notes from #le_youth

Hi there, Olivia here, Quim intern and the unofficial voice of the youth in the office.  As we enter the season of dorms reopening, emotional sendoffs, and the stress of all night paper writing and showing up to class, I’m reflecting on another invasive, universal part of college: the pressure of hookup culture. 

“Hookup culture”, as cliche as it has become, consists of casual sex, one night stands, and above all, avoiding commitment. Strings of casual encounters likely without any regard for a deeper meaning or bonding between partners. As someone who’s lived in this culture and participated in it, this take is based on what I know and the experiences of my friends -- I’m not claiming to know any more about hookup culture than the next person, in fact sometimes it feels like I know literally nothing. 

While packing up boxes and spending extra quality time with my dog (and family), I’m looking forward to my last year of college with all the drunken house parties, 4 am diner trips, and Sunday Scaries to come. It feels like I’m constantly going back and forth, back and forth, from my parent’s house to a dorm, from class to class, weekend to weekend and semester to semester. Our lives are in constant flux and the ever-changing scenarios of my life have become routine. It’s a privilege to experience, and I haven’t come across a single adult without nostalgia for ~the college years.~ Ah, youth is wasted on the young, isn’t it?
It’s a formative period, for sure. I’ve spent the past three or so years growing exponentially as a person, creating new friendships, and exploring new slivers of autonomy, including sexual autonomy. In this transition of the sun setting on my youth and rising on my adulthood, I grew to understand the fundamental differences between the constant observation of high school and the freedom of college. After ditching the old high school boyfriend, I was a new gal staying out too late and ending up in other people’s beds. 

And so hookup culture was normalized for me, as a form of sexual expression, celebrating sex-positivity. Hookup culture can be sexually empowering, and many people feel that way, as I did and honestly sometimes still do. There’s something to be said about throwing off some old taboos and sticking it to the man with your sexual freedoms. Yet, sometimes it feels like a knock-off version of sex positivity because hookup culture can be wildly unfulfilling, especially for people with vaginas trying to get their rocks off. Under-communication is already an issue in the bedroom, nevermind with someone you just met, and so the pleasure scale is uncalibrated further in a culture of porn.

More so, people tend to exaggerate their ability to cut off their emotions and disconnect with their partners. This phenomenon of care complexes brings us further away from connecting with sex itself, and sets up a teetering balance between how we’re supposed to feel versus how we feel. Normalizing not caring about people is a slippery slope, IMO. We’re human! It’s ok to feel things! And feeling those things can bring you closer to yourself.

Earlier I said I sometimes feel like I know literally nothing, and that’s still true. I don’t have a grand answer to the issue of hookup culture and its highs and lows - and I didn’t promise you one! Everyone’s experiences are different, and only #youknow. Within every group of people, be that friend circle, university, or beyond, there will always be a range of experiences, and that applies within hookup culture as well. But from more dialogue we can build a stronger community and begin to practice using our voices. I’ve found it so important to talk about sex on a college campus because we’re all thrown together from various backgrounds and various degrees of sex ed into an unsupervised and free environment that fosters this hookup culture. We should be talking it out and using that level of credibility that comes from our peers and the support system that talking creates. Lean on each other.

We don’t have to walk this road alone, we have each other and we’ll continue to try try again. Learn to speak up for our sexual pleasure, be compassionate to others and more importantly ourselves. Dance, fuck, cry, vent, it’s all okay. Sometimes we want to lay down and not get up for a while, and sometimes we just want to DFMO. It’s all okay.




Rachel Washtien