Should I Spend My College Years Hooking Up Or Looking For Mr. Right?

Should I Spend My College Years Hooking Up Or Looking For Mr. Right?

There’s been a lot of talk – including talk on this blog – about hookup culture. Is it empowering for women to embrace their sexuality, have fun, and not worry about commitment? Is it hurtful to women because they’re denying their own feelings, wasting their time on dead-end relationships and turning into the very men that are so often decried in this space?

Yes and yes.

This New York Times article didn’t say anything that hasn’t been said before, but it did a very thorough job of presenting both sides of the argument.

The author took a look at students at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school, and reported what you already suspected: smart and ambitious college kids have a sense of drive and perspective that is somewhat uncanny.

I only wish more women in their 30′s, 40′s and 50′s understood the value in being patient and letting a man reveal his character over time, instead of jumping into marriage based on desire, passion and fear.

“Many privileged young people see college as a unique life stage in which they don’t — and shouldn’t — have obligations other than their own self-development.” The article continues, “Some women also want to wait to see how men turn out as they advance through their 20s. A., for example, said that she did not want to settle down until she could choose a partner knowing that his goals and values were fixed. “‘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.”

To say that this is wise is an understatement. I only wish more women in their 30′s, 40′s and 50′s understood the value in being patient and letting a man reveal his character over time, instead of jumping into marriage based on desire, passion and fear.

In fact, some of these 19-year-old Ivy League women sound very much like ambitious middle-aged men who want to have all the trappings of a relationship without all of the obligations of it. “Even if they did meet someone they were interested in, some women said the logistics of a relationship were just too hard. Some described extracurricular commitments — running debate tournaments for local high school students, or organizing Model United Nations conferences — that took up 30 to 40 hours a week, and came on top of going to class, doing homework and, in the case of less-wealthy students, work-study jobs. Some relationships ended, or never got off the ground, simply because schedules didn’t align.”

Personally, while I’ve always enjoyed hooking up, it was never the end goal. I would like to think that most people feel the same way, at most points in their life. Sex may be something that you have to scratch an itch when you’re too busy, but if you find the right person, you don’t let it slip away. By the same token, what are the odds of finding your soulmate when you’re 21 and you’ve never even tackled the real world? Pretty slim. Hmm…maybe these girls are onto something.

If you still haven’t prioritized your love life in your 30′s, and still favor random hookups because you’re too busy for love, you may be in for a rude awakening.

But the article doesn’t really want to concede that point. The last two pages of the piece focus on women with alternate points of view. One is a virgin who is inclined to save herself for marriage. The other is someone who has opted out of hookup culture after getting her heart broken. This, in and of itself, is perfectly fair. However, I’m not positive that the conclusion this young woman draws is entirely correct:

“In Catherine’s view, her classmates tried very hard to separate sex from emotion, because they believed that getting too attached to someone would interfere with their work. They saw a woman’s marrying young as either proof of a lack of ambition or a tragic mistake that would stunt her career. That might mean having to pass up certain career opportunities, for geographic reasons. But Catherine thought that her peers underestimated how hard it was to find the right person to be with — as hard, perhaps, as finding the right job.

‘People kind of discount how difficult it is to find someone that you even remotely like, let alone really fall for,’ she said. And losing that can be just as impractical and harmful to yourself, if not more so, than missing out on a job or something like that. What else do you really have at the end of your life?’ “

Catherine would be 100% correct if she were 30. But at age 20, with so much change ahead of her? I think that if she had the capacity to enjoy experimenting, falling in and out of love, and making mistakes without thinking it was the end of the world, she’d be a lot happier. You don’t have to figure it all out when you’re in college. But if you still haven’t prioritized your love life in your 30′s, and still favor random hookups because you’re too busy for love, you may be in for a rude awakening.

Your thoughts, as always, are appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 31
    WhatsGoingOn

    I don’t think this original article is about just casual sex as much as the cavalier way young women are pushed by their peers and supposed social pressures to engage in a manner that is frankly irresponsible: they are purposely getting intoxicated by drugs or alcohol in order to force themselves to get over their discomfort with the situation in order to hook up with unknown strangers at frat like parties.  The article quotes that the majority of women surveyed admit that they cannot go through with it unless intoxicated to some degree, and cites date rape statistics.  
     
