Sometimes it feels like it’s everywhere — the couple smashing faces in a sweaty frat basement, neon dating app banners popping up on phone screens, students walking down Locust in their party clothes just as the sun crawls over the Philadelphia skyline. Whether it be a freshman experimenting for the first time during NSO or a junior looking for some stress relief in the middle of finals season, hookup culture follows and shapes the Penn experience for countless undergraduates on this campus. Hookup culture at Penn, like it is at most colleges and universities, is highly visible and widely loathed.
Although hookup culture is treated with distaste by the public and students alike, year after year it remains a steadfast and prominent part of campus life, which leads to the undeniable conclusion that hookup culture is something that can be healthy, pleasureable, and necessary. Of course, the key word in that sentence is "can." If the individuals hooking up use safe sex practices, consent and are able to consent, and treat each other with respect and dignity, there’s little to worry about. But if any of the above criteria aren’t met, there’s a major issue, and this article isn’t trying to argue otherwise.
For the majority of encounters that make up “hookup culture,” the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Although sex isn’t a life or death necessity, it is a biological drive, and research has proven that from a health standpoint, sex is incredibly beneficial. According to a study by the International Society for Sexual Medicine, it was found that more frequent sex is positively correlated with greater mental health satisfaction, better heart health, and overall longer life span. Unlike drugs and alcohol, sex is something natural and healthy that has no health drawbacks.
While the benefits of sex can be enjoyed within a relationship, sometimes people simply don’t have the time or emotional maturity to really make it work. Whether we like it or not, Penn’s culture is pre-professional and likely to stay that way. Everyone at this university is on a tight schedule running to class, running the executive board of their clubs, and going to social events. People have different priorities, and especially during undergrad, some value career advancement over getting into a long-term, committed relationship. That’s perfectly ok.
Hookups can provide those outside of a relationship with an outlet for stress, and all the fun of a first date without being very time-consuming. Although the end result might not be a relationship, hookups can help people come to a better understanding of what they look for in a partner, whether that be in terms of “types” or personalities.
Especially for closeted or questioning individuals, casual encounters can be a way to explore their sexualities. With traditional, “proper” dating it can be difficult for people who are uncertain about their identity to figure out if they’re into a person or not. In the case of a hookup, the stakes are relatively low and stress-free, so people can experiment and leave the next day largely no worse for wear and with the knowledge that no feelings were hurt in the process.
Although Penn has a hookup culture, that doesn’t mean that it’s a domineering one- it’s one relationship option out of many. Plenty of people across Penn’s campus are in committed relationships with each other and wouldn’t want it to be any other way. Others would prefer something more casual, and others still wouldn’t want a relationship of any kind. Although it can be frustrating when you want a relationship and the other person just wants something casual, clear and direct communication about expectations can prevent major emotional distress for either party. People, especially in college, are at different levels of emotional maturity and have different needs when it comes to love and all the rest.
There’s no expectation that everyone needs to be hooking up with someone all the time, and hookup culture is not meant for everyone — it’s certainly not meant for me. But for those who do choose to participate, hooking up can be fun, healthy, and worthwhile, and their decision to do so should be seen as a valid one.
JAMES MORRISON is a College freshman from Pipersville, Pa. studying English. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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