The New York Times bestselling author of five books, syndicated advice columnist and relationship expert Harlan Cohen gave a presentation on hookup culture entitled “Getting Naked” in conjunction with the Women’s Center on Tuesday. The lecture focused on how to find the love of your life while fully clothed and totally sober.
Cohen had an interactive approach to his lecture and immediately had his audience engaged. After first coming on stage and bluntly stating that he “didn’t ‘want’ any of the audience members,” Cohen created a lighthearted environment where student viewers were able to openly speak and have their questions about relationships and sex answered.
Upon first entering Packard 101, audience members were given a piece of paper directing them to send Cohen their questions via text message. Cohen then selected questions that he interpreted as thought-provoking and answered them live on stage during the show. The questions varied in content, as the student audience was encouraged to ask questions candidly. Giggles erupted throughout the room as some of the more taboo questions were answered.
Cohen used a dynamic approach to answer some of the questions by asking audience members to raise their hands to get more people involved in the presentation. Hands were raised regarding various topics ranging from if students were currently in relationships or if they would want to go on a date. Students received Cohen well and it seemed as if all in attendance were getting involved.
“I loved how interactive Cohen’s presentation was,” Jennifer Blum, ’17, said. “I especially appreciated how he was really able to involve the group by answering our own questions and by asking specific questions of those who volunteered when a ‘hand-raising’ question was asked.”
Ryan Von Der Fecht, ’16, asked Cohen several questions regarding his relationship history and openness to date again.
“Cohen gave both a very entertaining and interactive speech,” Von Der Fecht, said. “I liked how I was actually a part of the presentation instead of just another audience member. Cohen’s advice to me about being open to new experiences was also very beneficial; I think that a lot of what he said can enhance every college student’s social experience with regard to relationships and sex.”
Toward the end of his set, Cohen elaborated on his purpose for speaking to Lehigh students along with people at other college campuses and around the country.
“The thing that takes up most of our time is dating, relationships, love, and intimacy, but there isn’t a class for young people to take regarding these vital subjects,” said Cohen.
Cohen emphasized how relationships and sex are inevitable and how he wants all young people to grow up feeling confident about their relationships and self-worth.
Cohen used personal anecdotes to help his audience members feel that they were not alone in their insecurities. He then elaborated on the reasoning behind why we as a society are so hesitant about being in a relationship or making a move.
“There are five things we learn between the ages of 13 and 18,” Cohen said. “One: sharing our feelings is stupid (or just a very bad idea); two: we are all defective; three: hooking up is faster and easier than dating because you don’t have to share your feelings; four: it’s all just a bunch of accidents; five: men and women are both rude and couples in love suck.”
Despite the humorous tone with which Cohen stated these five concepts, he made a strong point to show how younger generations are heavily affected by expectations. They are constantly in fear of being let down or not being good enough, which results in unhealthy or casual relationships in an attempt to diminish the chance of feeling insecure.
“We need to figure this all out, but no one teaches us,” Cohen said.
Cohen ultimately provided audience members with an honest, hopeful guide to how to find love with a simple five-step approach.
In step one, Cohen encouraged people to embrace the truth and accept that people will either like or dislike them.
“Most of your life is about wanting people to want you,” Cohen, said. “People need to start focusing on what they want instead. You and your generation must develop the confidence to do what you want and say how you feel.”
Step two, urged individuals to train in their ‘thong’; in other words, to learn to change the things they don’t love about themselves while simultaneously working to love or tolerate the things they can’t change.
“No matter what you have that you think isn’t good enough, someone else will love,” Cohen said.
In step three, Cohen told the audience to stop making excuses, which led to step four, taking risks. The final step was to celebrate, reflect and repeat.
“People need to learn to say it or do it and share their feelings with one another,” Cohen said. “Winning isn’t if the other person replies with ‘yes’ or ‘no’; the fact that you put yourself out there is winning in itself. The act of doing is always good enough.”
Lehigh University’s hookup culture is unique; with a social scene that is dominated by Greek life, students involved in fraternities and sororities primarily socialize together. There are a large number of casual relationships that occur throughout campus, although some students do grow to develop longer-term relationships. Some students are under the impression that Lehigh is not much of a dating school and that being involved in a relationship is a social mistake. Lehigh has notoriously had a random hookup, one-night stand social atmosphere, and Cohen attributes that casual mindset to fear of rejection.
“Most of my young life, I was rejected by women, and I wanted to know how to cope with it,” Cohen said after he finished his presentation. “Between writing an advice column and merely dealing with these everyday obstacles, I learned how to overcome negative feelings associated with rejection. I finally decided to travel to tell people my thoughts and give advice on how to take on relationship issues.”
One specific aspect of the presentation that students seemed to appreciate was the way in which Cohen discussed serious issues and topics while stressing the overarching point of ‘if you can’t handle no, you’re not ready for yes’ in a comfortable manner.
“He appealed to everyone from all situations; in relationships, single and looking for love,” Colby Berman, ’17, said. “It was humorous and informative, a presentation I won’t soon forget.”