Quick hit: Lisa Wade on the real problem with hooking up in college

Hooking up isn’t the problem, she says. The problem is how we talk about hooking up. Or rather, about how we talk about nothing but hooking up.

The problem isn’t hooking up, it’s that hooking up is the only way of being sexual that my students see as an option. There were no counter-messages. Students who are deeply religious feel entirely unsupported in their desire to remain virgins till marriage. Students who want relationships, but not casual sex, are seen as fuddy duddies: old fashioned and possibly repressed. Students who are interested in polyamory, love-based sexual relationships with more than one person, are seen as simply weird. A feminist perspective on sex is essentially invisible, especially any real discussion of women’s pleasure. And hookup culture is decidedly heterocentrist; there is no room for same-sex exploration, unless it was women faking it to attract men. Meanwhile, interest in having sex is essentially compulsory for my students. They had hookup culture and hookup culture only.

That’s Professor Lisa Wade, of Sociological Images, in an interview with The Consensual Project’s Ben Privot. Go read the full interview – it’s fascinating.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/obaxter/ Olivia Baxter

    I just read the full interview, and found myself very intrigued. What a concept–sexuality minus any preconceived ideas of how it’s “supposed” to be. As an intern at Teen Voices magazine (www.teenvoices.com), I’ve witnessed the struggle to talk about sexuality in a “liberating” way. As Wade mentioned, of course we have to talk about sex with young people–there is information on STDs etc. that simply cannot go unmentioned. But by talking about sex, do we unintentionally create “norms”? Is sexual comparison and, subsequently shame, unavoidable? It’s interesting how something so innate, if you will, can be so dictated by society.

  • http://feministing.com/members/smakl/ Sara

    The biggest problem I have with this is that Lisa herself falls victim to the problem of “how” we talk about hooking up.

    In her article she assumes that those who wish to remain virgins are automatically deeply religious. In addition, she assumes that if people in relationships are seen as old-fashioned, it’s a bad thing.

    As a college student, I agree that the hetero-traditional style of obsessing over hookups is pervasive and potentially negative for other, non-traditional students, but I don’t feel that other views are looked down upon. These students may not be able to add much to the discussion outside of their friend circles and communities, but I don’t think the alienation Lisa speaks of is really accurate.

    • http://feministing.com/members/superblondine/ Kelsey

      I agree with you, Sara. I am a college student myself and have never experienced a kind of alienation because I do not engage in casual sex or “hooking up”. What strikes me most is, like you pointed out, Wade’s assumption that only religious people wait to have sex. This couldn’t be farther from the truth in my opinion. I’m an atheist (as is my boyfriend of 3 and a half years), and we waited an entire year before we decided to have sex.

  • http://feministing.com/members/critter/ Critter

    I love Sociological Images but I found this article a little slut-shame-y. It seemed like it was presupposing that hookup culture is a bad thing and was looking for a reason to justify that conclusion.