Elephant in the Room: Connections in Hookup Culture

Brett Goldberg

A couple weeks ago, I asked a girl in our introductory Tinder conversation what brought her to the app. Now, there are usually three responses to this question. Number one: I don’t do hookups. Number two: I’m here to meet people. I could use more friends. We can see where things go, but I am really just looking for a genuine connection. Number three: Hookups. I ask the question to make a mindless social app interesting. Also, the answers to the question are mentally tallied somewhere in my mind. Surprisingly, or not so much, people have rarely answered with number three, one of those occasions being a couple weeks ago. She thought her only possible answer was hookups, and when I asked for an explanation (because I like to make things difficult), she said “what else is this app for?”

She immediately asked me for sex. Some people might have jumped and soared in this scenario, but I immediately became upset for her. I realize Tinder is known as a hookup app, and that many people use that fact to their advantage, but as a person who enjoys forming genuine connections with people, I kept asking this poor girl more questions. Acting like I did not hear her, she repeated: I want to have sex. I agreed to meet her, but did not acquiesce to her wish.

We met up, but just hung out, no sex included. I enjoyed meeting someone new, but did not feel any spark that would induce me to ask her out, so I let her know through text in a nice, polite, politically correct way. About a week ago, she texted me again, my last text to her still fresh in the mind. She wanted to meet again. She shyly admitted that she was new to the “hookup culture.” I responded with another polite “no,” but she still walked to my dorm. I repeated my response, as I did not want to lead her on. I did not want to feign interest. Now, my actions may sound weird or mean, but I know what it is like to be led on, to be drawn into a romantic web that either turns out to be very platonic or a space of nothingness.

It seemed to me that this girl used sex as a mask to hide her longing for a genuine connection. This misattribution of arousal that we think is equated with sex is in fact related to our deep yearning for intimacy with people we want to be able to deal with when sober. Wanting sex is not a bad thing; I’m merely insisting that hidden underneath her wish is a need for a genuine connection. We want people to be there for us, to ask about us, to be interested in us. When we find a partner, we want that closeness to turn into an intimacy that will mean something because the people involved care deeply for each other.

The college buddy-buddy atmosphere promotes the hookup culture. We want the proverbial pat on the back that is the result of telling friends about our latest conquest. We want to be accepted, and this role is the major function provided by hookups. The hookup partner acts as a human security blanket, and for the duration of the encounter, we feel good and secure and confident. But, when the hookup is over, a feeling of regret and intense isolation ensues. Our response? Text the hookup back and schedule another session. Instead of realizing their need for a genuine, meaningful interpersonal interaction, people use hookups as protection against loneliness. But, what does it feel like when that person is gone? Awful, because we have groomed ourselves into depending on people with whom we have no interest in learning about.

Disclaimer: I do not mean to place all students into this category. Among friends back home and at Colgate, I have witnessed a growing trend in this mindset. I have found that as students progress through Colgate, some realize they want something worthwhile. Some do not. Hookups do have

potential for good. Sometimes hookups facilitate genuine, lasting connections.