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Here’s The Truth About Hooking Up In College While Feminist

Posted on the 09 March 2016 by Juliez
Here’s The Truth About Hooking Up In College While Feminist

The scene of the crime.

Prior to college, I had absolutely no experience with casual hookups. I had heard about them all throughout high school, but all of my sexual experience occurred in a single serious high school relationship. Though that relationship was both sexually and emotionally fulfilling, it ended as soon as college began.

Between dealing with this break up and trying to form new relationships in a new environment, I started the first semester of my freshman year sexually frustrated and emotionally out of control. Casually hooking up with someone seemed like the perfect solution at the time.

I didn’t know how much I would regret that my first casual hookup ended up being with a boy we’ll call “Derek,” nor could I have known how much he would teach me about how deeply ingrained gendered stereotypes are in the phenomenon of hooking up.

I had already made up my mind to hook up with someone the night I met the boy we’ll call “Derek.” We met through mutual friends before heading to a party and between pre-gaming in his room to going to the party together, we spent the entire night together in dark, enclosed spaces with tightly packed bodies. We soon shared our first kiss.

Derek invited me to his room the night after the party. I really didn’t know what to expect but was admittedly looking forward to hooking up.

The first warning sign was the way he looked at me when I told him I didn’t want to go as far as having sex because I was on my period. He looked at me as if I said something dirty. Although I was confused, I didn’t say anything and we kissed for a bit before I performed oral sex. I received nothing in return.

I figured the only reason he didn’t reciprocate was because I was on my period, so I invited him to my dorm a few days later. We began talking, which turned into making out. He said he wanted me to “give him head,” which I told him I’d do only if he fingered me or if I received oral because at this point I had only been pleasing him.

He agreed so I performed oral sex again. When I asked if he planned to reciprocate, he said, “I said maybe. I’ll think about it.”

“What is there to think about?” I asked, confused. My ex-boyfriend and I had always discussed consent and reciprocation. Sex with him was enjoyable and uncomplicated.

Derek interrupted my momentary daze by chuckling and saying, “Girls don’t get anything out of hookups.”

Perhaps my look of both disbelief and amusement prompted him to continue.

“When was the last time you hooked up with someone?” he asked. “Because clearly it’s been a while for you.”

I stayed silent, unused to sharing so little emotional attachment or respect with someone with whom I had been sexually active. He apparently took my silence as a sign to continue.

“What usually happens back home is that we start making out in the car, and then she gives me a blow job,” he said. “That’s it. Nothing else happens after that.”

Astounded, I tried to help this obviously very sheltered boy see where I was coming from, but we only ended up arguing. Soon after, we both decided that it was time for him to leave and although we agreed to “think about it,” we never spoke to each other again.

I only told a few of my friends about this. I was initially too embarrassed to dwell on it for too long. But after experiencing a couple more hookups (ranging from making out to sex) I realized that there was a trend here: pleasure was consistently, entirely male-centric. Even while just kissing I found I had to put in the effort first, and the same amount of effort was either only reciprocated to a much lesser degree, or just not reciprocated at all.

Exploring my sexuality in this casual way ultimately revealed how deep misogyny and double standards still run in our culture. The concept that sex and pleasure are only the right of men was not a new one to me, but was certainly a new experience to confront head-on. The men I encountered truly seemed afraid of vaginas. They happily received (and, moreover, expected to receive) pleasure, but regarded women’s genitals as a dangerous labyrinth never to be explored.

I thought that college would at the very least expose me to people who know better than to discriminate on the basis of sex and gender. Clearly, I was wrong and, more horrifyingly, found that men weren’t the only ones perpetuating these gendered double standards. One female friend to whom I confided told me that I had “to keep my head out of my vagina,” and “control myself” and another blatantly slut shamed me by telling a group of other people how quickly I hooked up with someone at a party.

I figured I couldn’t be the only one to experience this. Hookup culture is so prevalent in college that there had to be other young women who similarly were experiencing it for the first time. So I started to ask my friends questions about hooking up and start conversations about our experience.

I learned a few key things from doing so. First, no one defines “hooking up” the same way. Some thought it included sex, others just kissing, and others still a variety of activities in between. The lack of a clear-cut definition seems to underscore the taboos surrounding the entire practice and reinforces the sexist double standards that bolster it.

Second, because we never address hooking up in an open and honest way, there’s an unspoken feeling of competition. Hooking up is seen as an accomplishment that not only perpetuates competition, but objectifies people — especially women.

Ultimately, none of us can provide the definitive solution for ending this toxic culture. It seems the only way we can ever address these issues is to start discussing hooking up and the many problems associated with it. I was once silent about my own experience but have found that having conversations like these was liberating. I only hope other women across the country will do, and feel, the same.

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