College is usually considered a time for young adults to explore their freedom and possibly attend a few classes in the process. When I look back on my own college years on the Raritan River in New Jersey, I didn’t do much exploring, but there was that one time I got drunk off of Mad Dog, Boones Farm and E & J and fell down a flight of steps. When it came to sex, I didn’t lose my virginity to a random drunken moment of passion, but to a long term boyfriend. Participating in what some are now referring to as the hook-up culture that’s prevalent on college campuses just wasn’t something I was interested in.
A recent NY Times article described the hook-up culture that has emerged on college campuses, but isn’t being spearheaded by the men, but by women. The women written about in the article are all described as Ivy Leaguers from University of Pennsylvania who are, “driven young women, many of whom aspire to be doctors, lawyers, politicians, bankers or corporate executives like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg or Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer”.
One student, who remained anonymous, wasn’t worried about the number of hook-ups she’ll have by the time she finishes college:
“I definitely wouldn’t say I’ve regretted any of my one-night stands,” she said.
“I’m a true feminist,” she added. “I’m a strong woman. I know what I want.”
At the same time, she didn’t want the number of people she had slept with printed, and she said it was important to her to keep her sexual life separate from her image as a leader at Penn.
“Ten years from now, no one will remember — I will not remember — who I have slept with,” A. said. “But I will remember, like, my transcript, because it’s still there. I will remember what I did. I will remember my accomplishments and places my name is hung on campus.”
Not everyone is like this anonymous Penn student and believes in the hook-up culture. According to a recent study, only 14 percent of students hookup more than 10 times in four years and these students are more likely than others to be white, wealthy, heterosexual, able-bodied, and conventionally attractive.
Where does that leave black students? Needless to say, probably not running around campus humping and getting humped by every Rakeem, LaKeisha & Harold.
African-American students are less likely to hook up than white students. Sociological studies suggest that lingering racism plays a part: Black people have been traditionally stereotyped as hypersexual (trigger warning: see the “jezebel” and “mandingo” stereotypes). So, for black men and women, embracing sexual freedom can bring individual rewards, but also risks affirming harmful beliefs about African-Americans. In response, some black people feel the need to perform a politics of respectability. Rashawn Ray and Jason Rosow, for example, in a comparison of black and white fraternities, found that black men’s resistance to negative racial stereotypes sometimes involved being “good” and following mainstream social norms of appearance and behavior.
There are other, more practical reasons as well. Unpublished research led by USC graduate student Jess Butler, whose dissertation addressed hookup culture, suggests that there may be a separate African-American hookup scene on some colleges. However, hookup scenes often revolve around fraternity houses and, because of historic and ongoing economic inequality,black fraternities are less likely to have houses. Meanwhile, in general, black students are more strongly in favor of gender equality and drinkless alcohol than whites. Neither of these facts facilitate hookup scripts.
In my college years, I saw plenty of black women on campus getting the scarlet letter of being labeled “ho”, as well as, other women being careful not to receive such a label or reputation on campus. Where white people may applaud their counterparts for being “sexually” free, I didn’t see anything like that happen in my college circles. You were pretty much shamed if your business got put out on front street that you were ‘easy’.
If you’re in the 30’s, like I am, your first mainstream exposure to the antics of black students on a college campus came from watching “A Different World”. Although the campus setting was a historically black college, and not a predominately white institution, Bill Cosby seemed to make a conscientious effort not to portray a sex filled campus, but one where people were in relationships and not randomly hooking up with others. Now in the real world, stories I heard from friends attending HBCUs made it clear, that sure there was a lot of hooking up going on, but people were discrete. Once again, probably because people didn’t want to be labeled negatively.
Is there anything wrong with the hook-up culture? Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. Who am I to judge? But I do hope these students participating in extra-curricular sex are protecting themselves.
What’s your opinion on the hook-up culture on college campuses? Are people making a big deal about nothing?