Captain Hookup Culture

You know how every couple of days there is a pundit squalling about “hookup” culture? They give the impression that all college kids do is get drunk and have sex with random strangers in drug-fueled orgies while listening to the evil modern music and oh God everyone in America is going to hell because too many bathing suit parts are getting squished together.

Well, they are wrong.

In reality, “the median number of hookups for a graduating senior is seven. That’s fewer than two hookups a year. Only about 40 percent of those hookups include sexual intercourse so, technically, the typical student acquires only two new sexual partners during college.”

Only a few students are getting the mass hookups. Guess who they are? Yes! Students who are “more likely than others to be white, wealthy, heterosexual, able-bodied, and conventionally attractive, according to quantitative studies of hookup behavior.”

Hello patriarchy! Enjoying your privilege? Including the privilege of representing an entire generation even though you are a small percentage?  

Do you know how else the patriarchy is influencing hookup culture? By making people who aren’t in the bubble of patriarchal privilege afraid to embrace hookup culture, that’s how.

“African-American students are less likely to hook up than white students. Sociological studies suggest that lingering racism plays a part: Black people have been traditionally stereotyped as hypersexual (trigger warning: see the “jezebel” and “mandingo” stereotypes). So, for black men and women, embracing sexual freedom can bring individual rewards, but also risks affirming harmful beliefs about African-Americans. In response, some black people feel the need to perform a politics of respectability. Rashawn Ray and Jason Rosow, for example, in a comparison of black and white fraternities, found that black men’s resistance to negative racial stereotypes sometimes involved being “good” and following mainstream social norms of appearance and behavior.”

If you have black friends (not just black people at work who are civil to you and are tolerant of your inadvertent racism, but real friends) the odds are good that you have seen and/or been told of the “politics of respectability”.  It’s why my friend Naomi dressed a little more professionally than the rest of us in grad school. It’s why she won’t let her son wear a hoodie since Trayvon Martin’s murder. It’s why her cousin always became so gently soft-spoken to me if we ran into each other on campus, lest I flee from the scary black man. I see it now in the almost achingly polite behavior of black dad’s at school functions. It’s why President Obama must be calm at all times or he will be the “angry black man”.

Come to think of it, feminist spokeswomen are often preternaturally calm as well. You know, in case someone accuses her of being an “angry man-hating feminist”. Or “hysterical”. We HATE that “hysterical” bullshit and even the tiniest hint of emotion will get us accused of it.

The patriarchal expectations of our culture and/or the resistance/complicity to it is something that gets us all the way down to the bone.

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