The demise of chivalry and its “hook up” replacement
It’s easy to note the generational differences between students of today and their parents; going to college is harder, the job market is less than desirable and the prevalence of technology is inescapable. But we also differ from our parents in other ways, specifically the way in which we interact with our peers. This means relationships — or lack thereof.
While “going steady,” was at one time the common term to describe student relationships, now the phrase “hooking up” has run just as rampant as the activity itself. When did dating become archaic and obsolete? Why has our generation accepted hooking up as the norm rather than the exception?
Although we may hear about our friend’s antics last weekend, or have seen every teen movie about college, hooking up isn’t actually as prevalent as we may think it to be.
According to research collected by Lisa Wade, assistant professor of sociology at Occidental College, only 15 percent of students will “hook up” ten or more times in college, and 25 percent will never hook up at all. In fact, it is mostly due to the “hook up culture” stereotype that college students arrive at college expecting to hook up.
“The mass media presents college as a place where an extraordinary amount of sex is happening … and what we tend to see is that a lot of first year students are more likely to hook up than second years students and so on,” Wade said. “It’s really that first year when students come on to campus naïve and with a lot of misconceptions about what college is about.”
Ithaca College senior Marq Bittarelli agreed that hooking up isn’t indicative of all college students, particularly upperclassmen.
“I think it’s pretty passé to hook up nonchalantly,” he said. “It seems like that was so freshman and sophomore year. I guess I’d say I got it out of my system. I don’t see it the same way I used to. I think now I’d prefer to date actually.”
So if hooking up isn’t as pervasive as one would think, then why are students doing it? According to Wade’s research, students hook up intending to get three things out of their casual relationships: pleasure, meaningfulness or empowerment. But most of her students reported being dissatisfied with their hook ups. Students are heading into these kinds of relationships with the expectation that they will get something beneficial out of it, but don’t.
But if students aren’t achieving their desires, then why bother hooking up? Rebecca Plante, associate professor of sociology and planned studies coordinator at Ithaca College, believes that the popularity of hooking up could be connected to the rise of social media.
“There is this sense that everyone is doing it, or the appearance of social acceptability that the way to conceptualize my intimate life is without privacy,” she said. “The way that I conceptualize it is that it’s totally public, so when I hook up with someone, it goes on Facebook, or when I hook-up with someone I immediately text someone about it. So at three in the morning I’m walking back from wherever, and I’m managing seventeen texts from people asking me ‘OMG, who, what, tell tell!’”
Bittarelli agreed with Plante’s belief that technology is related to the expediency factor that is intrinsic to hooking up.
“Texting certainly changed the game,” he said. “You don’t even need to talk with someone really to hook up with them. Once you get someone’s number — I’ve actually done this plenty of times myself — you text someone and you head over, and you proceed to hook up. I’d say there really is a loss of communication.”
So while an ease in communication, among other factors, contributes to students’ decisions to hook up, it cannot be denied that this new take on relationships is playing a significant role in 20-somethings lives. The question is not how we should stop this behavior, but rather look at how it impacts the lives of students. Although it frequently ends in confusion and hurt feelings, perhaps as Plante said, we can begin to revaluate how we hook up with each other.
“I think, though it may not seem this way, that people learn how necessary it is to respect one another,” she said. “Because there is a lot of actual disrespect that hooking up engenders, like people hook up and the next day one person acts like the other person is invisible, and someone gets hurt. We can make the mistake in thinking that sex with respect is what married people do.”
If we can change the hook up game, as Plante says, and learn to respect each other as well as ourselves, perhaps we’ll begin to figure out a few things by the time were 30- or 40-somethings.
Jenni Zellner is a junior English major who thinks a polyamorous lifestyle is a viable option. Email her at jzellne1[at]ithaca[dot]edu.