The hook-up culture has become such a large topic of conversation in universities that it has been called into question what other parts of students’ lives are impacted by it.
Because JCU is religiously affiliated, students’ religion also impacts the hook-up culture to different degrees.
Fifty-five percent of respondents to the CN’s nonscientific survey said that their religion did not influence their decisions about hooking up, and 69 percent of respondents said that young Catholics were as likely as other young people to hook up.
“It is important to discuss how faith, whether Catholic or not, may play a role in a person’s decision to participate in the hook-up culture,” Amanda Rolf, program coordinator for the Violence Action and Prevention Center, said. “But I also think it would be irresponsible not to provide spaces to talk about it at all just because we are a Catholic campus.”
The Rev. Donald Cozzens,
writer-in-residence for the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, said that he sees a definite disconnect between how students engage in the hook-up culture and what their religious views are.
“When it comes to sex and the hook-up culture, you can have students who are pretty religious seem to say ‘My religion? I just don’t really think about it.’ Sometimes it is because they have had three to five beers or they are pretty wasted and it is hard to make a connection,” said Cozzens. “But, on the other hand, there are Catholics who are very influenced, not so much by moralistic teaching from grade school or high school, but they get it. The gospel says, ‘Don’t turn another person into an object,’ and there is something mysterious about human sexuality and something even spiritual about it. Don’t turn it into a ‘let me get off and I’ll help you get off and we’ll say goodbye.’ I have to say honestly that maybe the church is part of the problem.”
Students voiced their opinions on the connection they see between their religion and the hook-up culture, and some say it does make a difference.
“I believe sex is something God wanted us to wait for in marriage,” said junior Dave Schillero. “Waiting is not something I look at as a burden, but rather a blessing … I think it is important that we recognize the effects of this culture and work towards a lifestyle that leads to treating others and ourselves the way we deserve, which is with love and care. That is the way God intended it.”
Senior Julia Blanchard said that she is planning on waiting until marriage before engaging in sexual intercourse.
“I personally do not know much about the hook-up culture at John Carroll. I know some people who have hooked up, whether with a partner or an acquaintance, but I know many others who, like me, are waiting until marriage. I hope that everyone can find emotional support for whatever situation they are in.”
In response to how religion and the Catholic church plays into students’ sexuality, Cozzens said that there are not really any guidelines for young people looking to navigate the hook-up culture.
“You have young people becoming capable of sexual feelings and desires and behaviors from adolescence, puberty, until they get married. So what the church is saying is that we are expecting you to live like a monk or nun all through high school, all through
college and until you get married. Is
that realistic? Well, if it isn’t realistic, what
kind of guidelines does the church offer
to young people who don’t feel called to be celibate but they do not feel called to fool around casually, they don’t feel compelled to indulge in the hook-up culture?”
Cozzens explained that there needs to be more than the feeling of guilt associated with religious teachings about sex.
“Often, all they hear from the church is that you should feel guilty if you are having sex outside of marriage and that is what I mean by I think the church can contribute to this. Is the church’s theology of human sexuality realistic? Now, I am not trying to say it isn’t but, it is truly countercultural.”
While there are many voices in the discussion about the hook-up culture, there is an overwhelming call for assurance that a dialogue exists about violence in hook-ups.
“Hooking up typically occurs while drinking, and, legally, one cannot give consent if he or she has been drinking or is high,” said Coordinator of Health Education and Promotion in Student Affairs, Megan Dzurec. “If someone is going out drinking with the intention of hooking up, then he or she is putting themselves at risk in numerous ways, including perpetrating a sexual assault.”
Rolf said that while she acknowledges that many hook-ups happen in a consensual way, there are some problems with people using the hook-up culture as a way to minimize their behavior.
“You cannot just assume that someone is going to be OK with something or place the responsibility on them to tell you to stop after you have already violated their body. There always needs to be consent first, every time. If you aren’t sure what they want to do, just ask. That yes also has to be a sober yes. If someone is incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol they automatically cannot consent; they have to be able to make a rational decision and know what is happening to their body,” Rolf said. “There are very few people who commit sexual violence. Only a total creep would try to sleep with someone who is not going to remember it in the morning, but the problem is the people who are willing to do this in the first place do it over and over again. They don’t stop because it is the most underreported crime with only five percent to 10 percent of sexual assaults reported on college campuses, and because too often we as a society are too quick to just accept it as a drunken hook-up.”
“I think that the hook-up culture is dangerously connected to sexual violence,” said Blanchard. “A lot of students don’t understand what sexual violence entails, and they may not realize that a drunken hook-up may actually qualify as rape. Both men and women need to know that, no matter the context or the situation, they have the right to complete freedom over their bodies, and no one should be allowed to violate that.”
Cozzens said that, overall, the first thing students should think about before engaging in a hook-up is what line they are going to cross. Cozzens also hopes that students who are struggling with the religious implications of hook-ups, especially at JCU, know that it is something that should be talked about.
“God knows we are sexual,” said Cozzens. “Sexual desire is not evil. Can people pray before a hook-up? We can pray before anything. I would ask students to not make their sexuality a special compartment. We are living in a very sexually-saturated culture and I am not trying to condemn our culture. It is a mixture of grace and darkness. For the student who would like to negotiate college without getting caught up in the hook-up culture, realize that it is going to be hard to do it by yourself. Realize that you are a good person and that good people hook up.”