when you hook up with someone here, it gets around,” said senior Christin Van Atta. “In this way, Carroll and other small schools are different than bigger colleges in that shame and ridicule are a factor in the hook-up culture. At bigger schools, for example, I think girls are more likely to have more hook-up partners because they know that their business probably won’t be advertised to the whole school simply due to sheer size of the student body. At small schools like Carroll though, many girls are likely to have or try to have fewer partners because they fear everyone will know who and what they did when they hooked up by the following morning.”
Rolf also pointed to the small size of JCU, but said that she hopes that people are respectful of others’ decisions should they chose to engage in a hook-up.
Dzurec, like Rolf, noted that the size of campus makes JCU unique.
“We only have one cafeteria,” she said. “The fact that John Carroll is a small University is unique. Students will not be able to avoid their former hook-ups. This is good in the sense that the close-knit environment is hopefully a barrier in making fleeting sexual decisions.”