For some students, finding a date in today’s culture can be difficult, but finding someone to hook up with can be as easy as posting a status on YikYak or Twitter. On Tuesday, the Gender Studies Program hosted a discussion to address the influence pornography has on today’s definition of hooking up and creating relationships.
Director of Gender Studies Cindy Lacom started the event off with describing how a simple date would go 30 years ago. In a scenario 30 years ago, she said the man would have initiated the request of a date, thereby risking rejection and embarrassment, Lacom said. She said the woman would have had the power to either accept or reject the date. If the woman said yes, the man would typically pay for the date, which might include dinner and a movie, Lacom said. She said at the end of the night, the man would probably attempt a goodnight kiss and the woman, again, would have the power of either rejecting or accepting the kiss. If she resists, the man risks feeling stupid, angry and hurt, Lacom said.
Lacom said today, the hook-up culture is so familiar and ubiquitous that it seems natural, as if no other alternative could possibly exist. According to Lacom, a study done in 2001 found that 40 percent of college women had hooked up, but more recent surveys in 2007 and 2008 put the number for women and men who have had at least one hook up before they get out of college at 89 percent. Lacom said there is no single or simple definition of hooking up. She said that while women tend to use the term conservatively, while men tend to use the term more liberally.
“Although there’s no single definition of hooking up, we can articulate a general profile of hook-up sex,” Lacom said. “It’s casual, it’s practiced with few or no expectations beyond the hook up, it is often not sexually satisfying, especially for women, and men and especially women often feel disrespected after hooking up.”
Junior information systems major Nikki Treater said she thinks some college students still believe in dating, but hooking up takes away from that experience.
“I feel like there are some people who want to take the time out to get to know you and make a title,” Treater said. “[Hooking up] takes away from that. Sometimes people don’t want to try to date, they just want to get the deed done.”
Lacom said research by a woman named Rachel Kalish suggested that men worry about their sexual performance during hook-ups. When she interviewed college-aged men about what they were thinking about during hook-up sex, most of the men said they were thinking about what their male friends would think about the woman he was having sex with.
Some of the factors that normalize the hook-up script are the increased availability of birth control, third wave feminist belief in sex as power, technology, a decrease in marriage and pornography, Lacom said.
Lacom said that pornography damages intimacy for men and women. She said that even if students don’t watch porn, they are affected by the messages it sends, its pervasiveness and content.
According to Lacom, pornography increases acceptance of rape, sexual harassment, sexual stereotypes, interpersonal violence and viewing girls and women as sexual objects.
Sophomore social work major, Breanna Upshur said she doesn’t believes that porn ruins relationships. She said whether or not porn ruins a relationship depends on the people involved in the relationship. Upshur said sometimes couples watch porn to get new ideas about how to make their sexual life more interesting.
Lacom said not only can pornography damage intimacy, but it also contributes to sexual dysfunction. Some of the dysfunctions that men and women deal with is a loss of interest in sex with a real partner, a decrease in self-esteem, difficulty for boys and men to become aroused without porn, an increased roughness and violence in sex and an increased interest in risky, degrading, abusive or illegal sex.
Lacom also said watching pornography can also lead to dangerous and unsafe behavior among men and women.
“Some of the risky and unsafe behaviors with which porn consumption is associated is having multiple sexual partners, earlier and/or quicker onset of sexual activity, accessing porn at school or work and purchasing sex,” Lacom said.
Matt Housley, freshman public relations major, said attempting a relationship after hooking up is an unusual situation that will never amount to anything. He said if two people are going to date, he suggests dating someone who you haven’t hooked up with, that way, each person will start the relationship off with good intentions.
Lacom said the thing that concerns her the most about today’s pornified culture is the realization that agency and pleasure are compromised and even negated in hook up sex. She also said the best way for students to combat the takeover of the pornified culture is to speak out about the issue and bring attention to it.
“If you enjoy porn, if you love hook-up sex and think it’s the best thing in the world, then I absolutely think that’s fine,” Lacom said. “If you find any of this problematic, what I would say to you is speak out. Bring attention and critical analysis to your choices, talk about pornified culture and its values, refuse to be silenced.”