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Creating a different sexual culture

Hooking Up

Making healthier intimate connections

The February 11 posted article, The Landscape of Casual Sex, explored campus hookup culture looking at expectations, disrespect, alcohol, the decision to hookup or not hookup, and students advocating for sexual encounters that are safe, respectful, and caring. Establishing healthier attitudes toward sex is critical to supporting the well being of yourself and others on campus. The sexual choices made today can impact you for a lifetime as well as someone else’s. With this in mind, the following suggestions can help you be part of a cultural change toward supporting a healthier sexual climate.

Judging Gets in the Way

Hooking up is not for everyone and does not need to be an expectation of college life. Individuals who choose not to hookup can get pressured into doing something sexual they are not comfortable doing, especially under the influence of alcohol. Additionally, individuals can get excluded from a social circle if they choose not to hook up. Both of these scenarios can negatively impact a person physically and emotionally. Respecting and supporting someone’s choice to not hookup provides a healthier alternative and can bring more diversity of thought into your social circle.

Conversely, it’s important for individuals who do not hookup to not judge those that do choose to hookup. Providing support by reminding them to be safe, respectful, caring, and recognizing red flags are far more productive and helpful to the individual hooking up than judging them.

Sober Satisfaction

Hooking up sober allows you to be intentional, conscious of your choices, and able to effectively communicate with one another, including intimate conversation, non-verbal cues, preferences, and boundaries. Being sober can also provide for increased mutual satisfaction. If alcohol is part of the picture, keep it to one beer or a glass of wine so you are still in the realm of consciousness when hooking up. Do know where your drink is coming from when consuming alcohol. It’s best to get your own. If at a bar, watch the bartender preparing your drink. Overall, sealed drinks you open are the safest choice of alcohol.

The Raising of Red Flags

Any of the below scenarios on their own or in combination is a red flag letting you know to avoid further interaction with this person. If you are a bystander observing any of these behaviors targeted at another person, intervene if safe to do so, or get help. Bottom line, trust your gut. Wolves can hide in sheep’s clothing.

  • Bringing you drinks
  • Cannot communicate effectively
  • Does not respect verbal or non-verbal cues
  • Trying to coerce you in any way
  • Verbally toxic
  • Aggressive physical behavior

The Body Commodity

Hookup culture can cultivate a norm where partners are seen as commodities, a body to acquire and use for personal pleasure often under the influence of copious amounts of alcohol. This norm removes the humanity out of the hookup experience and sets the stage for not being safe, caring, or respectful. Think about what it may be like to be treated as a commodity. Is it really healthy for you or your partner? Is this something you would do if you were sober? Each person who makes the choice to hookup is a human being and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Give yourself permission to kick the norm of transactional sex and care about the well being of your hookup partner. You are likely to discover a vulnerable person just like yourself hiding in that body.

The Deserving Attitude

There can be an attitude among college students if someone is drunk and experiences nonconsensual sex that they should have known better or deserved it. Away from the restrictions and guidance of parents at home, college life opens up independent exploration for better or worse.  Additionally, at varying degrees everyone is subject to getting caught up in what they think they should be doing, trying to fit it into social circles, and caving into peer pressure. Often, each of these scenarios can lead to unhealthy choices by anyone. However, it does not make them less deserving of respect or caring. Instead, be someone who steps in and helps this person avoid what would likely be a nonconsensual sex situation. No one is entitled to take advantage of a person because they placed themselves in a risky situation.

Rejection and Projection

Sexual rejection can be difficult for individuals, which can sometimes lead to projection of aggressive behaviors toward the person who rejected you. Hookup rejection does not have to be a negative experience. Maybe it is the best thing that could happen by preventing a regretful and hurtful situation. No one is obligated to hookup with you. Not forcing a situation can sometimes open the door for someone who wants to hook up with you, resulting in a more mutually satisfying experience.

Communication is Key

Communicate, communicate, and communicate! Not many college students put communication to work. Why? It can be uncomfortable to talk about sex. It can take years even for many relationally committed adults to realize communication about desires, needs, and boundaries can enhance mutual satisfaction. Communication also helps reduce power imbalances between partners (economic status, older, being bought dinner, being at their place) which is essential for a trusting sexual experience. The communication needs to be ongoing from the start of an enthusiastic “yes” and every step of the way thereafter. It doesn’t need to be mechanical ruining the mood, but rather caring and simply checking in with your partner along the way to ensure their comfort and satisfaction. Asking questions is a great way to show you care and establishes mutually agreed upon expectations. Questions could include:

  • What are your expectations?
  • What are your boundaries?
  • What sexual activities do you like?
  • Are you okay with this?
  • How do you feel?

Always let your partner know it is okay to change their mind along the way about doing something. What might be initially intriguing doesn’t always match up with reality.

Savvy Sex

Unprotected sex is still a problem on college campuses spreading STI’s and sometimes resulting in pregnancy. STI’s can be contracted whether oral or penetration. It’s a good idea to bring your own protection and to keep it in a jacket pocket, purse, or bag where it won’t get warm and potentially damaged.

Be aware of the body language of your partner and respect it. Sometimes it’s easier to convey communication non-verbally by the guiding toward or away of a hand than it is to verbally express a like or dislike. Hooking up does not have to result in sexual intercourse. There are other means of sharing intimacy with one another.

Hookup for the Right Reasons

Bad hookup experiences can make for regrets and emotional scarring negatively impacting future romantic relationships. Who wants to be responsible for that? Some college students say, “it’s not a big deal”, but for the person on the other side, it is. If you are a person who chooses to hookup, stand strong in being safe, savvy, caring, and respectful about it. Let others know it’s not okay to do otherwise. If you are a person who doesn’t like hooking up, free yourself from that obligation. Doing things that don’t align with who you are can result in more harm than good.

Taking it to the Next Level

Every student on this campus and person in our community is part of the Redbird family. The very core of being a Redbird is respect. It’s up to you to as a Redbird to be the voice, the example, and the action in creating a healthier sexual campus climate. No one else can do it better than you.