Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Hookup Culture at Penn

Kate Taylor does not tell us anything we didn’t already know.

Still, everyone will be reading her New York Times Magazine article on the hookup culture at the University of Pennsylvania this weekend. It’s a good thing. To her credit, Taylor does an excellent job of presenting both sides of the issue.

As Taylor portrays them, today’s elite young women are so completely focused on future success in the marketplace that they have neither the time nor the energy to conduct a relationship. One gets the impression that they have sold their souls for the prospect of money and power.

Taylor describes them:

Typical of elite universities today, Penn is filled with driven young women, many of whom aspire to be doctors, lawyers, politicians, bankers or corporate executives like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg or Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer. Keenly attuned to what might give them a competitive edge, especially in a time of unsure job prospects and a shaky economy, many of them approach college as a race to acquire credentials: top grades, leadership positions in student organizations, sought-after internships. Their time out of class is filled with club meetings, sports practice and community-service projects. For some, the only time they truly feel off the clock is when they are drinking at a campus bar or at one of the fraternities that line Locust Walk, the main artery of campus.

These women said they saw building their résumés, not finding boyfriends (never mind husbands), as their main job at Penn. They envisioned their 20s as a period of unencumbered striving, when they might work at a bank in Hong Kong one year, then go to business school, then move to a corporate job in New York. The idea of lugging a relationship through all those transitions was hard for many to imagine. Almost universally, the women said they did not plan to marry until their late 20s or early 30s.

In this context, some women, like A., seized the opportunity to have sex without relationships, preferring “hookup buddies” (regular sexual partners with little emotional commitment) to boyfriends. Others longed for boyfriends and deeper attachment. Some women described a dangerous edge to the hookup culture, of sexual assaults and degrading encounters enabled by drinking and distinguished by a lack of emotional connection.

Of course, none of these women was sufficiently proud of herself or sufficiently willing to challenge “sexism” to allow her name to appear in The New York Times.

Since they are younger and more naïve than they think they are, they all imagine that they are going to wake up one morning, slightly before they reach the ripe old age of 30, find a man to marry and start a family.

To my mind, it’s intuitively obvious that building a life together is easier than merging two fully-formed lives, but these women are willing to bet their future on the alternative theory.

Taylor quotes one woman:

“‘I’ve always heard this phrase, ‘Oh, marriage is great, or relationships are great — you get to go on this journey of change together,’ ” she said. “That sounds terrible.

“I don’t want to go through those changes with you. I want you to have changed and become enough of your own person so that when you meet me, we can have a stable life and be very happy.”

It ought to be clear by now that feminism has fostered the hookup culture. If a woman chooses to defer marriage in favor of career advancement—the basis of the feminist life plan— she will invariably gravitate toward meaningless random sexual encounters. Also, she will avoid men who are relationship material or who would make good husbands.

Taylor quotes a woman she calls, A:

In the meantime, from A.’s perspective, she was in charge of her own sexuality.

“I definitely wouldn’t say I’ve regretted any of my one-night stands,” she said.

“I’m a true feminist,” she added. “I’m a strong woman. I know what I want.”

Recently, Princeton alumna and mother of Princeton students, Susan Patton wrote an open letter to Princeton coeds recommending that they use their college years to find husbands. Patton blamed the hookup culture on feminism, and naturally, feminists rose up to jeer at her idea.

Taylor presents Patton’s point of view:

They have gotten such strong, vitriolic messages from the extreme feminists saying, ‘Go it alone — you don’t need a man,’ ” she [Patton] added.

Obviously, if the situation were good for women, feminists would be rushing out to take credit for it. If it looks as though feminists are pimping out coeds for the cause, feminists will shift the blame.

Responding to Patton, Taylor says:

But, in fact, many of the Penn women said that warnings not to become overly involved in a relationship came not from feminists, but from their parents, who urged them to be independent.

“That’s one thing that my mom has always instilled in me: ‘Make decisions for yourself, not for a guy,’ ” one senior at Penn said.

And where, pray tell, did their mothers learn it?

