Minus the City: Still a Man’s World?

Helen Misiewicz, Assistant Commentary Editor

The advent of hookup culture on college campuses throughout the United States came as a sign of the sexual liberation of young women. For centuries, women had been classified as “prude” and were automatically presumed to have less of a sexual drive than their male counterparts. However, with casual sexual encounters becoming ubiquitous for most young adults in America, women have appeared to reclaim their sexual identities. Once the status of women in society began to elevate, their need to have a man to take care of them began to dwindle. Therefore, drunk, careless and meaningless sexual encounters became the new norm. So, does this mean that when your roommate comes back from her hookup next weekend it’s a sign of her exerting her sexual liberation? Lisa Wade, in her book American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus, seems to challenge the notion that this hookup culture actually liberates, or even benefits, women. 

In her research, Wade followed various groups of students at a wide-ranging number of colleges and universities across the nation. She identified students based on their willingness to engage with the hookup culture on their respective campuses. Throughout her research, she gathered sentiments and opinions about sex from young adults. One finding was striking to me. In her analysis, she finds that young men on college campuses who engage in the hookup culture often exclusively choose women to hook up with based on the reactions they will get from their male friends. This suggests that everyone in college is hooking up for the attention of the male population on their campus. Women carefully evaluate their clothes, makeup and hair in order to radiate the I’m-down-to-hookup-with-you-tonight vibe. The men who then interact with these women, as suggested by Wade, base their decisions to hookup with these women on what men in their social circles will think of the girl. 

Wade interviewed several students who seemed to articulate this concept perfectly. An unnamed student from Dartmouth is quoted for saying, “‘I mean, why do you think it’s called ‘scoring’?… It’s like you’re scoring with women, yeah, but you’re like scoring on the other guys.’” Another male college student, this time from New York University, said, “If a guy hooks up with a girl, he sort of broke down her wall of protection.” The success of winning over a young woman becomes something that can be used to impress his friends with similar interests. Wade summarizes this chapter in her analysis of hookup culture by saying, “As men try to protect their own status within the group by bringing their buddies down, women – who are really just innocent bystanders in this game – get smeared right along with men.” 

This therefore begs the question, how are women being liberated by sexual encounters that are centered around the male perspective? Personally, I like to believe that Colgate students don’t have this mindset. But the hard truth is that there is a large segment of college aged men who do. I think that hookup culture provides significant benefits to women, but it shouldn’t be used as a game among men at any school. Women have been traditionally stereotyped into preserving or concealing their sexual desires for fear of rebuke from others in society. So when a young woman then decides to engage in a sexual encounter, this is somehow attributed to her vulnerability with a man. If hookup culture is going to signify the sexual liberation of young women, then men need to realize that it isn’t a scoring game. It’s a source of pleasure, comfort and excitement for both sexes. 

Contact Helen Misiewat [email protected]