A College Commentary: You up?


Annie Henry

The collegiate romance scene can be summed up with three-letter phrases, typically sent between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.

“Hey.” “Wyd?” “Wya?” “U up?”

From dance floor makeouts to getting sexiled to morning walks of shame — or strides of pride — putting young adults in an arena of unsupervised freedom inevitably leads to sexual interaction.

Each college campus becomes a cesspool of hormonal students, with free time on their hands and access to free health center condoms.

The term “hooking up,” meaning casual sexual activities, is not a new idea. It usually involves casual sexual intimacy at parties, dorm rooms, bars, cars — wherever — with the liberating understanding that there is no expectation of a developing relationship.

Nobody really knows how exactly to define “hooking up,” but that seems to be the point. Part of the appeal of the concept is the ambiguity, foregoing details and leaving what actually occurred up to the imagination.

While the definition of hooking up is intentionally vague, the culture around it seems to be abundantly clear. The encounter is casual with absolutely no feelings.

I posit that hookups aren’t the problem. I embrace the idea that care-free sexual connection can have benefits like increased empowerment. However, the idea that all feelings must be avoided seems problematic.

It may not be love, but can’t we be friendly? Civil? Nice?

Why do we treat partners poorly to prove we are string-free?

I wonder why emotionless sex has become the desired norm. We talk about hooking up more, yet enjoy it less.

At a place like Lehigh, full of intelligent students who succeed at what they set out to do, we do not like what we cannot control. So when it comes to dealing with the innate human need for connection, we cut off the uncontrollable variable: emotion.

Booty calls, one-night stands, a simple hookup.

We use these loose terms, tricking ourselves into the mindset that the people behind the terms don’t matter. We want to be “sexually liberated,” asserting we “don’t care about labels” because we just want anything that gives the illusion of a relationship, without the real thing.

I get it. It’s easy and less awkward. Maybe we are too busy with rigorous academics, ambitious leadership positions, clubs and forging our career paths to invest in something serious. Maybe it’s distracting or too much effort. Maybe we just don’t want to settle down.

But to partake in hookup culture, you sign a social contract adhering to its rules.

Hookup culture allows us to achieve the physical intimacy we need without the emotional burden we don’t want to deal with. For the relationship to remain strictly physical, there must be no regard for the other person.

Sex is an act of nature. Each bodily release of dopamine increases the desire for something more. Is squandering emotions for instant gratification and pleasure really worth the uphill battle against nature? Is our fear of potential failure worth the tradeoff of potential happiness that lasts beyond an orgasm?

We play the mind game with ourselves and turn carefree sex into careless sex.

Connection, yet no attachment. All reward, no risk. Avoid, dismiss, ignore.  

Don’t be too friendly, you’ll lead them on. Don’t text back too quickly, you’ll seem too eager. Send that late night text, but when the sun comes up, exercise the Lehigh look away.

We believe if there is no commitment, we cannot get hurt and if we hold no expectation, we can feel no disappointment. A relationship cannot fail if we don’t define it — play the game.

Technology has made communication even more impersonal — swiping, scrolling, snapping and double-tapping.

We hope we are able to swipe right into finding the right person, that our carefully curated Tinder profiles will attract our ideal mate.

But when we match, they become just another line to drop when late-night texting or someone to “Netflix and chill” with.

Students wonder why we cannot find authentic connections with people who are interested in learning about who we are or care for us emotionally.

Our “talking” rarely goes further than messages on a handheld screen. We can’t actually claim friendship with our “friends with benefits.” We wonder why we get screwed over while disregarding the fact that we choose to do the same to others.

If you are truly searching for companionship you must stop surrendering to the game we play. You must give up control, accept the possibility of rejection and embrace vulnerability.

We get so caught up calculating, discussing and following the rules of the game, that it takes away from the enjoyment of hooking up. Hookup culture does not need to be a game, where we are supposedly indifferent while trying to make others feel less cared for.

Compassion does not need to be seen as a weakness because, at the end of the day, everyone has the fundamental need to be loved and nurtured, both platonically and romantically — it’s human nature.

So keep facilitating careless hookup culture, where texting back is losing and looking away is expected. But if you are searching for fulfilling relationships, including hookups, put down the controller, because if we are all seeking to “win” the contest of who cares less, we all lose and just end up lonely together.

Annie Henry, ’18, is a community engagement manager and columnist for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected].

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