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My Personal Experience With College Hookup Culture

Sydney is a sophmore studying Sociology with a minor in Psychology at Appalachian State from Greenville, South Carolina.

Entering the Culture

Starting my freshman year was a strange time, I was in a new state and while I was blessed to have my best friend with me I still was searching for a new way to belong and meet new people. Being an introvert, I always struggled to make new friends and walking around a campus with so many unfamiliar faces overwhelmed me. I wanted to be able to recognize people and to hang out with new interesting people I was seeing but I really didn’t know how. Also, I was starting to get bored. I had my bestfriend by my side but we couldn’t spend all of our time together so I started searching for ways to introduce myself to people in a way that didn’t make me as nervous, so of course I went straight to social media. The phone barrier makes it easier for me to be myself, or portray myself how I want to without embarrassing myself (which being as awkward as I am, happens often). I should mention that this also led me to the idea of downloading Tinder, this and also the fact that I wasn’t really experienced and felt like I was behind my peers. I had boyfriends before college, but being a chubby high schooler I had always lacked a certain amount of self confidence that I really needed to put myself out there, and even though I was curious about exploring my sexuality even then I was always held back. Now I was in new place, and I had lost a decent amount of weight and honestly I was feeling pretty good about myself, and I really wanted some attention.I still remember the first day I downloaded Tinder, I thought it was such a big deal I told my roommate about it and even started the conversation saying “Don’t judge me but..” long story short she ended up downloading it too and we spent the rest of that night comparing cheesy pickup lines we had received. We went through all our swipes and realized how long we had wasted on the app, but we weren’t discouraged, we actually just wanted more swipes. Looking back at the messages I received I should have just got off immediately but I knew so many people were on Tinder that I thought it must just be normal. Some of the messages, most actually, were very sexual but some didn’t start off that way. Some people actually would have a pretty nice conversation and we would make cool plans, like going hiking or dates. This was exciting for be because I was going to be able to learn more about Boone and be able to explore it with people who had been there longer than me, and some of the guys seemed pretty cool. So for the first time in my life I was getting A LOT of male attention, even though it wasn’t “real” attention it was just messages sent from another person from someone who would probably never say these things to me in person. It boosted my confidence a lot and I liked that, I had never experienced anything like it and I can’t deny that I enjoyed being desired.


My First Experience

It took me a while to actually meet up with someone. I remember the first time someone asked me to hangout and I asked if my roommate could come along. I wanted a buffer but really we were just bored in our dorm and wanted to hangout with someone, and we knew no one at the time. That experience was weird but ended up with us being drove back after about an hour, after I learned about everyone on Tinder’s expectations I suspect he was disappointed with how this encounter had went, he probably even got really excited when I wanted to bring a friend he probably thought he was gonna get extra lucky. But despite my best efforts to not become a girl who uses Tinder to have sex with people, I eventually did. My first experience wasn’t a typical hooking up experience but it made me realize when I would go back and compare how messed up it was. I met this guy and talked to him for a couple weeks before I finally hung out with him, he was pretty nice and acted like he was really interested in me, so I decided to give him a chance. He was older than me and whenever we would hang out we would drink and play games with his roommates, I liked that I was able to meet new people and have fun on my weekends, but then it got weird. We had a bad encounter which included me not wanting to have sex because I was too drunk followed by being driven home immediately afterwards, even though I was supposed to spend the night and it was about 2 in the morning. It was the quietest car ride I had ever experienced. This guy who I had known for about a month and talked to everyday, just stopped talking to me. It made me very upset but also it made me realize he thought that me not having sex with him one time was a big deal and enough to get angry about. This guy wasn’t the typical Tinder guy though, he was just my first experience.


The Rules

The rest of the guys I met from Tinder, followed very strict rules, and I liked that I at least knew what to expect from them because all of the interactions usually went the same way. We’d start talking for a couple days, then decide to meet up. We’d make plans to go out and drink, or stay in but it still usually involved drinking. Then we would have sex and sometimes spend the night, but it would always end with being dropped back off in the morning and then never seeing them again or just seeing them one other time. Sometimes they would still hit me up on snapchat, but we would never hangout again. This exact thing happened to me multiple times, it was like the same story over and over but with different characters. I realized now that maybe that’s why my first experience went so wrong, because I wasn’t following the rules and neither was he so I had decided that I wasn’t going to be the one doing it wrong again. I wanted to be “hooking up” the right way, and when I realized this guys weren’t going to talk to me after we had sex, I didn’t want to talk to them either. I wanted to play the game better and it got me in a bad situation.

After I joined the culture and was actively participating, I began to realize maybe I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing, I just wanted to seem like I was. I wanted my new friends to know that I was having sex regularly and that I was enjoying myself, without emotional connections. I wanted to experience what guys were feeling, and I didn’t want to give these guys the power to hurt me. I strictly followed the rules of hooking up, which from my research are very extensive and very true. The rules include no emotional connections, no romance, trying to achieve a higher status through sex, making sure the sex is meaningless, not having sober sex, not hooking up with the same person too many times, and most importantly not seeming desperate.