    Does this alarm no one on this blog????  Why are we condoning such sad and unsafe behavior in young women? If you are going to have casual sex at 18-21, you should 1)be safe and use protection, 2) be safe and sober so that you won’t get raped or hurt, 3) be sober so you can actually make intelligent decisions and remember your first experiences!  One girl actually said she wasn’t sure she consented to these sexual encounters, others gave BJs because they sobered up and didn’t want to have sex but felt they had to give something, another girl said she thought partners come and go and didn’t need to be remembered but grades on a transcript would last forever. Seriously?  How many of you remembered what grade you got in English Lit as opposed to your first sexual encounter?  This article describes a culture of young women shaming themselves not because they are having casual sex but having it in an ignorant and irresponsible way.  And I am just talking about safety and not even bringing up the emotional consequences.  Seriously if you had a daughter and she was having sex this way, how would you feel?

  2. 32
    Julia

    @WhatsGoingOn
    I think you have a point though I think you focus on the wrong group of people. I was raped when I was 18 at the first college party I’d ever been too. I was the victim of a predator who sought to intoxicate me, separate me from my friends then have sex with me after I passed out. I also hooked up (in different forms) throughout my 20s. Not all women who engage in casual behavior are victims, sometimes they can even be a victim but still have casual experiences willingly and feel positive about it. Humans are complex, shocking, I know.
     
    Now back to your point about rape, its very valid but you partake in victim blaming, focusing only on the young woman and how they are responsible for violence against them. We know rape is a common problem on colleges, why not educate YOUNG MEN in their early teenage years not to rape women?

  3. 33
    Rose

    I agree that educating our boys when learning about sex aducation at school that a woman cannot consent to sex when drunk or drugged and is rape is a responsible way forward in helping to change the culture of date rape.
    Also though young women need to be educated that there are some men and boys out there who will take advantage of them when they are intoxicated or drugged so to take better care of themselves. Not blaming them as it is ultimately the mans respnsibility to get full consent. However as we all know a lot of  men ane women do not behave in a responsible ways especially when drunk themselves.
    So better education for both.
     
     

  4. 34
    WhatsGoingOn

    @Julia – I am sorry for your experience.  That is really terrible and clearly I don’t mean to condemn women having casual sex – everything has a risk and even in the best circumstances bad things can happen.  I am worried about the culture in college campuses described in this specific article that seems to suggest women are engaging in unsafe behaviors which are normalized by their peers, both men and women.  I feel it is the responsibility of the adult community to educate both young men and women about where the line should be.  But sadly there seems to be more of an emphasis on achieving good grades and whatever you did in your spare time was fine as long as your GPA was good.  That was my takeaway from the article and if this is true, this needs to change and there needs to be more education to both sexes.
    I remember during undergrad at a top 5 university there was a rash of rapes on campus so we all had to attend a class on safe sex and alcohol.  We all grumbled but it turned out to be useful.  I realized that some of my peers didn’t actually know that if you had sex with a girl who was too drunk to give consent, it could be considered rape. Some of the guys had an opportunity to ask questions like, but if she came on to me before she was wasted is that still ok?  These were just 17 year old guys, they wanted to understand these situations.  I don’t know what the state of the college scene is nowadays but if there is this much confusion described in this article then we as a society have dropped the ball in helping our youth when they need it most.
     
     
     

  5. 35
    Karmic Equation

    @Rose 30

    I’m not defending myself, I’m calling you out for being judgmental.

    Why is of for you to moralize and not ok for me to tell you not to moralize?

    Ok. Let me put the shoe on the other foot and moralize to YOU from the perspective of someone secure enough in her personhood and comfortable enough in her sexuality to have casual sex:

    “Women who can only have sex within a relationship are sheeple because sex is a natural part of life. Relationships are a social construct. For women to deny that they want sex for the sake of sex is unnatural. It’s not women who want casual sex who lack self-esteem, it’s women who require relationships to have sex who lack self-esteem, because those women require societal approval before giving themselves permission to be the sexual human beings they are.”

