The question of what women want is an elusive one. For hundreds of years, men and women have been trying to figure this out to no avail. But, there is a recent development in this debate. Apparently, the Colgate administration has us all figured it out.
In every discussion of the “hook-up culture” on this campus, I am constantly told what I want. As Colgate sees it, the hook-up culture sets up men as the oppressors and women as the victims. Men designed the hook-up culture and women put up with it because we have no other choice. As women on this campus, we have casual hook-ups and then sit in our rooms and cry when we don’t receive a marriage proposal and examples of wedding china patterns the next day. On the other side, men hate relationships. They simply want to hook up with as many different women as possible and are emotionless sex-driven robots. As much as I tend to be a bit cynical when talking about relationships, even I cannot buy into this dichotomy. Discussions of the hook-up culture simply fall back on the same gender stereotypes the university is trying to get us to look past. It also excludes the presence of LGBTQ individuals who also participate in this hook-up culture.
As a female student here, I am trusted to make a lot of decisions. All by myself, I have chosen my majors, joined student organizations and I even make my own lunch everyday. A Colgate administrator once said to my friend, “I don’t understand why on a women-dominated campus, girls just bend to the wills of boys. It doesn’t make sense.” While just like the male students, we are trusted to be an equal and independent part of this campus community, this excludes our choices when it comes to relationships. The thought, apparently, that women on this campus are smart, articulate and capable of making our own decisions has simply never crossed anyone’s mind. Instead, as the university sees it, we hide what we truly want and participate in a hook-up culture that makes us miserable.
I don’t believe that the university has bad intentions, instead their conceptions of the hook-up culture is simply a form of benevolent paternalism. By telling us what we want, they are trying to protect us. While there are real dangers to the hook-up culture (if you have sex, you will get pregnant and DIE!), the one that most people are concerned about when it comes to girls is hurt feelings. This is a real concern. Even if two people agree to keep things “casual,” all too often feelings change and one person ends up disappointed. However, the person with the hurt feelings isn’t always a girl and the person who stops returning those texts isn’t always a boy. Yet, a culture where we “bring back the date” and decide to be in a relationship doesn’t end hurt feelings. For me, someone you are in a relationship with telling you that they don’t want anything to do with you causes much more hurt feelings than a random boy not returning a text message.
There are women on this campus who would like to be in a committed, serious relationship and graduate college with a degree and an engagement ring. There are also women on this campus who would like to have sex with as many people as possible before we get too old for this to be socially acceptable. There are men in these positions as well. However, I would bet that most of us fall somewhere in between.
I think before we can have an important discussion about the state of relationships on this campus we need to put aside these antiquated gender dichotomies. The fact is, we have a hook-up culture because both men and women are willing participants in it. Some are happy with it and some aren’t. Why does it continue? Maybe it’s because we are afraid of the real responsibility of being in a relationship and want to put off growing up as much as possible. Maybe it’s because places like the Jug are not really conducive to “dates.” I don’t have the answer, but I think we have a long way to go before we can begin the discussion.