Coming into college, marketing sophomore Sarah Fincher, like many freshmen, looked forward to the typical college experience. She couldn’t wait to take part dorm life, late nights at the PCL, rowdy parties in West Campus — and sex.
“(UT) was a completely new environment,” Fincher said. “Everybody else was making out at parties, getting drunk all the time — I felt like I needed those crazy college experiences.”
Fincher is not alone. Many students immerse themselves in hookup culture at UT, lining themselves up for a college experience filled with adrenaline-charged excitement and the unknown.
Hookup culture’s exact prevalence among students is debatable, but the reasons for which students choose to be a part of it are even more unclear. Nathaniel Day, public relations and radio-television-film junior, said the prevalence of hookups in student life may result from pressure to match their peers’ sexual experience — a danger even he admits to succumbing to when first participating in casual sex.
“I would feel like I was so young and in college, that I should have so much experience,” Day said. “At that point, I wasn’t even having sex because I truly wanted to. It was just because I wanted to up my count.”
Many students choose to not engage in hookups as well. One of these students is advertising junior Gabrielle Rose, who cites religious and secular reasons for staying out of hookup culture.
“Sex between two people that love and have that commitment to each other — that’s the most beautiful form of it,” Rose said. “Outside of those boundaries, it can be messy and really hurtful.”
As someone who’s stepped out of such boundaries, Day can attest to the emotional hazards Rose warns against. Day said his insecurities are heightened when hooking up.
“My self-worth definitely decreases when I have sex because the people I’m hooking up with, they don’t really want me,” Day said. “They just want my body in that sense.”
Even those outside the hookup culture aren’t immune to its emotional impact. As a church group leader, Rose said that she’s had to support many peers through struggles arising from this culture.
“I see (their pain) when they’re telling me their stories and when they’re processing through them,” Rose said. “I wish I hadn’t gone through it, whether you’re doing it yourself or you’re helping someone heal through it.”
Through this form of self-examination, Day said he’s managed to walk away from emotionally taxing experiences and is more sure of himself and his homosexuality than ever before.
“I’ve definitely become a lot more secure in my sexuality and who I am, even if there are rough patches here and there,” Day said. “I’ve never felt more secure in my entire life.”
Despite potential risks and occasional slip-ups, Fincher said she wouldn’t have changed her freshman year in any way. Hookups have served as her means of exploration, providing her with memories that she’ll carry with her for her entire life.
“If you’re not into (hookups), you’re not into it, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” Fincher said. “But if you and this person are 100 percent on board, I say go for it. It’s (only) negative if you make it.”