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Why Hooking-Up in College Will Not Disappear

by Cathryn Sloane | University of Iowa

F Posted in: College, Voices P Posted on: February 21, 2012
Cathryn Sloane Cathryn Sloane

Urban Dictionary defines the ‘walk of shame’ as “the walk across campus in the same clothes as yesterday after you slept with someone and spent the night in their dorm room.”

Of course, “dorm room” could easily be replaced with “apartment” or “house,” but you get the idea. The walk of shame is a term every college student is familiar with, whether they’ve had to painfully go through it or not, and that is certainly a huge reflection on the highly promiscuous culture we live in.

However, a walk of shame doesn’t necessarily always involve walking, as many students just resort to calling a cab from their latest hook-up partner’s place. This would appear to be a slightly less embarrassing way of getting home, but fear of judgment by the cab driver is another factor that plays into the embarrassment students just can’t seem to escape on the dreaded morning after.

University of Michigan student Kellyann Wargo recently decided to capitalize on these observations and start her own Walk of Shame Shuttle business. For the price of $5, Wargo will pick up students and drive them anywhere in Ann Arbor, as well as throw in a complimentary bottle of water and a $5 coupon for Plan B (a.k.a. the “morning-after pill”). The main appeal/tagline of this service is that no judgment is involved, which is what makes it unique from calling a taxi or walking through campus, high heels in hand.

But in addition to being a big savior and helpful gesture to many students, the fact that Wargo’s service is able to exist at all is a huge statement about how prevalent the hook-up culture really is in college. This definitely begs questions such as: Why are students so casual about hooking-up? Will this sort of lifestyle ever change? And how safe are these students being?

According to a study from newsstrategist.com, the average age that men and women tend to lose their virginity is at 17 years old. This could very well imply that students are more relaxed with the idea of having sex by the time they get to college and therefore don’t feel the need to be so cautious about with whom they sleep. The study also states that more than 90% of men and women are sexually experienced by the time they reach age 23, which certainly attests to the fact that engaging in sexual activity is a significant part of the college culture.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons hooking-up is so common among college students is because it is simply so easy to do. For most people, college is the first time they are living completely on their own; with the exception of difficult roommates, there is virtually nothing standing in the way of bringing someone home.

Additionally, the media typically portrays college as a crazy, sexual haven. Movies such as American Pie and Superbad highlight the pressure put on students to lose their virginity by the end of high school so they can partake in the casual sex scene in college without stressing about the inconvenience of still having a V-card. Furthermore, TV shows like Greek confirm that message by showing how frequently college students do have sex and how oddly they can be viewed if they haven’t had it yet.

I am in no way blaming the media for this casual hook-up culture, since it is just reflecting the reality we live in, but it is also just another message to students that having lots of sex in college is normal. Similarly, sharing a sex story is a fairly common way for college students to bond, whether they are proud of it or embarrassed by it. Many students will feel awkward if they are the only one in the room without a hook-up experience to share.

Personally, I do not see this lifestyle changing for a long time, if ever. It is no secret that sex is a popular subject that dominates minds daily, but the college environment definitely intensifies it. It should also be noted how often free condoms are handed out by various organizations on college campuses. On one hand, this can be seen as a positive thing because it promotes safe sex, but many people argue it also promotes having sex in general, which only promotes the ongoing hook-up culture we face.

An estimated one-half of all STI’s occur among people between the ages of 15 and 24, according to a study done by the National Survey of Family Growth. Statistics like this certainly allow people to question how well-educated students really go about having ‘safe sex.’ The majority of one-night stands that result in a walk of shame happen while students are intoxicated- and therefore, while they are not thinking clearly about what they should be doing to protect themselves.

All in all, the causal hook-up culture seems to have been made into a rite of passage in college, and it is no surprise that a service like Wargo’s Walk of Shame Shuttle has been created to embrace it. Whether or not most college students end up partaking in it, many will feel compelled to engage in some sort of sexual activity- regardless of how right or wrong it may be.

Cathryn Sloane Cathryn Sloane Cathryn Sloane is a '12 graduate from The University of Iowa with a B.A. in English and a concentration in Creative Nonfiction Writing. She hails from St. Louis, Missouri and has also written for USA TODAY College.

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