To many, millennial “hook-up culture” is a disease infecting college campuses across the county. If that’s true, then Cornell has a fatal case.
Over the years, I’ve heard many people try to explain the particularly strong grip casual sex has on the average Cornellian’s relationships. “We’re just so focused on school we can’t possibly put in the time necessary for a healthy relationship.” “Everyone was a nerd in high school, so now that people actually want to sleep with them, they have to do it.” “Sex is the strongest nonprescription stress-reliever.” The root of the culture is likely a combination of the three, as Cornell students are some of the most driven, thirsty and stressed-out people in the U.S.
No matter the causes of this trend, what’s really important is how it affects the typical social resident on the hill. Do we benefit from this system of apathetic hook-ups? Or is it just another item to add to the ever-growing list of ways Cornell does us dirty, screwing us up for years to come? I believe the casual hook-up culture, more than any class or career-preparedness seminar, best readies us for the post-college world as we will know it.
Before I go any further, I must admit that I am part of a very sex-positive and sexually-active friend group. I can easily tell you exactly how many people each one of my friends have had sex with. Though a quick google search, I was told that I have slept with more people than 97 percent of women ages 18 to 20. I offer this information only to say that my experience with sex could be and is likely very different from many others, throughout the country and definitely here at Cornell. With this knowledge in mind, I am not arguing that every Cornellian should participate in the hookup culture as I do but rather that they do in whatever way feels open and comfortable to them.
At this point, you may be saying “Uptight Tart, can’t casual hook-up culture only mean sleeping with lots of random people?”
Yes, but to conceive of it in those terms only excludes such a wide berth of valuable experiences that don’t full under the banner of monogamous bliss. A classic example is the dance-floor make-out, otherwise known as the DFMO. Personally, I’ve tried to leave these behind when I moved off North Campus, but that doesn’t make them any less useful and (not often but sometimes) fun. DFMOs are a great way to dip your toe into the hook-up pool that is low-risk in terms of STIs and emotional vulnerability. They can even be a great learning opportunity when it comes to dealing with awkward situations, such as the inevitable RPCC brunch run-in when you can’t quite remember if their name is John or Josh. If you can handle that, one day when you send an email to the wrong person or put your foot in your mouth during a meeting you’ll be an old pro at handling embarrassment. Obviously there are other ways to learn this, but they definitely aren’t as initially enjoyable.
The lessons attached to experiences of casual sexual activities beyond DFMOs are more serious and more clearly linked to your emotional abilities post-grad. It’s common knowledge that many marriages end in divorce, that millennials are some of the most secular, commitment-phobic U.S. history, and our country is more unstable than ever in almost every conceivable area. The current statistics on divorce are obviously more reflective of older generations but considering these were people who valued monogamy more than America’s current youth, this does not bode well for the trend reversing.
Millennials are also turning away from religion, a large driver to the isle. The turn from marriage that I see as inevitable is not a bad thing for the emotional well-being of this generation. We live in times that are incredibly divided and contentious but that shouldn’t affect our ability to hook-up and enjoy it. Only in a community where we embrace casual sex can I sleep with a Trump supporter (once) and know I won’t have to listen to him wax-poetic over brunch the next day. Emotionally distancing ourselves from sex prevents it from being able to be just another area where we can be hurt. It also requires we rely more heavily on our friends for emotional support, a relatively secure and stable source than a traditional sexual-based relationship.
Cornell’s hook-up culture has taught me how to protect myself. Because of it, I know my limits not just sexually but emotionally. Casual sex has made me cherish the friendships I have for the support they give me without asking for sex in return. Too easily can a relationship become another responsibility to maintain with draining instability and expectations. The hookup culture at Cornell shows me that I can be complete without a traditional relationship because I can receive all the benefits in other ways without any of the risks.
Uptight Tart is a student at Cornell University. Sex on Thursdays appears alternate Thursdays this semester.