The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Monday, March 4, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Is hookup culture helping us or hurting us?

Hookup Culture Illustration
Hookup Culture Illustration

Some people attribute it to "Sex and the City," others to a feminist awakening — but there is no denying that a new culture has taken over college campuses across the United States.

Hookup culture has established its dominance in the daily lives of UNC students alongside Tar Heel basketball and what students made on their last test. From the free condom bins in residence halls to Pit preachers yelling about sins of the body, some students think sex is everywhere, all the time. 

Hookup culture can be viewed as an attitude surrounding sex that emphasizes casual encounters without personal attachment or emotions. This can be seen in the emphasis in some relationships on "keeping it casual" and the regularly occurring late night hookups as the party scene begins to shut down and only Time Out is left open on Franklin. 

The culture also appears in a less tangible avenue: the dating apps that make connecting with other people looking for something casual as easy as swiping right. 

Apps can let people explore sexual options and get to know potential sexual partners from the comfort of their beds, and they may have changed the way people think about sex. 

"We know we feel more comfortable from behind our phone screen," junior Amelia Lennard said. 

In a world where so many people have Tinder on their phones, sex seems to have become easier and more pervasive. 

"You meet someone (on a dating app) and then you know them at the party and so that takes away that first level of awkwardness," said Eli Grossman, a first-year in a fraternity. 

Dating apps also can work to facilitate nontraditional hookups by allowing people of any sexual identity to connect with one another. 

"I can see it from the gay lens," sophomore Jackson Gaddy said. "It's a lot more different because that (hookup culture) is usually facilitated through dating apps. It's a lot more privatized in that sense and a lot more forbidden and hidden."

Some apps, however, are working to change the pervasive hookup culture. Bumble, for example, is a female-first dating app that requires women to initiate conversations with their matches. 

"It fights the norm at UNC just like Southern, even American culture, the girls are taught that the guy is supposed to make the first move, and I think that Bumble fights that and is obviously trying to change that," said Hattie Tharrington, a Bumble ambassador at UNC. "I think it's, to a degree, a social revolution. I really think it's changing the way that we think about dating."

Some students referenced a collective idea on campus that in many ways hookup culture is different for men and women. Lennard said she agreed with the notion that women become much more emotionally invested when they have sex and that is often seen as contrary to being casual.

"Guys are better at thinking of it just as sex," Lennard said. "And then girls just like, we crave attention and someone to care." 

This idea that people are using sex to fill some type of void or need for physical intimacy is shared by many observers of UNC campus life, including professors that have seen the revolution in how college students view sex. 

"So, hookup culture could be something that women engage in so that they can exercise their sexuality or hookup culture could be a way to initiate intimacy with people who crave it but who don’t know how to pursue it in other avenues," said Jennifer Ho, a UNC English and comparative literature professor.

The question of whether liberating feminine sexuality is something empowering is being debated on a national scale and on UNC's campus.

Gaddy said he thinks casual sex is something that almost every UNC student has an opinion on, whether they actively participate in hookup culture or not. He said sex just seems to always be there no matter where students look on campus.

"I think people should value themselves more and have people value them before they just do it," Grossman said. "Regardless if you see that person again or not you shared that with them and I think there's a difference between meaningless and meaningful sex."

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.