Hookup culture: empowering, isolating or both?

By ADDY PERLMAN | February 14, 2019

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It’s 9 a.m., and you’re trying to rush home before anyone sees you in oversized sweatpants and a T-shirt, carrying your clothes from last night. The infamous walk of shame. But why do we label it as shameful? Why do we consider sex shameful? 

I’m from a very small town in southern Georgia, and women are practically taught to hold an aspirin between their knees. The only sex education we get is ‘don’t do it.’ The only exception to that rule is marriage, but most of us are not waiting. We sneak around, lose our virginities in the backs of our boyfriends’ trucks and hope our parents don’t find out. And let’s not even talk about buying condoms or asking for birth control. Those words are as dirty as the f-word. 

The boys were superstars if they had sex. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “boys will be boys,” and how many times high fives were given out in the halls of the high school. Why were they praised for their sexual escapades when the girls were “slut-shamed?”

I had a boyfriend, and we had sex all the time, but people didn’t know, so was I a slut or prude? Of course, there was no in between. When I got to college, I naively expected the same nonexistent hookup culture from home. I had seen plenty of romantic comedies and movies about college students having wild sex with different people every night, but because of where I had been raised, I believed that casual sex was purely fictional.

When I first arrived at Hopkins, I was shocked by the hookup culture and how quickly so many adapted to what was foreign way of life to me, but one thing I noticed was that people didn’t care. I wasn’t going to be called a slut if I hooked up with someone, and I wasn’t going to be a prude if I didn’t. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I began to partake in the college hookup culture. I had broken up with my long-distance boyfriend, and now it was time to try what so many of my friends had done freshman year.

At home, casual sex was a phrase never to be uttered, and now I was experimenting with it for the first time. I laughed about partaking in walks of shame, and my roommates and I giggled and joked about it after. It was empowering to have sex with whomever I wanted and whenever I wanted and not feel judged. At home, I would practically have to wear a scarlet A, but here we could do whatever (or whoever) we wanted. People embraced sexuality, and I embraced mine. I didn’t feel guilty for having one-night stands, and I didn’t feel guilty for expressing my sexuality. 

When I told my friends from home about the hookup culture here, they were shocked. The gossiping town-folk judged women, and only women, if they had multiple partners. Why just the women? We should not be labeled as sluts for embracing our sexuality. As I told them, I was actually thankful for being at school in Baltimore because I was free from clouds of judgment and scornful looks. I was free to be myself, and for the first time, I was happy with who I was.

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