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At 11 on a weeknight earlier this year, her work finished, a slim, pretty junior at the University of Pennsylvania did what she often does when she has a little free time. She texted her regular hookup — the guy she is sleeping with but not dating.
What was he up to? He texted back: Come over. So she did. They watched a little TV, had sex and went to sleep. Their relationship, she noted, is not about the meeting of two souls. Until recently, those who studied the rise of hookup culture had generally assumed that it was driven by men, and that women were reluctant participants, more interested in romance than in casual sexual encounters. But there is an increasing realization that young women are propelling it, too.
But others, like Susan Patton, the Princeton alumna and mother who in March wrote a letter to The Daily Princetonian urging female undergraduates not to squander the chance to hunt for a husband on campus, say that de-emphasizing relationships in college works against women. Patton, who has two sons, one a Princeton graduate and the other a current student. In many places, Ms. As lengthy interviews over the school year with more than 60 women at Penn indicated, the discussion is playing out in the lives of a generation of women facing both broader opportunities and greater pressures than perhaps any before, both of which helped shape their views on sex and relationships in college.
Keenly attuned to what might give them a competitive edge, especially in a time of unsure job prospects and a shaky economy, many of them approach college as a race to acquire credentials: top grades, leadership positions in student organizations, sought-after internships.
Their time out of class is filled with club meetings, sports practice and community-service projects. For some, the only time they truly feel off the clock is when they are drinking at a campus bar or at one of the fraternities that line Locust Walk, the main artery of campus. They envisioned their 20s as a period of unencumbered striving, when they might work at a bank in Hong Kong one year, then go to business school, then move to a corporate job in New York.
The idea of lugging a relationship through all those transitions was hard for many to imagine. Almost universally, the women said they did not plan to marry until their late 20s or early 30s. In this context, some women, like A. Others longed for boyfriends and deeper attachment. Some women described a dangerous edge to the hookup culture, of sexual assaults and degrading encounters enabled by drinking and distinguished by a lack of emotional connection. They belonged to sororities or would never dream of itreported for the school newspaper, sang or danced in performance groups, played sports.
Others preferred holing up in the library or hanging out with the theater crowd. They came from all over the country, and as far away as China and Africa. Some had gone to elite private high schools; others were on full scholarship. They came from diverse racial backgrounds, and several were first-generation immigrants.
They were found in a wide variety of ways, from chance encounters in coffee shops to introductions from friends. Most are identified by their first or middle names or by a middle initial. They spoke over the course of the academic year, often repeatedly and at length. For A. In such an overburdened college life, she said, it was rare for her and her friends to find a relationship worth investing time in, and many people avoided commitment because they assumed that someone better would always come along.
Instead, she enjoyed casual sex on her terms — often late at night, after a few drinks, and never at her place, she noted, because then she would have to wash the sheets. Nationally, women now out men in college enrollment by 4 to 3 and outperform them in graduation rates and advanced degrees.
Some researchers have argued that the gender imbalance fosters a culture of hooking up because men, as the minority, hold more power in the sexual marketplace, and they prefer casual sex to long-term relationships. But Elizabeth A. Armstrong said. Some women also want to wait to see how men turn out as they advance through their 20s.
I want you to have changed and become enough of your own person so that when you meet me, we can have a stable life and be very happy. In the meantime, from A. I know what I want. I will remember what I did. I will remember my accomplishments and places my name is hung on campus. At one point, she asked the young women if any of them wanted to marry and have children. Patton said. But, in fact, many of the Penn women said that warnings not to become overly involved in a relationship came not from feminists, but from their parents, who urged them to be independent.
A friend of hers, who attended a nearby college and did have a serious boyfriend, said that she felt as if she were breaking a social taboo. Even if they did meet someone they were interested in, some women Adult wants sex Taylor the logistics of a relationship were just too hard.
Some described extracurricular commitments — running Adult wants sex Taylor tournaments for local high school students, or organizing Model United Nations conferences — that took up 30 to 40 hours a week, and came on top of going to class, doing homework and, in the case of less-wealthy students, work-study jobs. Moreover, by senior year, the looming prospect of graduation and job applications made many students leery of dating. With the economy changing, and people less likely to have straight career tracks, she thought that the uncertainty and the need to be mobile might discourage people from marrying.
