By Julia Torres
Although most college students are familiar with this term, it has a multitude of definitions. Personal boundaries determine what our minds think of when we refer to hookups, but we can boil it down to three foundational characteristics: transactional, temporary, and impersonal.
This shallow level of interaction has become the norm for college students, and it is perpetuated by ways in which UCLA students interact with each other on a daily basis.
Look no further than UCLA’s subreddit, r/ucla.
Within a few seconds of scrolling, you will find the infamous UCLA Hookup Spreadsheet. This is exactly what it sounds like–a lengthy document for UCLA students to surrender their personal information in hopes of matching with another student who also desires a hookup partner. Creative, right? As of today, it is no longer in use due to internet trolling and high user traffic, but I am sure it will be up and running again in no time, for there shall always be abundant supply for such high demand; it is, after all, the second installment of this spreadsheet due to its popularity.
The mere creation of this spreadsheet reveals how students will go to great (and often absurd) lengths to seek out noncommittal relationships from complete strangers–even reduce themselves to questions on a screen. The goal is instant physical gratification, not intimacy.
However, this example is an intangible part of student life. In much closer proximity, specifically on Gayley and Hilgard Avenue, Greek life epitomizes the lucrative benefits of hookup culture.
From weekend-long formals that force dates to sleep in the same bed, to “weddings”, ceremonies where one member from a sorority and fraternity make out in front of their peers for 100 seconds, relational intimacy is reduced to routine, membership, and a mechanism for establishing “community” as powerful figures in your social circle. It is jaded by a nonchalant undertone that diminishes interpersonal relationships to what you can gain from the other person–an invitation to an event, a moment of attention, or even a way to climb up the social ladder.
Take frat parties, for example. With only UCLA women allowed to enter into these events, fraternity brothers become protective over the girls that enter their house. Each girl necessarily becomes a number, a body, an increase in the probability for frat brothers to be that much cooler by not going home alone at the end of the night. Additionally, the considerable distance between Frat Row and the Sorority Houses or The Hill makes impaired girls more inclined to want to spend the night at a frat after a long night of partying. In college, social circumstances merge to encourage students to be trapped within the revolutions of hookup culture, but we cannot fool ourselves into believing that these interactions place great value on individuals.
Especially at UCLA, hookup culture often looks a lot like the interactions we use to further our career and academic goals: a networking event. It is all about who you know, how many people you know, and what they can do for you, much like a business deal. The same mindset that we have when it comes to creating our resumes applies to keeping track of the people we have hooked up with. With cool indifference, we causally consider the odds of adding another partner to our relational repertoires and what they would bring to the table; in the same way that we view others as products for our consumption, weighing who would provide the greatest gain, that is how we are viewed as well.
Even with each individual having their own interest in mind when participating in hookup culture, it does not always end up meeting expectations. In a study done by the American Psychological Association with college students, they found that 80% of participants claimed that they did not feel satisfied with their hookups in hindsight, even though they viewed it positively while it was occurring. Hookup regret is real.
Although hookup culture inherently requires self-serving desires by both parties, there is a slight degree of irony in the way both are left sexually disappointed more often than not. This, however, will never be what is portrayed to peers: with hookup culture, it is all about quantity over quality.
My greatest concern with hookup culture, though, is not the lack of fulfillment that each person is receiving. Quite frankly, that is none of my concern. Rather, it is the fact that this kind of mentality in relationships causes us to pick and choose partners based on certain temporary qualities, and as soon as they are no longer of use to or compatible with us, they are disposed of. A person is only worth our time if they fulfill our every yearning and desire.
Due to this, hookup culture discourages vulnerability and mistakes between couples: any characteristic or demand a partner may have that is inconvenient becomes the catalyst for moving on.
This mentality reduces people to what they can provide to us and does not consider what we can learn from them.
A lack of problem-solving skills is plaguing our generation by having us believe that our significant other must be perfect, or as close to it as possible, in order for us to be inclined to stay with them. Hookup culture works in short cycles; long-term relationships require time, commitment, and sacrifice. We begin to set an unrealistic standard–one that can never be met–and this mindset furthers us from having personal, lasting interactions with others.
At the end of the day, the prevalence of hookup culture in college students displays how we desire affection from others. No one wants to be lonely. But hookup culture is not the antidote for this common fear. Actually, it evades the possibility of fulfilling that desire entirely.
Although you may be entertained for a few nights, hook up culture will always leave you alone at the end of the day; your booty call will not be there to listen to you vent about your issues. Hold yourself in higher esteem and invest your time in people who will be there for both physically and emotionally intimate times. Let someone into your heart and learn to appreciate the value of having a partner to share your struggles and burdens with…and who will also make out with you!
Hookup culture insists that there is nothing you need to change about yourself, it is all about finding people who are naturally in sync with you. Frankly, we only disrespect ourselves when we have this kind of mindset and refuse to acknowledge our own faults. We all have shortcomings to work on, and it is only beneficial for us to strive for personal improvement. Even if a relationship ends with your heart being shattered into a million pieces, there is beauty in being resilient enough to overcome that pain and growing as a person.
In the realm of relationships, college students should turn away from the superficiality of hooking up and prioritize investing in someone, as frightening as that might sound. This will result in a better version of yourself, albeit a more vulnerable one.
Allow yourself to be hurt. Give someone the power to break your heart. Hold yourself to a higher standard and fall in love.