    @David T 29

    To nitpick a bit, “casual sex” and “sex without attachment” are two different things. Casual sex means having sex without commitment or expectations. One-and-done is a possible outcome of casual sex. However, I never said that I can have sex without attachment because that’s impossible. Pun intended. haha — Seriously though, while I can have sex without being in love or being in a relationship, I can’t have sex with a guy I don’t like. That liking is determined prior to any sex happening. I like their looks, I like the way they express themselves, I like their humor, I like the way they treat the waitresses, and the list goes on. So in a sense I’m attached to their personality prior to having sex with them.

    “What is inherent can be altered through repeated practice because we are big brained critters. I am curious, did you find this to be true? Do you get hooked on someone less from sex now, than say in your early 20′s?”

    Funny you asked.

    I had an ONS five episodes removed from losing my virginity (I was 20). Meaning I only had sex about 5 times with my then boyfriend before breaking up with him. About 3 months after breaking up I had that ONS.

    My boyfriend was as inexperienced as I and the experiences with him weren’t very satisfying by any stretch of the imagination. So one of the reasons I wanted the ONS was to have a more satisfying experience. Well, I managed to pick a virgin to have an ONS with…so you can imagine how awkward the experience was with the blind leading the blind and there was no liking (liking wasn’t a requirement then as now) between us to salvage the experience. Needless to say the ONS experience was just as bad, if not worse than, my previous epxeriences with my bf.

    Over the next several days I moped around, wondering how come this guy never called me. What was wrong with me that he didn’t call me. Was I that bad (yes I was. lol. and so was he!) I spent 4 days moping and wishing for him to call me. On day 5, I finally recalled that I never gave him my number (because he never asked for it) so it would have been impossible for him to call me even if he wanted to. I had to laugh at myself.

    That was my first experience with oxytocin effects, without knowing that’s what I was suffering from. But I recognized that my strange hopes and wishes were NOT based on reality. I didn’t know him well enough to want a relationship with him nor even to like him; yet I wanted him to call me when he didn’t have my number. I couldn’t even remember his name or what he looked like. Yet I missed him and wanted him to contact me. How weird was that??

    So after that ONS, I realized that I’m going to be a mopey girl with illogical romantic thoughts about a guy for about 4 days after sex. Then on day 5, everything goes back to normal. I think clearly and logically once again and the guy is just a guy. Not the “special” guy I felt he was in those intervening 5 days after sex, due to oxytocin.

    So now when I have casual sex, I just expect the waves of “attachment” to wash over me for 4-5 days and don’t give those thoughts and desires much credence during that time. On day 5, when the oxytocin effects have dissipated, I consciously start to think about the guy and evaluate my feelings for him then. They’re usually neutral.

    I read somewhere that men bond with activities OUTSIDE of sex. Meaning men rarely fall in love with women during sex, it’s the non-sex activities that you do with a man that makes him fall in love with you. I fall in love the same way. Sex doesn’t attach me to a man the same way shooting pool with him or watching a football game or making dinner with him does.

  6. 36
    Victoria

    In college, I had a similar attitude to the majority of the women interviewed for this piece, but I wasn’t nearly as open about it.  If anything, I wish I had been as honest as these young women about what my attitude was and why.  I was in college not too long ago – 2002 to 2006.  What I really wanted was a full college experience, including female and male friends, leadership and career opportunities, and the indelible sorts of memories you can only make as an 18-to-twenty something.  I did want to learn about men, dating, and sex, but I didn’t want anything serious.  At the time I felt pressure to at least appear to be looking for a boyfriend, but I mostly stuck to my instincts and lived on my terms.  I’m so glad I did.  I have incredibly fond, happy memories of the men I saw casually in college.  We learned a lot from each other.  Nearly all of us are now in serious, monogamous relationships, and I like to think we all made each other a little bit better for our future partners.  Kudos to these young women for setting priorities and showing some early wisdom about the world.

  7. 37
    Yuri

    Women are sexual for various reasons, whether it be for fun or for validation of self-worth.  It’s not a black and white determination because people are complex creatures.
     
    Our society does make it more acceptable to engage in sexual activities freely.  Be that as it may, you do what you feel comfortable with.  I’m in my mid-20′s, and in college, I had a lot of fun…RESPONSIBLE fun.  After college, I was a serial dater because I wanted to date outside my comfort zone and verify my likes/dislikes and potentially expand on those ideals.

