February 28, 2005

Social Dilemma: Dating or Hooking-up?

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As Jackie Garyn ’07 and her friends recounted their experiences with the opposite sex over lunch at Trillium, they agree on one thing: the patterns of hook-ups, dating and relationships at Cornell seem to show little rhyme or reason.

“To a Cornell guy, a big date is inviting you over to watch a movie,” Garyn said. “They haven’t heard of a restaurant. And they need to think of better lines at parties than ‘wanna take shots in my room?’ or ‘want a house tour?'”

Garyn’s friends nodded in agreement.

“And they think that every girl here wants a relationship,” Garyn said.

“But the truth is, the guys we always seem to be interested in are usually below us. They’re not nice, they’re not at our intellectual level … and they still screw you over,” said a friend of Garyn’s.

“You guys could both do so much better,” Garyn said to two of her friends.

Brian Jonat ’07 thinks of his interactions with the opposite sex as a cycle.

“I have to say it depends,” he said on whether Cornell males are looking for a relationship.

“I think sometimes they don’t want one, sometimes they do — it’s really a cycle. First you randomly hook up with a lot of girls, then after a while that gets old, so you want a relationship. Then you find a girlfriend, but she gets annoying, so you want to be single again,” he added.

Nevertheless, Jonat feels that more people at Cornell are in relationships than at other schools.

“But I think if you’re getting involved in a relationship in college, you miss out on a lot of stuff. So you want to be with a really good girl. It’s not like you’re just going to settle for someone.”

Jonat, who says he is “almost” ready to have a girlfriend, also acknowledges how difficult it is to ask a girl on a “real” date.

“Asking a girl out is a big deal, especially if you haven’t hooked up with the person before. You’re really putting yourself out there. It takes a lot of balls to do it, and girls just sit there and expect it. I think fear of rejection definitely holds a lot of people back.”

Jon McMichael ’06 also said that relationships are easier to find at Cornell than elsewhere.

“My friends who went to state schools and then transferred here think girls are much more prude and less promiscuous here overall,” McMichael said.

“It was a freak fest in their state school dorms … not as much at Cornell,” he added.

The Institute for American Values conducted an 18-month study based on interviews of 1,000 college women from campuses across the country on their attitudes regarding sexuality, dating and marriage. The study revealed that only 50 percent of college women seniors said they have been asked on six or more dates by men since coming to college, and a third of the women surveyed claimed they have been asked on two dates or less.

Not only did the report comment on the increasing commonality of hook-ups among American college students, but it also cited women’s three main reasons for engaging in them: to avoid rejection that may come with talking openly about their feelings, to eschew time-consuming relationships and, finally, to prevent the pain of breaking up by not committing in the first place.

One Colby College student interviewed for the American Values study remarked, “people just get really weirded out by each other … neither of the people are willing at all to talk about their feelings … [that’s] why it is easier to … hook up with someone as opposed to … talking to them.”

The study said that 12 percent of the respondents claimed to agree with the statement, “sometimes it is easier to have sex with a guy than to talk to him.”

The study seemed to express that most college women were ultimately seeking relationships. But it is unclear whether most Cornell students are looking for that level of commitment.

“[Not wanting to commit] is probably the norm during this stage in our life,” said Amy Chu ’06. “Who wants to commit their senior year in college with somebody who, after graduation, will live on the opposite end of the country? You know what I’m saying?”

“A lot of guys don’t want relationships,” said Ariel David Perez ’08. “You don’t want to be that only dude in the crew with the girlfriend.”

Nancy Chen ’08, Amanda Mathew ’08 and Jill Barthelemy ’08, who were eating dinner at Bear Necessities with Perez at the time of the interview, think the situation can vary.

“It depends what guys you’re talking about — there are a lot of guys who want relationships,” Chen said.

Chen has used the “I’m not looking for commitment” line on several Cornell guys. But she added that as time goes on, freshman become much less interested in having a relationship.