If we accept, as Taylor points out, the hooking up is the province of the upper classes-- the academic and social elite-- then we can surmise that the parents of these young women attended elite academic institutions themselves. While there, they would surely have suffered the influence of feminism, in women’s studies, in Humanities courses, in sensitivity training sessions.

Some upper class mothers abandoned their careers to raise their children. They might, like Lisa Endlich Heffernan, try to pay off their debt to feminism by guilt tripping their daughters into following the feminist life plan. (See my post on “The Feminist Guilt Trip.”)

The parents of students who come from less privileged backgrounds did not go to the best universities, did not suffer the same indoctrination during their formative years and did not force their ideology on their children. Thus, Taylor reports young women from such backgrounds are far less likely to involve themselves in the hookup culture.

Taylor began her article by presenting the best case for the hookup culture. I have no problem with that. But then, she offers the fact, noted many times by others, that these strong, driven women, women who know what they want and are in control of their sexuality, must get drunk before they can hookup. Alcohol is  hookup lube.

In her words:

Women said universally that hookups could not exist without alcohol, because they were for the most part too uncomfortable to pair off with men they did not know well without being drunk. One girl, explaining why her encounters freshman and sophomore year often ended with fellatio, said that usually by the time she got back to a guy’s room, she was starting to sober up and didn’t want to be there anymore, and giving the guy oral sex was an easy way to wrap things up and leave.

Suddenly, it all seems less glamorous. Doesn’t this tell us that a woman who is in control of herself, who has her wits about her, who is following her moral compass… will not be capable of hooking up.

Worse yet, the alcohol-fueled hookup culture leads to sexual assaults:

In November of Haley’s freshman year, a couple of months after her first tentative “Difmos,” or dance-floor makeouts, she went to a party with a boy from her floor. She had too much to drink, and she remembered telling him that she wanted to go home.
Instead, she said, he took her to his room and had sex with her while she drifted in and out of consciousness. She woke up with her head spinning. The next day, not sure what to think about what had happened, she described the night to her friends as though it were a funny story: I was so drunk, I fell asleep while I was having sex! She played up the moment in the middle of the night when the guy’s roommate poked his head in the room and asked, “Yo, did you score?”

Only later did Haley begin to think of what had happened as rape — a disturbingly common part of many women’s college experience. In a 2007 survey funded by the Justice Department of 6,800 undergraduates at two big public universities, nearly 14 percent of women said they had been victims of at least one completed sexual assault at college; more than half of the victims said they were incapacitated from drugs or alcohol at the time.

Another victory for contemporary feminism!


Dennis said...

I often wonder what is going to happen to these people when they realize that so many of them got the same degrees that they are subjected to the laws of supply and demand? The larger the supply the lower the demand, and monetary rewards, will be for the job market. The vast majority of these degrees don't require one to know how things actually work. They are far more art than science.
If their sisters are so willing to sell themselves cheaply then what do they expect is going to be required of them? The pendulum always swings both ways. Set a low standard for the people one allows to use one's body and one is creating a habit that will endure.
I remember a time when a large number of people received computer science degrees. Those degrees were so plentiful that programmers were making next to nothing compared to the cost of those degrees. It is happening in law, the humanity degrees, et al. The number of college graduates actually working in their chosen discipline has peaked and is trending downward.
Pay me now or pay me later. Weaken others at one's own expense.

Anonymous said...

From the article: “We don’t really like each other in person, sober,” she said, adding that “we literally can’t sit down and have coffee.”

If she's not sober, he's guilty of rape, because she can't consent. This is what feminists and campus activists have been telling us for years.

Feminists are trying to have it both ways on this issue. In this article women are "in control." In others, they have no agency, to the point where Title IX had to be brought in to remove due process for men when it came to sexual assault charges. So which is it? Are college women in control or victims?

Whatever the case, a third party should step in and charge the guy with rape because she couldn't consent.

PS -- If you got off Google's awful Blogger and went to WordPress, commenting would be easier and your blog would have the popularity it deserves. The layout makes for easier reading too.

-- Days of Broken Arrows.

JP said...


The number of legal jobs peaked in 2004 and only now, in 2013, have we reached the peak production of lawyers.

