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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

What the f*ck is the deal with hookup culture at Grinnell?

In two months, a first-year can learn a lot. Think about NSO—those feelings of inadequacy and intimidation you felt have just about disappeared at this point in the semester. Let’s face it, you’re king sh*t around here. Dining hall food? Sucks. That reading for Tutorial? Maybe I’ll read it right before class starts. And hell yeah you’re getting cross-faded this weekend, it’s basically a routine at this point. But there’s something you can’t quite pin down yet—love.
Grinnell is quite possibly the only place where one can casually mention the fact that they made out with twenty people last semester and yet the dominant feeling among the student body is one of sexual frustration (a particularly shambolic, vodka-soaked frustration). So, clearly, this can be disorienting for us first-years. It’s like, “Oh, you only got to third base with her? Well, f*ck you, you sexually incompetent loser.”
However, the harsh language usually associated with sexual activity on campus belies a mushy, awkward emotional core. Because let’s face it, us Grinnellians are a dorky bunch. No matter how much we procrastinate, how many shots we take on Saturday night, or how dirty our dancing is at Harris parties, most Grinnellians are scared straight of exposing anything other than surface level feelings. Given the chance to confront some of our more intimate emotions, most of us would run the other way.
So how exactly did we end up in this situation? It’s mostly that dealing with other human beings is hard. And dealing with hyperactive, driven weirdoes is even more difficult. We grow up believing that it’s possible to make everything just and that relationships can work out as neatly as math equations, but it’s human nature for things to be messy and to feel uncomfortable. We’ve got f*cking mid-level non-profits to start after graduation, who has time make sh*t work with another person when it’s not totally convenient?
It’s not just a Grinnell thing either, as special as us Grinnellians often like to think we are. Our generation is expected to constantly succeed, accumulating checkpoints like some sort of video game character, ignoring the fact that material accomplishments aren’t always as fulfilling as we want them to be. We must have the perfect circle of friends and make the best grades (that we deserve, goddamnit), and appear as if we’ve got it all together at all times.
The hookup culture at Grinnell simultaneously excuses and is symptomatic of this complex. It fits perfectly into current young peoples’ worldview: if we can satisfy our sexual desires, not deal with the emotional consequences, and still get our readings done, why not take that deal? Essentially, we conflate external achievements with emotional fulfillment. In that way, hookup culture enforces our denial of intimate engagement—allowing us to cover our superficial bases, but never getting to the root of our deepest issues.
This isn’t to say that hookups are inherently wrong or unhealthy. This column isn’t suggesting that everyone become monogamous prudes. One of the characteristics that makes Grinnell so wonderful is the fact that no f*cks are given—we can mess around with anyone from random people to our best friends have it be okay. After all, at our fundamental state we’re just a bunch of 18-22 year olds with nothing much better to do than sit around, stress out about homework, and occasionally rub our most private body parts together.
But think about it, after a certain point emotionless sex only gets you so much. You’re a Grinnellian—a bunch of old people have told you that you’re super important and doing good work here—maybe you could muster up the courage to have a real fucking conversation with someone who means something to you. Engage, be thoughtful and you might be surprised at how much you can learn.

-Alex Claxton ’16 & Isabel Monaghan ’16

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