Hook-up Culture Leaves Students Wanting

Students are largely dissatisfied with hook-up culture, Dr. Lisa Wade revealed on Monday at “Sex Lives and Sex Lies: Hooking Up on Campus.”

The event, one of the many comprising Harvard’s first annual Sex Week, was sponsored by Sexual Health Education & Advocacy Throughout Harvard College and the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response.

Wade, an assistant professor of sociology at Occidental College known for her popular website “Sociological Images,” presented a mass of statistics on the college hookup scene culled from her own studies. She complimented data with quotes from students about their experiences with casual sex and the intense cultural pressure surrounding it.

Wade repeatedly called for the opening up of restrictive hook-up culture to alternative viewpoints on sex. Wade—who did not condemn the hook up in itself—said that while hook ups are prevalent on college campuses, the majority of people engaged in hook-up culture are “deeply dissatisfied” with their experiences.

“The three things students were looking for in hook ups were pleasure, connection, and empowerment,” Wade said. “Just one of those would have been enough.”

Hook-up culture, Wade said, rarely realizes any of these goals and leaves students disappointed because of their hopes for emotional connections.

“Hookup culture insists that you must enjoy casual sex and have an active disinterest in your partner,” Wade said. “It must be careless.”

Wade said that hook-up culture exemplifies “pluralistic ignorance,” which occurs when the majority of the population fails to realize the truth of a situation. In this context, Wade said, pluralistic ignorance insists that everyone is satisfied by hook ups when they actually fail to meet many of their most basic desires.

Wade also noted that hook-up culture is “rabidly heterocentric” and marginalizes non-heterosexual sexual orientations.

Wade’s presentation drew a large crowd of students from the College as well as graduate students from across the University and underclassmen from other schools.

Matilda G. Sokolov ’14, a long time fan of Wade, said that “hearing these ideas in this open form is what really gets people talking, and changes the conversation.”

Alessandro M. La Porta ’09 echoed Sokolov’s sentiment. “In every big sex talk I’ve ever had, communication is always the core element,” La Puerta said. “But in hookup culture, communication is usually thrown out the window.”

At the end of her talk, Wade offered students a solution to hook-up culture dissatisfaction.

“You are Harvard’s sex culture. Just you. No one else owns it,” Wade said. “Challenge hookup culture out loud, and in doing so disrupt the pluralistic ignorance.”

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