American College Campuses: Is There a Difference Between Hookup Culture vs. Casual Sex?

There most definitively is a hook up culture present within Michigan State University’s demographic. Philip Eil explains in his piece, Hooking up as a core requirement: Casual sex in college isn’t optional anymore, “its an imperative” based from the book penned by Lisa Wade American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus, that there are specific components that go into creating this hook up phenomenon. The term “drunkenworld” or sometimes referenced as “temporary insanity” when speaking about the climate of college campuses, Eil draws upon the earlier work of Thomas Vander Ven to explain that alcohol is a large factor that feeds into this idea of engaging in what is denounced as a “harmless romp, supposedly free expression of one’s sexuality…” but he goes on to observe that as freeing as “no strings attached” sex may seem it also has rules …” but within oddly strict parameters. It’s spontaneous, but scripted; order out of disorder; an unruly routine.” (p.2)

Wade, who has performed extensive ethnographic research to support her books claims(s), widens the conversation to connect hook up culture to a larger context of “contemporary American sexual mores.” (p.3) She makes the distinction that since from the dawn of college campuses, there has always been a casual sex component. However, hook up culture is more all encompassing in its expectation. This difference is that everyone is in one way involved through action or discussion, acceptance or rejection. Hook up culture can been seen manifesting in the very architecture of how college as an institution is set up with close proximity dorm rooms as an example. Wade explains that this idea of college being “fun” allows the general norms of acceptable behavior to be lifted, that it becomes “normal to be slurring one’s words and barely able to walk.” (p.3) The conversations of whom hooked up with whom from the night before or whom avoided whom act as a hierarchy of sorts among discussions. Groups of the same sex often converse with their friends on what they had “accomplished” the night before and what they plan to achieve in the upcoming weekend.

Around many college campuses, bars are the typical business enticing students with low booze prices and cheap food while advertising a good time to let loose after the long week of schoolwork. This idea that college is suppose to be the best time of your life is a hypocritical message being sent that allows for an anxious mindset of refusing to miss out, FOMO (fear of missing out) a popular phrase at one point used to explain the party they “just couldn’t miss out on”. Michigan State is no exception to this observation. Most bars including Ricks, Riv, Dublin, Harper, PT O’Malley’s, etc. offer weekday deals to bring students to their otherwise slow business days. Burger-rama held by The Riv, every Thursday, (only reason to get out of bed for some) has over the course of my time here at the University, continued to open their doors at earlier times allowing for the binge drinking involving $5 dollar pitchers of beer and booze until 2am the next morning. Events are held within these establishments for holidays including Valentines Day, instructing party goers to wear green if single, yellow if the situation is “complicated”, and red for being described as “taken”. The mix of binge drinking with expectations of “scoring” encourages the idea that the end goal is to hook up by the end of the night, to find whom is promoting themselves as available or appears to be. This problematically in my opinion blurs the lines of acceptable behavior under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The bars actions of merging “a good time” along with “getting some” is exactly what reinforces hook up culture. The bars cannot claim they watch over serving individuals as a priority due the display of stumbling students trying to make their way out of the bars after closing time.

Consideration for the other person involved during these hook up’s as well as a lack of responsibility for the consequences that can occur from such mindless acts include, blurring the lines of what sexual assault is, unwanted pregnancies, as well as the contraction of STI’s that could seriously affect your health. I make the claim that hook up culture on a college campus is meaningless in that the individual is acting on their own desires to gain something back from an individual they are not required to know much about while under high levels of intoxication. It is meaningless in the sense that sex does hold meaning, and chemical responses during the act do occur. This idea that people engage in a physical act with possibilities of later getting to know one another holds complications from reversing the timeline of events. Physical attraction does not provide causation for compatibility however it may be a factor within compatibility.

Hooking up as a core requirement: Casual sex in college isn’t optional anymore, “it’s an imperative”


[WS301 – 3]

I Know You Are But What Am I? | Carceral Masculinities

To list the number of restrictions inhibiting a man from obtaining “true male status” as defined by the United States’ social expectation would require a thesis’ length list. An easier endeavor is to state what does qualify as acceptable components for acquiring the coveted status of almighty manhood. To be unmanly is to be anything but, a white, middle class, heterosexual male, void of an emotional range outside of a competitive drive displayed through sexual accomplishments, anger, rage, and violence. To say the confines of this standard are narrow would be putting it lightly.

Michael Kimmel, an American sociologist specializing in gender studies explains, “this idea that manhood is socially constructed and historically shifting should not be understood as a loss, that something is being taken away from men.” (p.23) This shift for arguably the first time allows men agency, the capacity to act. Kimmel uses David Leverenz as support in his claim that masculinity is a direct opposition of femininity. Men act seeking the approval of other men. The male guise does not just police the “other” but also sets strict standards for the male gender to adhere to. In masculinity’s message, encouraging the rejection of the feminine while simultaneously encouraging heterosexual conquest, women become tools used at will for displaying/proving masculinity among other men. Psychologist Sam Osherson explained how easy it is by the time a male has reached adult status “to think you’re always in competition with men, for the attention of women, in sports, at work.” (p.24)

Men’s need to repeatedly reinforce their masculinity to one another unveils a potential underlining fear within this set standard. Fear, for a male seeking to fulfill this stereotypical macho man identity is allowing for a perceived lack of power and control over a situation or dynamic. The threats by other men exclaiming words such as “faggot” or “gay” reflect the deep-rooted dedication to upholding the ideals that define what it is to be a sissy, untough, or uncool. In this way the “other” is grouped in with the feminine. The term faggot is not a representation of believing one is gay or the hatred of that sexual orientation rather the term used with the intention of imasculating the individual. It is the reaction of rejecting those qualities in oneself as well.

During the second wave of feminism (1970s -1980s) women cried out for equal treatment. Women exclaimed they were no less competent then their male counterparts that dominated the professional working sphere. Immigration also brought new complications in the sense of defining acceptable masculinity with new variations of behavior to combat as cultural diversity expanded. During the Regan era while the feminist movement was demanding attention, females where encouraged back into the home and to avoid birth contraception for the benefit of the family dynamic. Many women did not see this as apart of their goal in the fight for equality. Feminism works to explain through the perspective of the “other” that traits are not biologically linked to the sexes. Kimmel makes a critical point that “thus with the same symmetry, feminism has tended to assume that individually men must feel powerful.” (p.29) This assumption disallows a true understanding that it is far more likely men feel powerless. Male sterotype’s that view traits seen as “soft” as not being apart of their biological makeup. When faced with the claims that gendered behavior is much more overlapping then previously decided disallows men to hold power in the way they were taught was inherently theirs from birth. An identity crisis of what makes a male a male begins to surface.

The recent outcome of the presidential election many would argue is a direct reaction from men who expressed their feelings of a percieved powerless position. Donald Trumps persona is that of the traditional American male holding power by owning immense capital, and adhering to the traditional gender binary. While the feminist movement aims to redefine what it is to be female, the same expectations of the stereotypical macho male continues to be reinforced to young males. These two perceptions of the sexes will never cohesively exist together. Masculinity must also shift in its expectations of what a male’s behavior can encompass. Second wave feminism failed to understand the issues with their movement being uncomprehenable to the male sex. Third wave feminism although making strives needs more men to step out of their silence out of fear of reprisal. Feminism must be able to communicate how the gender binary confines both sexes to untrue black and white behaviors. Until social thought shifts men will continue to reinforce the gender binary.


Chapter 2 Masculinity as Homophobia (Not the exact copy I have access to)


[WS301 – 2]