The prevalence of “hook-up culture” at college campuses across the country is one of the most troubling trends in modern society. Sex in college is no longer about intimacy, it’s only about pleasure. And the culture which condones this belief has led to date rape on college campuses becoming disturbingly frequent and acceptable.
Hook-up culture, which views sex as a dangerously casual activity and emphasizes pleasure as the main purpose of a sexual encounter, seems to define most of how men and women interact while in college. It’s become commonplace for women to go to a frat party with the intent of getting drunk and having sex. This is fine on its own, except that it’s led men to thinking that every woman who goes to a frat party and drinks intends to have sex.
This culture is inherently destructive. It isn’t representative of an increasingly progressive social norm, hook-up culture doesn’t represent any kind of social progress. The casual attitude toward sex and toward consent promoted by hook-up culture directly contributes to the pervasiveness of rape culture.
The reason why is simple — the entitlement that men feel toward women’s bodies is a direct result of their experience acting within hook-up culture. Hook-up culture blurs the lines of consent to such a degree that men think that a woman’s mere attendance at one of these parties constitutes consent to any and all sexual acts that a man may desire that particular night. Men who participate feel as if they’re “owed” sexual activity at the end of a night of partying.
This sense of entitlement encourages date rape. It encourages men to think that a woman is required to do whatever he likes because she drunkenly made out with him on the dance floor.
Men then end up actively looking for girls who have had too much to drink, actively looking for date rape opportunities. The normalization of this behavior therefore condones this violent criminal act as somehow okay, as a normal experience in the average frat brother’s weekend, and because of this there are scores of such encounters at each college campus across the country every weekend.
Men need to be taught that verbal, sober consent is required for every stage of progression from one sexual act to another, and not just once. Consent to sex one night does not consent on the next night. Consent can only be given if all participants have the mental capacity to know what they’re consenting to. From a legal perspective, that means in any situation where a participant is drunk, the act is by definition non-consensual and therefore rape. Even if in a party-type situation, consent cannot be implied by anything other than a verbal “yes” to a specific request for a specific sex act.
Men need to realize this. Men don’t seem to think of having sex with a drunk girl as rape, and they should. Women too often play into this dynamic as well, which gives men a false impression that this behavior is somehow okay. Just as importantly, however, the college community as a whole needs to realize that hook-up culture invites scores of date rape situations every single weekend on college campuses across the country.
If people are truly sincere about ending the culture that promotes routine rapes on college campuses, utopian goals like “teaching rapists not to rape” aren’t going to work. Advising women to drink responsibly isn’t going to work. It’s going to require a wholesale change in the base hook-up culture that so many adolescents so willingly participate in, that celebrities and pop culture endorse, and it is time everyone works together to bring an end to it.
Keene is a senior majoring in public policy, economics and political science.