Columnist Ian Welfley argues that despite society's initial perceptions, hookup culture can be positive. 

A college kid wakes up with their hair in coils and the stench of alcohol on their breath. They slip out of bed, careful not to awaken the individual snoring beside them, to gather their clothes scattered about the room, preparing themselves for the dreaded “walk of shame” across campus. All of these are elements commonly associated with the aftermath of a hookup, a controversial activity prevalent in colleges around the world. While the growth of hookup culture concerns many since it lacks the emotion and commitment of romantic relationships, hookups provide a collection of psychological benefits most fail to see.

The term “hookup” has a variety of meanings depending on who you ask. Some say it pertains to kissing, while others claim it coincides with oral sex. “Maybe a while ago hooking up was making out or even dating someone,” says University of Florida graduate Ruder Singh. “But now it means sex.”  For the sake of this argument, hookup refers to intimate relations between individuals that involves sex.

With apps like Tinder and Bumble changing the world of dating, hookups have become a cornerstone of college culture as modern students can look for their next sexual encounter on-the-go. Most of today’s young adults report some sort of sexually casual experience, with recent data suggesting that between 60% and 80% of North American college students have had some kind of hookup.

Many believe that hookups force an individual to suppress feelings, which leads to the promotion of superficiality from a lack of genuine communication. While this might be true for some, a study was conducted that demonstrated how students felt during a hookup. This particular study involved participants who had to characterize what they felt in the midst of a hookup, and it showed that 65% of the participants reported feeling good or excited, 17% felt desired or wanted, 17% felt nothing in particular and just wanted to focus on the hookup, 8% embarrassed or regretful, 7% nervous, 6% confused, and 5% proud.

Hookups are so common on college campuses because psychologists refer to the ages of 18 to 29 as “emerging adulthood,” which is defined by possibility and social freedom. Hookups generally allow a sexually confused person to experiment. In recent years, the LGBT community has become far more visible than it’s ever been. This can be partially attributed to hookup culture, since it provides the opportunity for experimentation with people of varying sexualities, allowing a person to identify what their sexual preferences are. All in all, young adults can use their hookups as a learning experience.

College students often have to cycle through a variety of stress, from classwork to financial adversity. A committed relationship on top of all of this can be burdensome, as a relationship comes with a surge of dedication and responsibility. The two involved have to cater to the other’s needs on top of their own and resolve conflict should it inevitably arise. Hookups, on the other hand, are less stressful than serious relationships. They can provide a college student with a stress-free sexual outlet as they try to figure out what “adulting” really is.

Hookup culture has empowered the current generation of women. Hooking up gives women the opportunity to delay time-consuming responsibilities, such as marriage and children, and allows them to pursue, and ultimately succeed, in personal goals. In a study involving women hooking up in their first year of college, 71% of those surveyed reported at least one benefit from their most recent hookup, including happiness, fun, enjoyment and increased self-confidence.

If one should understandably choose to engage in a hookup, it’s crucial that they’re prepared. Wrap it up, kids. No one wants to leave college with an STI or unwanted pregnancy. It’s also essential that one takes their partner’s words at face value. Hookup culture can be beneficial, but it’s imperative that one does it in a prepared way. While hookups aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, it’s definitely not something a person should be shamed for should they choose to do it.

Ian Welfley is a sophomore media arts & design/communications double major. Contact Ian at welfleim@dukes.jmu.edu.