That pretty much precluded a serious relationship, she said. Some women went to college wanting a relationship, but when that seemed unlikely, they embraced hooking up as the best alternative. But over the course of the fall, as she saw very few students forming relationships, she began to lose hope about finding a boyfriend and to see her virginity as a hindrance. At a party in the spring semester, she was taking a break from dancing when she ran into a guy she Adult wants sex Taylor had a class with in the fall.
They started talking, then danced until the party was over. As she had expected, she and the guy remained friendly but nothing more. Yet she was still happy with her decision.
Over spring break, she slept with someone else. In general, she said, she thought that guys at Penn controlled the hookup culture. But women played a role as well. But at the same time, they want to, like, have contact with guys. For many Penn students, their initiation into the sexual culture takes place at fraternity parties during New Student Orientationa five-day period before classes start in the fall, which, along with Spring Fling in April, is known as the biggest partying time of the year.
Dancing like that felt good but dirty, and like a of girls, Haley said she had to be drunk in order to enjoy it. Women said universally that hookups could not exist without alcohol, because they were for the most part too uncomfortable to pair off with men they did not know well without being drunk. She had too much to drink, and she remembered telling him that she wanted to go home.
Instead, she said, he took her to his room and had sex with her while she drifted in and out of consciousness. 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!
In a survey funded by the Justice Department of 6, undergraduates at two big public universities, nearly 14 percent of women said they had been victims of at least one completed sexual assault at college; more than half of the victims said they were incapacitated from drugs or alcohol at the time. In January, Penn announced that it was forming a commission, led by a faculty member, to study the impact of alcohol and drug use on campus, with a particular focus on sexual violence.
A friend of hers, Kristy, shared a story about a different kind of coercion. At first she froze. When she still hesitated, he pushed her down. Paula England, a sociologist at New York University, who led an online survey of 24, students at 21 universities called the Online College Social Life Survey, said that women tended to fare much better sexually in relationships than in hookups. England said.
England said, is the lingering sexual double standard, which sometimes causes men to disrespect women precisely for hooking up with them. There is judgment from other women, too — two women said they had been rejected from sororities because of their sexual reputations.
And technology has made it easier to spread gossip. One woman recalled a guy showing her an e-mail he had received on his fraternity Listserv, in which another guy described having sex with a girl in the bathroom at a club. It happens to everyone. For all the focus on hookups, campuses are not sexual free-for-alls, at Penn or elsewhere. At colleges nationally, by senior year, 4 in 10 students are either virgins or have had intercourse with only one person, according to the Online College Social Life Survey. Nearly 3 in 10 said that they had never had a hookup in college.
Meanwhile, 20 percent of women and a quarter of men said they had hooked up with 10 or more people. Mercedes, a Adult wants sex Taylor at Penn who is on financial aid, said that at her mostly Latino public high school in California, it was the troubled and unmotivated students who drank and hooked up, while the honors students who wanted to go to college kept away from those things.
When she went to Penn, she was surprised to see her elite classmates drinking, but even more surprised by the casual making out. She would go along with her friends to fraternity parties, but she refused to dance with strangers or to kiss anyone.
Her unease was common among students from relatively modest backgrounds, said Dr. Armstrong, the University of Michigan sociologist. Armstrong followed roughly 50 women from their freshman year at Indiana University in until the end of their college careers. They 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. The women from less-privileged backgrounds looked at their classmates who got drunk and hooked up as immature.
By the start of her junior year, Mercedes had still never kissed Adult wants sex Taylor. Then in the fall, she found herself often getting into late-night conversations with a boy in her dorm. They talked about their studies, their families, politics.
One weekend he invited her to a poetry slam off campus. The next night, they shyly confessed that they liked each other and had their first kiss. Interviewed again in the spring, she said things were proceeding slowly but steadily. The two never had to hook up. They were just dating, getting to know each other in the old-fashioned way. Physically, they had not gone further than making out, Mercedes said, and she thought she might want to wait to have sex until marriage.
I think of it more as, this is the way I want to emotionally connect to someone, and I think that only a person who deserves me to be emotionally attached to them should have that opportunity to see me in that way. Catherine, a Penn senior, had found hooking up in college to be a continual source of heartbreak.Adult wants sex Taylor
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