“And sophomore guys, they just want to hook up,” Mathew said. “Especially sophomore guys in frats — they hook up like there’s no tomorrow.”

Do they think Cornell men assume women here are looking for commitment?

According to Barthelemy, Cornell men perceive women of also being reluctant when it comes to relationships. “I don’t think they think we want it either,” she said.

She has never asked a guy at Cornell to commit.

“No, I think it depends on who you talk to,” Mathew countered.

Scott Silver ’07, who often meets his hook-ups at parties thrown by his fraternity, enjoys keeping his “options open.” He professes to losing interest often in girls after hooking up with them, and only remembering their names half the time. But that doesn’t deter some of them from wanting more.

“Usually a girl doesn’t directly say she wants a relationship,” Silver said. “But she’ll keep calling and I won’t answer. I try to be nice about it though.”

Silver has used the line “I’m not looking for commitment right now” more than once, but he said that “it’s kind of a lie, it’s just to make the girl feel better.”

He said guys at Cornell and elsewhere “definitely” want relationships — that is, if they find the right person.

“In terms of finding a girlfriend, your options are definitely better here,” Silver said, acknowledging that Cornell girls have their pros and cons.

“I have this term called the ‘Cornell Curve,'” Silver said. “Since the girls are overall less attractive here, a girl that would rate a five out of ten elsewhere is a seven out of ten here just by comparison. But girls here are definitely better at holding an intelligent conversation.”

The latter criterion, he added, is what it ultimately comes down to.

What may surprise some women at Cornell is that many Cornell men are looking for more than a one-night experience.

“I don’t think anyone’s scared of commitment,” said Mitch Belisle ’07, who has a girlfriend.

“My criteria for dating material? They have to have a certain level of attractiveness, but I also need to be able to talk to them without wanting to shoot myself,” said Belisle’s friend, who is a junior.

Both Silver and Jonat, however, said they would not rule out eventually committing to a girl they had hooked up with.

“If you enjoy hooking up with a girl, isn’t there a chance that you’ll actually like each other?” Jonat asked.

“I think most people here are just looking to hook up [as opposed to a relationship],” said Dino Castellucci ’07, “but that’s because most girls are really annoying. I would say the most annoying thing is when a girl is fake. I can’t stand it.”

He wondered aloud whether his dream girl — someone who is sincere and easy to talk to — even exists.

McMichael echoed this sentiment.

“I think more often than not [saying ‘I’m not looking for commitment right now’] means ‘I don’t like you enough to actually be an item with you and spend that much time with you.'”

Chu, who has been seeing her boyfriend for a year now, said, “if you had asked me the day before I met my boyfriend last year, I would have told you without any hesitation that I did not want to date for the next three years of my life.”

Chu dated various men at Cornell before committing to her boyfriend.

“I never found anyone commitment-worthy here. Also, I don’t think any of them wanted to commit to me. I think it was very mutual,” she said.

“But at Cornell, we have such a large undergraduate population that you are bound to get an array of men seeking all types of relationships. You have men whose needs and intentions represent every level of the spectrum. I really think [not wanting to commit is] a phase that university guys go through,” Chu added.

“They have to get it out of their system … play the field, sow their fields, spread their venereal, whatever it may be,” she said.

“[Commitment] is the last thing on [Cornell males’] minds,” said Princess Harris ’08. “It’s the mentality that they don’t want to be tied down, there are so many other females out there.”

“Even if they do want it, they know that girls want it more,” said Harris’ friend Estrella Soto ’08.

“I think it’s everywhere,” she added. “I thought it would be different here, but it’s not. It’s the same thing … they just want to have fun — it’s college. It’s not time to get married, it’s time to have fun.”

Do Soto and Harris expect to find a relationship during their four years at Cornell?

“Not here,” Soto said, shaking her head.

“Definitely not here!” Harris chimed in, and they both laughed.

Archived article by Maya Rao
Sun Staff Writer