If you, like me, can barely remember what it was like to be in college, you, like me, will find the dating experience of today’s college students to be too depressing to be true.
Apparently, it is true. So explains Patricia Vanderbilt in an excellent column about the problems with the hook-up culture on college campuses.
Vanderbilt is not the first to analyze this situation. There are excellent websites dedicated to the issue. Among them, my personal favorite: Hooking Up Smart.
Vanderbilt, however, offers a first-hand account that I find especially insightful.
First, she explains that when hooking-up is the norm, dating feels abnormal.
In her words:
When short-term flings are the expected mode of sexual interaction, we tend to regard other, more slow-paced forms of romance as abnormal. A girl asking a guy out? Weird -- not because of gendered social norms, but because going out on dates before hooking up is weird. If a student met someone he is attracted to at the dining hall, talked to her through lunch and thought that he might want to spend more time with her, he probably wouldn't ask for her number. More likely? He'd hope to catch sight of her at a frat party that coming weekend.
Second, she describes how a hook-up culture creates a situation where students come to believe that they are being forced to choose between two extremes: hooking up or nothing.
Hook-up culture creates a strange binary: on the one hand, students are having casual sex. On the other hand, students are having no sex at all. With the exception of an occasional long-term relationship, there is virtually nothing in-between.
Obviously, this is a depressing state of affairs. Life exists in the “in-between.” If college students are trained to think in all-or-nothing terms or to function in a culture that forces them to choose between two unacceptable alternatives they are being put on the road to depression.
Third, Vanderbilt explains that the atmosphere promulgated in politically-correct classrooms contributes mightily to the tendency to hook-up.
We're also taught in class to analyze every word. As a result, we are terrified of sounding pretentious, ethnocentric, heteronormative, orientalist or anything else that is insensitive, not politically correct or just plain stupid. It's a wonder that we find anything to talk about at all.
The hook-up is an attractive option when we consider these anxieties. We don't have to prove our intelligence or our sense of humor. There's something safe about this anonymity (though at a school of 1,596, nothing is really anonymous).
Political correctness stifles speech. Who knew? For all the talk about free and open expression we have allowed university students to be terrorized into speechlessness by radical professors.
What can be done?
Try reading Lysistrata. Perhaps if all the girls on the Whitman campus went on strike and chose to withhold their favors for a time, dating would come back into vogue.
One does recognize that on a campus like Whitman, where women outnumber men by 3 to 2, the sex ratio makes women more desperate.
But, there is no rule that says they need to act on their desperation.
But, why not try something new, like a sex strike. The hook-up culture cannot exist without the active participation of a sufficient number of women.
On their own, men are not going to put a stop to it. Women of the campus should take responsibility for their own behavior and put an end to hooking up. It’s well within their power.
At the least, it’s worth a try.