    I would NEVER marry in my early 20′s, but some women are perfectly comfortable with that role.  And I think it’s a bit biased to say these women are not ambitious.  Maybe their ambition was to be a good mother.  Mission accomplished in that case.

    My mission, however, was to become more self-aware because, logically, you acquire maturity and self-awareness and confidence with age and experience.  I also wanted to be perfectly independent and decisive.  No questioning that the man I was with was the right one for me.  However, you can still marry young, have kids, and acquire maturity, self-awareness, and confidence.  These things come in different forms, though, because we experience different things.  So I would be mature and confident in other aspects of my life.  The choices I have made have made me mature and confident in the areas I value most.

    You, as a person, will be forever changing.  Life will change you with or without an early marriage or pregnancy.  Life is inevitably filled with success and failure.  The only thing that matters is that, at the end of the day, you have succeeded where you wanted to.  The opinions of others be damned.

  8. 38
    Lucy

    These young women sound very sensible to me. I’m 23, I’ve finished university, but didn’t have a sensible attitude at the time. I started university when I was 17, and was far too interested in having a boyfriend. I couldn’t handle myself, I had low self-esteem and I made bad choices. 
    Now I see the error of my ways. I see that I could have made more of certain opportunities and not get too caught up in long-term relationships. Obviously I learnt something from that too so it’s not all regrets.
    I’m not going to waste my twenties hooking up with every hot body in sight. I won’t waste my time with dead-end situations when I want a long-term relationship. But I will be mindful of not putting pressure on myself to settle down. I want to enjoy what I’ve got going on. Some of my older friends, who are married and/or have children have reminded me about how responsibilities accumulate in life, so it’s made me realise that I should make the most of my time, and live out certain dreams now.
    My view on the sex front is that it’s not clear cut. I could have bad sex in a relationship, and good sex outside of one. I realise that sexual incompatibility could be one of the reasons something might not work out, so whilst I try not to put myself in a situation where I could get used, I also don’t fully invest until I’m past that stage. 
    It’s so hard to find a man I like, respect, and have enough in common with to develop romantic feelings for. And even then, sometimes a connection doesn’t happen. If I don’t allow myself to relax, I’d definitely start feeling sad about my options. I’d rather not force it too much.

  9. 39
    TheThinker

     “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.”
    Really? Did it occur to the writer that going through these changes together plays a role in forging closeness with your partner? And that you cannot really “find yourself” until you fully commit to something or someone? That this practice of being with multiple partners and wasting valuable, fertile years is actually the cause of most problems in marriages and relationships today?
    The modern day thinking about relationships and marriage got it totally wrong. Or at least upside down, and this is shown by the skyrocketing rate of divorces, widespread rate of marital unfaithfulness, unacceptably high rates of STDs (the prevalence rate of STDs in America is 110 million!), and lots of women unsuccessfully visiting fertility clinics due to advanced age.
    The following are facts:
    1. Women are most fertile between ages 18-30. By age 30, most women have lost 90% of their eggs.
    2. From #1, it stands to reason that the best years for a woman to have kids is between age 18 and 30, or earlier. Having kids later will only increase the rate of infertility.
    3. With hookup culture, there is that inevitable possibility that either gender will experience mind-blowing experiences with a partner, something that their future spouses might not be able to compete with. This will forever affect the sexual satisfaction of their future marriages.
    4. With #3 above, there is always that weak resistance against marital unfaithfulness. What if either partner runs into their previous sexual partners while alone on a trip? What if they are passing through the area and they just want to say “Hello” to an old friend?
    5. As of now, the only sure fire protection against some STDs is gold old abstinence. E.g. condoms can’t protect against herpes and HPV, both of which are also incurable.
     
    Thus, I would argue that, in ideal situations, it is best to marry early, and complete child bearing between ages 18 and 30, and to go through all the life changes with your spouse.

  10. 40
    starthrower68

    Thinker, what you say in theory sounds good and I am sure some are successful but many times two people make those vows and grow apart because they mature into different people.  I did that and have told my kids to figure out who they are and what they want first.

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