Popular culture often portrays college as a hotbed of hookups, a place to explore sexuality to its fullest. But a fulfilling sex life doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone.
While one-night stands and casual hookups work for some, others look for monogamy or a committed relationship. Jenna Beckwith, the university’s sexual health education program coordinator, said different people feel comfortable expressing their sexuality in different ways, and none of these is more correct than another.
“I support wherever students feel positive in their sexual experiences, whether they are hooking up or not,” Beckwith said.
According to a 2012 American College Health Association survey, 31.6 percent of this university’s students had no vaginal, anal or oral sex during the year, while 45.4 percent had been with one partner and 5.5 percent had five or more partners.
Senior anthropology and biology major Lauren Rose, who is in a relationship, said before she was ready for that level of commitment, having casual hookup partners was a good alternative. She said relationships take a lot of time and energy, so with hookups, she could have fun without making a personal investment.
Rather than going for a one-night stand, Rose said she would usually hook up with a friend. She said it was a good idea to be with someone she knew and trusted so they could openly discuss how many partners they’d had or whether they’d been tested for sexually transmitted infections.
Even though it may feel awkward to ask those personal questions before a hookup, the consequences of not asking — such as STIs or unwanted pregnancies — will be more awkward, Beckwith said. Rose added that if these subjects feel difficult to talk discuss, a physical relationship might not be the best decision anyway.
Senior biology major Emily Wagner said the risks of STIs are “scary” but should not necessarily prevent students from hooking up.
“People should have freedom [to hook up], but be respectful about it. It’s a gamble with your personal health,” Wagner said.
Junior computer science major Dan Gallagher said students should find a “sweet spot” for how many partners they have. He said many students want many sexual partners but want potential partners to have a shorter history.
Elise Arao, a senior studio art major, said she thought numbers are more important to men than women, but women tend to take attractiveness into account more often when deciding to hook up with someone.
“In terms of biology, guys are supposed to sleep with everything to get their seed out and procreate, but women focus on attributes for their children,” she said.
Sophomore economics major Robert Muir said numbers are not as important as having a good time. He said there are plenty of hookup opportunities in college for those who are looking, but this could change after graduation.
“The second you get out of college, you have a job and actual responsibilities, so there’s not as much time,” Muir said.
Rose added that she’s noticed fellow seniors trying to hook up more in their final year in school because it’s their last year to “do whatever they want.” She expects that after graduation, people will start taking relationships more seriously and having more long-term relationships.
Wagner said she has already seen older students begin taking relationships seriously.
“People panic that they’re going to be alone,” Wagner said. “They think they’ll have to do online dating if they don’t find someone now.”
Fear of being alone and pressure from others are not good motives for hooking up, Arao said. She encouraged students to establish their own value systems without the influence of peer pressure.
“A lot of people are prone to hooking up because they have low self-esteem and think hooking up with other people is one more way of fitting in,” she said.
The high density of young people on and around the campus makes it easy for people to find hookup partners, Gallagher said. The prevalent party scene is one place in which students find hookup opportunities. Arao said students are more likely to agree to have sex if under the influence of alcohol, but they might regret these decisions in the morning.
Beckwith added that any drunken hookup is illegal, as intoxicated people cannot legally give consent. She said judging whether a person is sober enough to give consent can be difficult, and no one can assume the other person will agree, even if the students have had sex with each other before. If they have sex while drunk, students should be aware of the potential consequences if their partners later deem the intercourse nonconsensual, she said.