A Response to: ‘Elephant in the Room’

This article is written in response to an article published last week titled ‘Elephant in the Room: Connections in the Hookup Culture’ and the greater issue of slut shaming. To the author, I do not know you and this is not meant to be an attack. Rather, I would like to point out some of the problematic language and themes in the piece.

The article opens by describing what could (generously) be called a self-made survey that attempts to answer the question: what brings users to Tinder? The author makes the conclusion that most Tinder users are not on the app for “hook-ups,” but to form genuine connections. But this survey lacks clear guidelines or consistent recording of data. It also doesn’t factor in how a user’s bio may influence who chooses to swipe left or right, meaning that if you indicate that you are looking to find friends, a significant other or just someone to fool around with in your bio, it will influence who you are likely to match with. Conclusions were drawn solely on a senior male’s experience on the app.

While the form of reasoning and data collection may be illogical, that is not what concerns me. It is what follows in the author’s description of one interaction with a Tinder match who openly expresses that she is on Tinder to have sex. The woman he writes about is constantly referred to as a girl or more specifically “a poor girl.” The language suggests she is infantile and warrants a man’s pity for her desires. This single case is used to suggest that all sexual desires are merely a need for genuine connection. But what is genuine? Can we only have genuine connection in monogamous, long-term relationships or friendships? Additionally, the focus on female desire and male reaction to female desire is problematic.  

This type of commentary on female sexuality is dated. It suggests women do not know what they want and that they need men to tell them. While the article may not explicitly state it, the language suggests that sexual desire should only be expressed when in a relationship. For some, sex is more satisfying when there is an emotional connection, for others a one-night stand with a stranger is just as satisfying. As long as that sex is consensual, no one has the right to pass judgment on personal preference. This type of commentary is also dangerous because it shames women for expressing their wants and needs. To maintain a healthy sexual climate we all need to feel safe in expressing what we want or do not want. That safety needs to be felt in both one time hook-ups and long-term relationships.

As a student who has been disappointed by the “hook-up” culture at Colgate in the past, I can appreciate expressing dissatisfaction. But that expression should be rooted in one’s own experience and not on what one presumes to be the experience of others. That expression should also be free of judgment because each of us navigates and experiences this culture differently.