The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday January 20th

Students Sound Off on Hooking Up

But despite the prevalence of casual sexual encounters, or "hookups," at UNC, students disagree over the definition of the term and the emotions -- or lack thereof -- behind the act.

Elyse Ribbons, a junior from Detroit, said she never heard the phrase "hooking up" before moving to the South.

Ribbons said she commonly associates a hookup with people who meet at a party, kiss and never talk to each other again. "It's like that Dave Matthews song," she said. "You know, the one where he says, 'Tonight, let's be lovers. Tomorrow, let's just be friends.'"

Ribbons said she knows people at UNC who swap their usual behavior for a weekend mentality -- their pants get tighter, their faces more made-up and their demeanor a little more relaxed, she said. But while she thinks hooking up is a constant goal for many girls, Ribbons doesn't think it is a planned event.

"On average, a hookup is kind of random," she said. "That's the beauty of it."

But she thinks the average college student prefers dating. "Hooking up is fun in its own inebriated kind of way, but most people aren't looking for random sex," she said.

"At least I hope not."

Not all hookups have to be impersonal or random situations, some students argue.

Phillip Lucier, a junior from Los Angeles, said all hookups have some type of intimacy behind them, especially those that result in sex.

"I don't think you can walk away from sex and not feel the slightest bond with somebody."

But Lucier said this isn't the right time in his life to start a serious relationship.

He said he has experienced relationships with varying levels of commitment but is adamant that a long-term, nonexclusive hookup is the most compatible with a college lifestyle.

Lucier added that time and financial commitments are the strongest factors keeping him from a serious relationship. He is also concerned about emotional attachment, especially as graduation looms near. "Right now, I don't really want to become involved with someone I would want to marry," he said. "At this stage in my life I can't afford the emotional commitment."

Lucier, a member of Chi Psi fraternity, said being part of the Greek system has helped him meet girls, although some have questioned his intentions upon learning he is in a fraternity.

"If I wasn't in a frat, I could just as easily find a hookup each week," he said. "I don't think you'll have any less luck hanging out on South Campus."

Sophomore Justin Shaddix has lived on South Campus for two years -- but said he hasn't subscribed to the hookup philosophy.

"It seems like you're disrespecting yourself and the other person," Shaddix said, referring to hookups. "That's not how I want to operate."

Junior Emily Williams said that after watching her friends function on the weekend, she has a set definition of a hookup. "The only time you're with that person is when you're having sex or know that you're going to have sex," she said.

She said her friends have assimilated hooking up into nightlife culture. She said hookups are the thing to do after hitting the bars -- the night is completed by scoring the hookup before the evening is through.

Williams said several of her friends have "regulars," long-term hookup partners they can call at the end of the night. She said these people hardly ever see each other during the day and rarely, if ever, go on formal dates. She recalled a friend who called her ecstatic that a hookup partner of three years had taken her to dinner and a movie.

And if these regulars fall through, Williams said girls know they can always hit Chapel Hill clubs such as Players. "Even if they get there at 1 (a.m.), they know they have a whole hour to find that random guy," she said.

While some people look to Franklin Street to meet that potential partner, for others a connection comes knocking at their door.

Kris Harris and Lindsay Varner, both sophomores, said they started dating their freshman year, two months after Varner's suitemate invited Harris to hang out in Hinton James Residence Hall.

Varner said she was the one who first broached the question of whether she and Harris were more than friends. But she questions the idea of dating -- something she thinks you do when you don't know the other person -- when you've already established a friendship in a group setting.

"In college, I think everyone pretends they know exactly what the idea of dating is," she said. "But if you don't have social things to go to, it's hard to tell if you're just hanging out together."

Varner said she sometimes misses the excitement of not knowing where a relationship stands, although she said she is glad her relationship didn't start as a hookup. But Harris said it wouldn't have mattered had the couple hooked up the first time they met or waited for years to kiss each other.

"There are always two ways to get to the same point," he said. "It's not the path taken -- it's where you are."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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