The New York Times spent a year following around female University of Pennsylvania students and came to the shocking conclusion that college-aged women not only have casual sex, but they also like it. Except when they don't. Women, amirite?
The piece examines the trials and tribulations of female students navigating university hookup culture, and it reads a little like Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons, minus the painfully-badly-written sex scenes. There's a girl who has it all together academically and professionally, but only engages in fuck buddy-type relationships because of her “cost-benefit analyses of the low risk and low investment costs of hooking up." (Penn-educated Caity: "Either in Wharton or desperate for people to think she is.")
There's also the girl whose virginity became a hinderance, so she picked a nice boy, lost it, and found out that that was the end of their relationship. Plus the girl who actually likes traditional dating relationships and is thinking about saving her virginity for marriage.
So, you know, college-aged women sort of fall on a spectrum. Who knew?
As ridiculous as some of the conclusions of the article are — college women want careers now! They don't want to get married until their late twenties! No one knows what an MRS degree is anymore! — the piece does touch on the central role that alcohol plays in these casual hookups, which is a deeper issue that often goes overlooked in these college-hookup-culture trend stories.
One girl, Haley, recounted a night she got heavily intoxicated and had a "difmo" (dance-floor make-out) with a boy from her floor. He took her to his room and, as she "drifted in and out of consciousness," had sex with her.
She woke up with her head spinning. The next day, not sure what to think about what had happened, she described the night to her friends as though it were a funny story: I was so drunk, I fell asleep while I was having sex! She played up the moment in the middle of the night when the guy’s roommate poked his head in the room and asked, “Yo, did you score?”
The problem is compounded by the fact that many of these women consciously choose to get drunk in order to feel comfortable casually hooking up. The Times found that Penn women "universally" reported that they wouldn't be hooking up without alcohol, because they were "for the most part too uncomfortable to pair off with men they did not know well without being drunk." One woman said that she often gave oral sex because "by the time she got back to a guy’s room, she was starting to sober up and didn’t want to be there anymore," and a blow job was an easy way to wrap things up and leave.
And therein lies the problem.
It's true that this generation is developing differently from previous generations — twenty-somethings are putting their careers first, getting married later, and having children later than ever before — and the hook-up culture that has largely displaced the traditional dating culture allows the focus to rest on building a career, as opposed to building a family. But as much as the Times wants to proclaim, "Sex On Campus: She Can Play That Game, Too," many of these women, especially the ones who can't hook up without alcohol, don't appear to be enjoying themselves.
Interestingly, the more money a college student has, the more likely they are to casually hook up. Laura Hamilton, a professor at the University of California, Merced conducted a recent study that found that the women from wealthier backgrounds were "much more likely to hook up, more interested in postponing adult responsibilities and warier of serious romantic commitment than their less-affluent classmates," whereas less-privileged students look at those drinking, hooking-up classmates as "immature."