My Realization

It wasn’t long before I start to look back on my experiences and realize that I felt shameful. I wasn’t proud of the amount of guys I had sex with, and I felt like I hadn’t benefited from it at all, I started to wonder why I had even involved myself to begin with. When I first joined Tinder I had these hopes of meeting people I connected with and would be able to interact with normally, but then I was making it a point to not talk to these guy again after sex. I was using it for a purpose I never intended, it had become a game almost and while I had needs and wanted to fulfill them with sex I usually wasn’t even getting pleasure from these encounters. You’re probably thinking, so then you deleted Tinder, right? Wrong. I did delete it momentarily and tried to just move on but then I got bored, and sad because even though the previous guy was an ass, I had really liked him and thought we were close to having a relationship so I wanted to try again. My second attempt to find someone to occupy my time was even worse. I fell back into the rules and followed them again, because I really didn’t want to seem desperate even though I really did want to meet someone who I could spend time with regularly. But I had gotten use to it, told myself it’s just how it goes and moved on. I still continued to use this app but somewhere during this time my mindset had also changed. I decided I didn’t want to feel dumb or used again, so I wanted to play the game. I wanted to make guys feel like I couldn’t care anymore after sex like they had done to me. I regret this mindset and time of my life but it was a time that was necessary for me because I felt like I was finally doing Tinder the right way. I remember specifically thinking that even though it felt wrong, I had learned how to participate in the culture. I wanted to be a part of something because my entire freshmen year I hadn’t really been able to be a part of anything. I started to get sad though, I knew people changed when they went to college but I didn’t believe this was how it was supposed to go for me. I wanted to change in good ways, ways I could be proud about but I wasn’t proud I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. I finally deleted Tinder because of the impacts it had on my mental health, I was beginning to hate the person I was becoming. I wasn’t like the other people on the app, I actually had emotions that I wanted to express and share with someone , and to be honest the sex usually wasn’t even that great. If I would hang out with a boy I would immediately go back home and regret what I had done, I would try to think about how they felt or what their opinion about me was. Usually I decided they weren’t even thinking of me at all, I was just another ‘Tinder girl.’ Deleting Tinder was a hard step for me and I actually got back on a couple of time before deleting the app again a few days later. I don’t really know why I would keep coming back when I knew I would convince myself to delete a couple days later but I guess I was just lonely, craving to have a connection with someone. I knew that wasn’t usually what I got out of the app, but I kept going back even after being disrespect, used, and treated like I wasn’t even a person like I didn’t exist outside of the app or the bedroom.

My Research

It wasn’t until I started to research hookup culture that I started to understand. Hookup culture is so prevalent on college campuses because everyone is doing it. It’s hard to find people who aren’t connected to the culture, or so far into it that they don’t even realize that what they’re doing isn’t safe or healthy. When we start college we want to learn how to navigate it so we look to our peers, they tell us what’s normal or what we should be doing. We want the ‘full college experience’ and media tells us that it’s sex, drugs, and alcohol and relationships have no place in the middle of it all. We want to belong, we don’t want to be weird, so we try it out and at first it’s fun, it’s exhilarating and if you’re like me you’re experiencing your sexuality in a whole new way that you didn’t have the opportunity to do without the freedoms going to college and moving away from home gives you. Exploring your sexuality is a very important part of growing up and I’m glad I was able to do it, but I really wish I hadn’t done it the way I had. I feel shame and regret when I think about my freshmen year, and that shouldn’t be how it is. But it’s how it is and many college students feel the same way I do, it’s not right that were told by our peers actions as soon as we get to college that emotional connections are out of the norm and not a normal thing. Emotional connections are an important part of life, and I craved it but wasn’t able to get it anywhere because of everyone’s mindset. It took an emotional toll on me but I was able to grow and learn to love myself and start thinking for myself. I decided to break away from the norm and create my own normal, to be who I am and to love how I love.


Carly on May 06, 2019:

I’m a freshmen and i relate to this. I started having sex this year and at first i thought it was exciting to be able to just have sex all the time because i was making my own decision but i spent the majority of the year feeling very lonely.

Virginia Kearney from United States on May 06, 2019:

Thanks for sharing your experience and being honest about not really enjoying what everyone else said you had to be part of in college.

Brooke on May 05, 2019:

Tinder sucks lol i still check it though

Sydney Stapleton (author) from Boone, North Carolina on May 05, 2019:

Comment questions you have about the culture and I will try to respond the best I can

Owen on May 05, 2019:

Insightful, i also noticed that there’s a whole different world of sex for young people even outside of college. It’s like our entire generation is participating

Katey on May 05, 2019:

Good article syd, it’s crazy how big hookup culture is on campuses and how it’s hard to avoid. Almost everyone i know has had an experience with it before

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