College students have sex, and everyone has an opinion about it.
It’s true. Just Google “hookup culture,” and you’ll quickly find that students have been under close observation for years. Countless news stories bemoan the “end of courtship,” suggest that casual sex disproportionately hurts women or try to convince us that millennials are undergoing a sexual revolution. Others insist that college hookup culture simply isn’t real.
That’s fine. Members of Generation X are welcome to sit back with their clipboards and nervously bite their nails as they wait for us to ruin society with our sexual promiscuity.
We should be making the decisions about our own lives, especially when it comes to what we’re doing in the bedroom (or in any number of interesting hookup locations). Pressure from friends and adults shouldn’t matter: We can decide how much we participate in hookup culture, if at all. We can decide who we want to fall in love with, if anyone. And we can decide how much sex we want to have, if any. As Valentine’s Day approaches, we should keep this in mind and not buckle under the pressure we might feel this time of year.
But not everyone agrees that we should be making our own choices. For as private and personal as our sex lives should be, there are always third parties telling us what we should be doing.
We’ve all felt the pressure from family members at one point or another. Everyone from parents to cousins hint that it’s time to get a boyfriend or girlfriend, and if they even have the slightest suspicion you might have someone in your life, they’re all over it.
And even though studies show that our parents had just as much sex in college as we do – gross, I know – they were more often doing it with a monogamous partner, whereas we’re more likely to hook up casually. That’s probably connected to the rise in the average marriage age, but it likely doesn’t sit well with some members of older generations.
Adults aren’t the only ones who try to influence our sex lives. Our peers put pressure on us every day, and we even put pressure on ourselves.
If the numbers are accurate – though it’s hard for me to believe that survey participants are really being honest about their hookups – and students only have casual sex with an average of two different partners each year, then hookup culture isn’t as prevalent as we think.
We’ve convinced ourselves that people we know are going out and getting laid every weekend, and our fear of missing out makes us feel like we should be, too. Plus, the popularization of apps like Tinder and Grindr only fuel the pressure to have casual sex.
In reality, things aren’t that simple. In fact, what’s going on inside college students’ heads is shocking.
More than 60 percent of college-aged men and 80 percent of college-aged women say they would prefer a traditional romantic relationship over an uncommitted sexual relationship, according to a 2010 study. Similarly, a 2011 study found that 65 percent of women and 45 percent of men hope a hookup will turn into a committed relationship.
I don’t know about you, but this sounds like the opposite of everything I’ve ever heard about sex in college. I have few friends who are publicly pining for a boyfriend or girlfriend, and in fact, I can count on one hand the number of people I know who are in relationships.
So, what do college students want? Do we want to be in relationships? Do we want to have casual sex? Do we want something else altogether?
The good news is, we don’t all have to want the same thing – even if we’re seen by adults, and by ourselves, as a group with the same sexual preferences and desires. We all can and should choose sexual activities and relationships that work for us as individuals.
Don’t listen to your parents. Don’t listen to your friends. Listen to yourself – seriously. Try your hardest to let go of the expectations of others.
If you want to hook up with a new Tinder match each weekend, go for it. If friends with benefits is more your style, that’s awesome. And if you decide you’re looking for a relationship, don’t let hookup culture bully you into avoiding asking someone on – gasp – a date.
I started 2014 with a breakup. My two-year relationship ended, and at first I expected to be miserable without a boyfriend. I was also hesitant, to say the least, to participate in hookup culture because I had never been single in college. Over the past year, though, I’ve discovered that I’m perfectly happy in other arrangements. I might change my mind, but that’s OK, too, because I have time to figure it out.
We’re in college. It’s cliché, but this is the time to find ourselves before we go out into the real world. Now is the time to explore your sexuality, find out what you want your sex life to look like or even find someone you love.
Do whatever you want – as long as it’s consensual and safe – and do it now. Or don’t. It’s your sex life. It’s up to you.
Sarah Blugis, a junior in political communication is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.