And the layoff axe has started on the high end of BigLaw.


That being said, the negative feedback look is functioning in law as the number of people seeking to be larded up with massive amounts of debt for law school is actually declining.

Larry Sheldon said...

I don't know how widespread, nor how accurate my observations are, but it seems that for some young women of my acquaintance the deep involvement in sports leads them, while apparently not so oriented, to spend a lot of time in lesbian bars and other social environments which I suspect is a deterrent to husband-prospect approaches.

Junior said...

This is another sad and depressing piece about modern women.

It is interesting to note that there were women featured at the end of the article that didn't go along with the hookup culture and saw it for the sham that it was.

Men seeking marriage today need to find those women. I would strongly advise them against the hookup girls who have ruined themselves.

I want tube clear that I mean they are ruined emotionally since by their own admission their only connection to sex is through "hot" men who they think are "good in bed". These men don't care about these women so how will they ever learn to fully open up and love a man who does love and care for them? They likely won't be able to do so.

These women are not worth the risk. They are divorcees waiting to happen. If a man has kids with a woman like this he is signing up for a lifetime of heartbreak.

Anonymous said...

Remember: these Penn kids are smart. Wicked smart. High SAT scores. Great analytical intelligence. They're the best of the best. They're ready for careers at Google and Goldman Sachs and they are going to make a ton of money and be able to buy whatever they want.

Relationship? You can't prove that love exists using the scientific method. And the scientific method is the only valid way for college students to evaluate whether something is real or worthy. Intoxication is chemical, and thus provable. An orgasm is a neuro-physical phenomenon, and thus provable. But love? That's complicated. Love doesn't follow rules. Love can't be validated in double-blind testing within three standard deviations.

The only thing that is real is "The Will to Power." Power is the measuring stick of success... you've either got it, or you don't. Kind of like body measurements. Love is an outdated concept. Love is meaningless. You can't prove it. Who needs love when you can have a career???

People are such unpredictable creatures. Much easier to just get drunk, have sex and then there's a "real" experience. Relationships are complicated, and who has the time?

If you think this is depressing, have a conversation with one of these young ladies. It's real.


Dennis said...


Here is a question for you? It seems to me that the Zimmerman trial has much in common with the DUKE race case. The same race, sexual, components, the rush to judgment by interest groups, and a very large political component that needs cases like this to justify their continual need to feel superior and think ill of others. It would almost seem that those who call racism are indeed more racists than it would appear the defendants in either case were/are.

Did you ever wonder why some many young women are gaining the attributes of grown women so quickly and larger numbers of young men are moving away from manhood? I think the answer to that question will go a long way to solving what seems like a growing riff between the sexes. I would suggest that the survival of this country hinges on the answers. Brainstorming.

JP said...

"Here is a question for you? It seems to me that the Zimmerman trial has much in common with the DUKE race case. The same race, sexual, components, the rush to judgment by interest groups, and a very large political component that needs cases like this to justify their continual need to feel superior and think ill of others. It would almost seem that those who call racism are indeed more racists than it would appear the defendants in either case were/are."

There is a major difference between the two cases in my mind.

The Duke case is more along the lines of what you are pointing to here.

The Zimmerman case is one in which a killing resulted in a fiasco; however without the media frenzy, there might not have been a trial.

I know of one specific case where there was *not* a trial under Zimmermanish circumstances. In that case, the prosecutor did not bring the case because he knew that he would lose.

If you have somebody dead in a situation like Zimmerman's case, and you want to make jury trials a cornerstone of the judicial system, then the least you can do is have a trial when somebody is killed.

David Foster said...

Anon 5:35.."Relationship? You can't prove that love exists using the scientific method. And the scientific method is the only valid way for college students to evaluate whether something is real or worthy. Intoxication is chemical, and thus provable. An orgasm is a neuro-physical phenomenon, and thus provable. But love? That's complicated."

Interesting theory. But is the girl who is a math or science major *really* likely to be less romantic than the girl who is, say, a "communications" major or even a liberal arts major?

