In late September, I sat with one of my freshman teammates over dinner as she told me of her latest escapades. Winding down, a stern look fell upon her face and she asked me “When I hook up with guys in college, why does it feel like they automatically have all the power?”. My heart sank at the reality that she had not even been here one month and had already had experiences that made her recognize the subordinating power structures that lie within college campus hook-up culture. In a perfect world, young women would be free to engage in casual sex that is safe, respectful, and empowering. Nonetheless, hook-up culture does not occur in a vacuum, and no matter how sex-positive and empowered you are, it often does not come without consequences. In my time in college, I’ve learned that there is no better place for sexism to rear its ugly head than in a culture of casual sexual relations, or what we call hook-up culture. I’ve had a plethora of terrible experiences with men, many for which I’ve excused, and many that I have in common with other women here. This year (under the intense pressure of my best friends), I vowed to not make excuses for men who have not treated me as I deserve. I hope to use my stories to shine light on the sexism that occurs in hook-up culture, to normalize discourse about casual sex, especially for young women, and of course, for a good laugh.
The Golden Key
I was lying in bed with who I’ll call Tommy, discussing our history at school with romantic and sexual partners. He promptly inquired as to what my body count was, and I laughed and retorted that body count is a regulatory mechanism to suppress and shame female sexuality. Nonetheless, in the spirit of sex-positivity and empowerment, I felt I had nothing to be ashamed of and shared it with him. Tommy looked at me with disgust and informed that mine was higher than his, before nearly yelling at me, “why didn’t you tell me?”. I responded to him saying that it was truly none of his business, and all that mattered was that relations were safe and consensual. Huffing and puffing, he brilliantly informed me that “You don’t want a lock that will open with any key”. I quickly learned that this guy might just be too smart for me, so I promptly kicked him out of my room. Today, I thank Tommy for teaching me the extent to which sexual double standards are still alive and kicking as well as how keys work.
The Three-Hit Wonder
One fine Saturday at Shooters, I ran who I’ll call Chad, who I had been hooking up with as of late. Shooting my shot, I asked him if he wanted to hang out later. He looked at me apprehensively, gave me a “maybe”, and walked away. I few hours later we were sitting on his couch and I asked why he’d acted so strange earlier. He then clued me in on a little secret. Smirking, he told me “I don’t tend to hook up with girls more than three times. After that, girls want to date.” First, I thanked him for letting me know, since I had no idea that’s how I felt. He explained to me that “Since you’re not in a sorority, you’re more chill with keeping it casual”. From Chad, I learned that it’s possible to nail all women’s brains down to a science, and most importantly, that I’m SO not like other girls.
The Precarious Manhood
This past summer, I was kissing this guy who I’ll call Henry, who I had on a crush on and had been shamelessly flirting with for two years. Upon asking him if he’d caught onto my efforts, he responded that yes, he had. The catch, he informed me, was that he has a fragile sense of his own masculinity and feels threatened by my confidence and empowerment. While this wasn’t what I wanted to hear, I still thought it was funny that I was my empowerment made men fear me. After a few more minutes of kissing, Henry pulled away and told me that he’d always been extremely attracted to me. However, there was another catch. He told me that he felt uncomfortable being attracted to me because I’m thick. This one stung. It wasn’t that I wasn’t aware of my body, or that I thought every guy was attracted to me. It was that being attracted to me could be such a source of shame for someone. It was clear that that no matter how much I fight the pressure to make myself small in both the sense of my size and personality, this will always threaten men as well as make me a target of their criticism. I learned that there is apparently such a thing as “too empowered”, and also that I am not in fact thin! Thank you Henry, very cool.
The Big Relationship Guy
After a mediocre hook-up with a guy who I’ll call Rick one night, he made me swear to secrecy. I didn’t really care or question it, I informed him that he certainly wasn’t bragging material and I didn’t see myself boasting about him anyway. So sure, I wouldn’t tell anyone. The next day, I clicked his Instagram, and saw a female name in all caps with a lock emoji next to it in his bio. I asked around until I had found out he had a long-distance girlfriend of three years. I’ve never had a relationship as long as Rick’s, so I can learn a thing or two from him, first and foremost that adultery is the hallmark of a healthy, committed relationship.
The Beauty Sleeper
I lay curled up in bed with who I’ll call Mason at 3:45 AM, watching the pounding rain hit the window and appreciating the warmth of another body and a pile of blankets shielding us from the cold. His voice abruptly broke the sound of the music that was lulling me to sleep. “Hey, I have to be up early for rush and I’m not sure I’m ready for you to sleep in my bed.” I went off on him, reminding him of the reality of the time, the temperature, the pouring rain, and the fact that he should have thought about that before he decided to be intimate with me. Thanks to Mason, I learned that it doesn’t matter if a guy has been sliding into your DMs for two years, he needs his rest to gear up for his day full of drinking and debauchery with the boys.
One night, I hooked up with a guy who I’ll call Kevin and he slept over in my bed. When I woke up, he was gone. Luckily, he’d been kind enough to inform me of his departure via a Snapchat story at 6 am, which was a picture of my bare back with the caption “Gotta run”.
Maybe he had a strict running regimen to kick off his Sunday morning, good on him! From Kevin, I was inspired to start a Sunday morning workout routine.