Why College Parties Make Me Sad and Angry

Modern hook up culture at Haverford is superficial, childish and detrimental to human relationships.

From my experience, these, usually sexual, Saturday night encounters with ‘randos’ almost never mean anything significant to either party involved. The usual story goes as follows: it is Saturday evening, so you and your friends or teammates “pre-game.” After sufficient amounts of alcohol have been consumed, you decide it is time to head off to one of the parties on campus. At the party, you ‘dance’ for as long as required before you hook up with someone, and then you leave to (probably) go have sex. In the morning, or later that night, one of you wanders home, after trying to share as few words and feelings with the other. This crazy ritual has not only removed most of the joy of dancing, but has also succeeded in making the creation of meaningful bonds with other people more difficult.

Don’t get me wrong, I love sex. I think it is one of the most enjoyable activities  humans do. I do not have any problems with people having sex with strangers–quite the contrary. Sex is a great way of getting to know someone better, while also (hopefully) enjoying yourselves.

My problem with hook up culture is that sex has become too sensationalized and that it is still very socially unacceptable to openly express sexual desire outside of a very limited number of situations. When I say sex has been sensationalized, I mean that people tend to make too big a deal out of sex: the “gossip value” of sex has been blown out of proportion to the extent that people actually seem to hook up so they can gossip about it, rather than to enjoy it. This in turn shifts the purpose of parties from dancing and interacting with people to trying to find a one-night stand as quickly as possible and then leaving.

Even though I am far from happy with this aspect of college life, I still would not be too upset with the modern hook up culture if it wasn’t for the fact that alcohol consumption is a key part of it. There is something deeply troubling with the fact that we need an excuse to be honest about our sexual desires. We have been societally conditioned to keep our feelings about sexual desire to ourselves–except when we are drunk.

Indeed, this arrangement creates a strange little fantasy world of boozy Saturday night parties during which people are actually honest with each other. Yet why is it not possible to express similar sentiments on a Wednesday morning during breakfast? Why are we not “allowed” to tell people that we are attracted to them even when we are not drunk?

There is a fakeness inherent in the excuse: we use alcohol to allow ourselves to be more expressive. I wouldn’t see anything particularly wrong with this if it were a supplement to the already existing social structure in which people are more honest with each other. But, instead, the current social order demands this collective (and individual) drunkenness, which creates a culture in which sexual encounters become anonymous, shallow experiences that do not foster development of interpersonal relationships.

What really makes me sad about these Saturday night parties is seeing people (myself included) wander. It is almost as if no one really knows what they want out of these events. Everyone seems to aimlessly hookup with whomever they find remotely attractive, and any possibility of a deeper connection is completely lost in the process.

Seeing this happen, I can’t help but wonder: what are we all doing here? Why is this even happening? If everyone is “agreeing” to get drunk and go out only in order to find someone to fuck, couldn’t the same goal be achieved more effectively, productively, and safely if we all soberly met up and discussed who wanted to have sex with whom?

Here, my sadness evolves into despairing (“despairing” because I feel like there is nothing I can actually do about the state of things) anger: we are behaving childishly, disrespectfully, and immaturely. We are presented with sex, this great way of getting to know one another and actually try to build meaningful relationships, and we decide to cowardly throw it all away for the sake of a false sense of security.

But enough about this, I need to get the vodka and prepare for another genuinely spectacular and fulfilling Saturday night.

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3 Responses

  1. Freddie Prince Jr. says:

    Really insightful article. The point of view you present is interesting and rarely discussed. I can’t help but wonder if these kinds of social dynamics give rise to the rape culture present on college campuses. What do you think?

  2. Old-Timer says:

    It was ever thus.

  3. Naji says:

    It seems that this is the practice of a good portion of students. But certainly not everyone is involved in it. I’d estimate that maybe a third of the student body is in some sort of romantic relationship, and then maybe another third doesn’t pursue sex very actively in any manner.

    I do agree, though, that a sober hook-up culture would be healthier. Part of the reason we use alcohol may be that (not necessarily monoamorous or serious or long) relationships seem to be the natural place for human sexual activity across a lot of cultures, and the attempt to engage in one-night stands requires overcoming a part of human nature that is hesitant to express sexual desire without a preexisting emotional connection. Maybe a sober short-casual-fling culture would be a more realistic replacement for a drunken hook-up culture.

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