Hook-up culture: Why are we so afraid to love?

By Matt Wegmann

More and more college students are refraining from dating, opting for “friends with benefits” or “random hook-ups.” Is it the fear of rejection, or of the pain of falling in love and then later breaking up? We seem to dwell only on the possible negative outcomes rather than looking optimistically at the possible benefits. So what about the experience?College students live busy lives and often claim they don’t have time for relationships. But what kind of future is this preparing us for? It seems unlikely that many of us will have much more free time in the future to pursue relationships, so what are we left to do? We could avoid them as long as possible and then commit to one person when we finally feel the urge to settle down (whatever settling down means for each individual), but why is it so rare to find a middle ground between being “attached at the hip” and having a “friend with benefits” or the extreme of a “random hook-up”? Why can’t two people enter a type of “casual relationship” where they just connect, spend some free time together and share experiences without future expectations?

If you think these are isolated cases, look at Stephanie Rosenbloom’s March 1, 2007 article in The New York Times. She cites a study by Miriam Datskovsky of Columbia University, who documented the sex lives of her peers for over two years. Datskovsky said she “sees two types of relationships on campus: hooking up or intense monogamous relationships known as the ‘college marriage.'” What happened to moderation-is this what we really want?

Just give it the old college try. After all, when is there a better time to meet people and to learn what you like or don’t like, what you want or don’t want, than in college where everyone is at similar stages in their lives? It seems like we’re only complicating things for ourselves by jumping into the post-collegiate dating pool without much direction. Yeah, it seems ironic that we could be complicating things by trying to avoid the complications of relationships. Maybe this is why a relatively large percentage of Macalester grads end up marrying other Mac grads years after graduation, because they spent their time in college avoiding relationships and later they have little experience and commit to what is most comfortable, someone else in their situation. Personally, I’m neither surprised nor troubled by the fact that a large percentage of Mac grads get married years later (but I understand that a lot of others are). I think there are many factors involved and this might just be one.

So, why not take a risk and enter a relationship? What’s the worst that could happen? You’ll get over it. The emotional risk, that is; herpes won’t just go away.

Matt Wegmann ’08 is a physics major from North Oaks, Minn. He can be contacted at [email protected]