Harvard’s frenetic pace leads students to hook up, not date

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/02/17/harvards-frenetic-pace-leads-students-to-hook-up-not-date/

BOSTON – The “hookup culture” of casual intimacy on college campuses has been written about ad nauseam – is it good? Bad? Does it hurt women, or empower them? What about men? Is it simply a numbers game, prompted by a rise in the “supply” of women relative to men on college campuses?

But the term “hookup culture” leaves some college students (who are supposedly part of it) baffled.

The term refers to a social norm of casual sex and sexual encounters that downplay emotional involvement, while long-term relationships are considered anomalies. The result is intimacy in which it is tacitly understood that there are “no strings attached.”

Some Harvard students say that the “hookup culture” makes dating on campus difficult, but argue that the real culprit is the academic rigor of attending one of the world’s most elite schools. This atmosphere keeps undergraduates focused on their coursework and extracurricular achievements, in the arts or business, for instance. Harvard dorms, after all, famously served as the breeding ground for Facebook and earlier, Microsoft. So for some students, social life takes a backseat to accomplishments at the Cambridge school.

“I don’t even know what the ‘hookup culture’ is,” one Harvard senior said in an interview, which, like all of the interviews for this report, was conducted anonymously. “I think it depends on what social circles you’re in that determines whether or not you’re plugged into whatever ‘hookup culture’ is.”

“Hookup culture,” rather than being a monolithic phenomenon occurring on college campuses nationwide, has as many nuances and complications as, well, any collection of human relationships. Much depends on a particular campus or school along with the people who attend.

“If we’re going to talk about the ‘hookup culture’ specific to Harvard, it isn’t about people wanting to hook up, it’s about time commitments, it’s about people being too busy dating themselves,” a Harvard senior woman said. “Something creates ‘hookup culture’ and that’s what actually makes dating hard.”

At an academically rigorous school like Harvard, students are typically focused on coursework and future careers.

“The social environment may be a byproduct of the academic rigor,” one senior said,

An article on “hookup culture” published by The Atlantic in September 2012 said Yale students, especially women, were too busy or too focused to date, and many didn’t want to:

“One woman ‘with no shortage of admirers’ explained, ‘I know this sounds really pathetic and you probably think I am lying, but there are so many other things going on right now that it’s really not something high up on my list.”

Yale women want to study or hang out with friends or just be “100 percent selfish,” as one told the magazine. “I have the rest of my life to devote to a husband or kids or my job.”

In Cambridge, one Harvard senior woman said in an interview that participation in the “hookup culture” changed between the start of her freshman year to her senior year and had an aspect of exploration about it:

“I think that a lot of it is about coming into a new space and subscribing to the notion of like, ‘This is what you do in college, this is what it means to go out with girls and have fun and meet new guys,’” the woman said. “I think the more you come into yourself within this new space, the more you meet new people, the more you feel comfortable on campus, the less you feel the need to step into that mold that someone’s created, but no one really knows who.”

“I’ve never met anyone that lived that lifestyle for the first two years and felt like that was something they wanted to be,” the senior said.

“It’s almost like approaching that, or approaching that concept, the closer and closer you get, the more you are in this space, the more you realize it’s a fallacy,” the senior said, referring to the supposed allure of hook-ups and the idea that “hookup culture” is a universal collegiate experience.

Earlier informal research has also suggested that what seems to be most detrimental to dating on the Cambridge campus is the frantic pace at Harvard. In a 2010 Harvard Magazine article, one student was quoted as saying: “You don’t have time to dedicate to your friends or to yourself – or to thoughts that you haven’t been taught to think.”

“There are so few intellectual discussions outside of classes,” the student said. With little room in schedules for reflection or even establishing friendships, there may be few students with enough time or emotional energy left for dating.