Imagine this: A notification pops up when you sign into Facebook saying you’ve been tagged in 12 pictures. When you look, it’s pictures of you hooking up on a couch, beer in hand.
A hook up can be characterized as either a sexual triumph or an embarrassing moment. Either way, it won’t be kept quiet for long.
The term hooking up may mean different things to different people, but associate professor of sociology and human development Stacy Silver uses one standard academic definition: a sexual encounter of any kind (ranging from kissing to intercourse) with someone you are not dating.
But don’t confuse a hook up with a one-night-stand. A hook up is not a singular, random moment like a one-night-stand. It’s usually a person you knew or will talk to again. A hook up is also not necessarily sex, when a one-night-stand is.
By society’s standards, “good” women aren’t supposed to hook up; it’s odd for men not to. Many men high-five in celebration, while women are seen as sleazy.
A handful of cultural factors contribute to the world of laissez-faire sexual encounters for all, according to Silver. To name a few:
1. At many American colleges, students are given little supervision over visitors or overnight guests. Also, more students live full time on-campus. In contrast, fewer people in countries like Italy and Spain attend college, fewer live on-campus and the gender ideologies of the countries are more traditional — therefore fewer students engage in hook ups.
2. Birth control pills have become more widely available, lessening the risk of pregnancy in hook ups that include sex.
3. The Sexual Revolution opened the door for more casual relationships by questioning ideas like monogamy and the idea that women should be more modest than men.
4. People are getting married at later ages, and fewer people expect to find their future spouse in college, creating a more casual attitude toward sexual involvement.
But the feeling of freedom doesn’t always last after graduation.
“After college, when people are more surrounded by strangers and feel less safe, and when they are looking more seriously for a spouse, hooking up decreases,” Silver said.
In a survey taken by Silver in her fall 2010 and spring 2011 SOC 030 (Sociology of the Family) classes, 45 percent of 412 students surveyed said they hook up, and 55 percent never did or had stopped. When her male and female students were asked why they don’t hook up, there was one major difference: Women said they thought they would be “seen as slutty” and wanted to avoid “walk[s] of shame.”
Both women and men reported feeling “dirty” and “guilty” after they hooked up, and Silver argued that these feelings are learned because our culture gives us strong and clear messages about how we should feel about sexuality.
The ridicule women receive after hooking up comes from both men and women, according to Silver. Women judge each other for hooking up just as much, or perhaps more harshly than men, she said.
So, I have to wonder: How can we ask men to think of us as equals when we don’t treat our fellow females with respect?
This lack of respect was shown in Paula England and Reuben J. Thomas’ study of the hook up. In their survey, 37 percent of men said they lost respect for their partner after hooking up, compared to 27 percent of women. 51 percent of women said they felt less respected by their partner post-hook up, compared to only 25 percent of men.
“Men gain status from talking to other men about their exploits,” England and Thomas wrote. The same was not said for the women who got bad reputations.
Why are the moral codes for hooking up stricter for a woman than a man? Silver’s study proved men and women both do it, so why does the hammer come down harder on women?
This is a double standard that I’ve experienced as well. I’ve been judged for my actions. We need to support each other, not put each other down. Neither you nor I have any right to judge another person for their choices. And as women, it’s ridiculous that we’re treating each other so poorly.
Don’t ever feel guilty for having a little fun. Life is about living your own life, not about pleasing others. If you are safe and happy then what more do you need? Forget that society’s attitudes need to catch up with our actions.
People can say whatever they want, but it’s how we feel inside that’s important. If you love yourself and are surrounded by people who care about you, then it won’t matter. Just laugh when the frat boy you hooked up with chest bumps his brother. Be the bigger and better person. Be confident.
Kristina Helfer is a junior majoring in English and Spanish. She is The Daily Collegian’s Thursday columnist for the Collegian’s sex column, Mounting Nittany. Email her at email@example.com.