I think excessive building of "self-esteem" has more to do with this behavior than does any scientific/materialistic worldview. I think there are a lot of young people, of both sexes, whose self-esteem is so brittle that they simply cannot risk rejection by someone to whom they have allowed themselves to strongly connect emotionally.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Very interesting point, David. Of course, being so brittle is a sign of depression... so it makes a lot of sense to me. Have you written about it somewhere.

It's worth noting that these people who cannot risk rejection sometimes choose to do the rejecting themselves, pre-emptively. And yet, the basis of the hookup culture is constant rejection... though, as you note, with a lesser investment of time and emotion.

David Foster said...

Stuart...I've written quite a few posts about the teaching of faux self-esteem...for example, A Superheated 'Steem Explosion:

This search link will get most of the other ones:'steem&'steem&gs_l=hp.3...293.9680.0.9858.,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.48705608,d.dmg&fp=58c87a31b81c96ba&biw=1322&bih=671

David Foster said...

According to a 30-year study referenced in comment #2 at this post:,-the-hook-up-culture,-and-college-rape.html#comments

...almost every woman had her first sexual experience when drunk, and regretted it. Most of the boys were also drunk on their first sexual experience, but did not regret it.

Personally, I'd think if one is so drunk on their first sexual experience that he or she can't even remember it next morning, that's sad.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Stuart. I think being rejected after you have a real relationship that's gone on for more than a year, a relationship where you've said ILU and meant it---that is a LOT more painful than a "casual" sexual relationship that didn't go anywhere.

Okay, I had a couple of not-so-serious sexual relationships in college, I don't really want to call them casual because they weren't ONS, the guy was someone I knew somehow, and I wasn't drunk. (Maybe just a little, but I always knew what I was doing.) I don't think they did me any harm, or ruined me emotionally, certainly didn't keep me from being able to fall in love HARD with someone later. And that breakup, very very painful, though I'm sure I'll survive.

Someone who has lots of ONS hookups with guys she has just met, especially when she's drunk, yeah, that's really bad. But there's a big range in between.


Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks, Laurel for the comment. Perhaps I didn't express myself very clearly, but I was trying to compare the difference between having a relationship that may or may work out and having a hookup that will clearly never become more than that. A lost relationship must be far more painful than a ONS that never becomes more than that, but I think that people who protect themselves from relationships by having ONS are lowering their risks but also lower the potential for rewards.

I take your point that many young people today try out a hookup or a ONS a couple of times to see what all the fuss is about. It seems to have become something of a rite of passage. A person who makes a habit of it, or who becomes known as a hookup will probably have difficulty forming a relationship-- if only because other people do not see him or her as trustworthy. A person who does it and forgets it will not suffer the same consequences.

Dennis said...



I know of at least two cases where a DA did not bring cases to trial, both in Illinois, for lack of evidence and he believed the defendant were not guilty. He subsequently got defeated in the election for not prosecuting these cases. Eventually both people were exonerated and the DA was reelected three times after that.
I may rail against the law, and lawyers, where I think it/they have gone wrong, but I have a lot of respect for those few who play by the rules and are willing to put their profession on the line to defend a person despite the desire of interest groups to have a politically show trial.
Had there been a grand jury this trial would not have happened. That was the place to have this aired, not in the manner that it was. There is a real reason why we have grand juries. No instead of one fiasco we are going to have a significant number of fiascos that might lead to disbarment. truly not well thought out.

Dennis said...


For your edification:

dragonlady said...

This article, which borrows from the Hannah Rubin theory, screams out to be tested. I bet the ones who marry relatively early do better over time, than the ones who marry in their early 30s. I also bet that there are many costs -- broken hearts, costs of IVF, social diseases, abortions, etc -- that are never measured. Some Ivy League sociologist should run a longitudinal study of outcomes/happiness, family stability, divorce, number of children, and success in chosen career by age of marriage, and number of prior relationships/hook ups.

Very hard to imagine what a society led by these people will be like -- and what their children will even have the option of understanding about human relationships, love and long term committment.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Some research has been done on some of these issues. Here's a link a post by Ross Douthat this afternoon: