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Don't feel ashamed about your hook-up habits

Photo illustration of the app Tinder on an iPhone. // By Emma Bjornsrud

Column by Emma Bjornsrud

Does hook-up culture really dominate college campuses? Or is it merely a stereotype?

Ellen Lamont, an Appalachian State University assistant professor, said hook-ups can look very different for different types of people, everything from carefree to stressful.

“In my understanding, hook-up culture is the idea that students have sexual relationships with people without any expectation that there will be a long-term commitment or monogamy based on that sexual encounter,” Lamont said. “For some people, if that is what they’re interested in achieving, then it’ll feel quite freeing because it gives people the space to have fun, explore and have sexual relationships without also having all of the work that goes into a longer-term relationship. But not everyone feels comfortable with that, and so it can feel like a form of pressure.”

With the rise in popularity of dating apps, hooking up is easier than ever. One swipe cuts to the chase and forgoes all awkward small talk.

“Anecdotally, talking to my students, it seems to me that hook-up apps are used more for amusement than actually to hook up,” Lamont said.

This idea is reinforced in a study titled, “Love Me Tinder, Love Me Sweet.”

“For some, dating apps lead to [a] humorous group bonding activity as students engage in ‘group swiping’ or ‘tindering’ with friends,” the peer-reviewed article reads.

Western’s Planned Parenthood Generation operations officer, second-year Katie Glasser, said hook-up culture is popular on college campuses. This culture revolves around dating apps and social media.

“If you’re not a fan of it, don’t partake in it,” Glasser said. “But if someone else does, they’re doing it because they want to, and you shouldn’t infringe on their ability to do what they want to do.”

Glasser said it’s important to talk about casual relationships on college campuses. She said the conversation should be presented in a factual, unbiased way that also emphasizes the importance of safety.

Ekklesia, a Bellingham church community for college-aged people, hosts podcasts called “Theology of Sex” in order to have those discussions. Garret Shelsta, Ekklesia’s pastor, said boundaries around sex exist at different levels for everyone.

“Within faith-based communities, we’ve often said that there’s a boundary around sex,” Shelsta said. “We call that ‘boundary marriage.’ There’s another explicit boundary set called ‘consent,’ which is now being forcefully articulated, as it should be. We all believe that we have boundaries around sex, everyone believes that. It’s just a matter of discerning and discovering what boundaries apply to you or not.”

And that’s really all that matters. Sex is very personal — each individual gets to decide how they want to experience sex, and no one should be shamed for it.

To reduce judgment about other people’s sexual lives, Lamont said we should be open to discussion of sex as kids are growing up. Instead of abstinence-only education, she advocated for comprehensive sex education that’s gender and sexuality-inclusive.

“There are different pathways that people can find themselves,” Lamont said. 

She said that sexual education should emphasize self-determination, mutual respect and mutual pleasure.

Whatever types of sexual relationships you want to have, recognize that there is no shame in it. Be confident, be happy and be comfortable in your choices.

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