Can you imagine ever reading a story about how guys have it so good while they are young men, only to discover too late the price they'll likely pay for fucking around in college and holding off on relationships until they have had some experiences? No? Me either. So why do we keep seeing this story about women? Because literally up to this weekend it is still being written about as a "trend." Big difference though: The women may or may not come out of this OK.
Case in point: "Sex on Campus: She Can Play That Game, Too" over at the paper of (in this case, dusty) record, the New York Times. In it we learn that college-aged women at Penn are doing things like:
- Texting guys
- Guys they don't even like while sober
- On a weeknight
- To have sex
I know, I know. Hold the phones. Did you not know women are doing this? Because THEY ARE DOING IT LADIES. They are also DOING IT ON PURPOSE! Bet you didn't see that coming. (In my day, we did this too. We called it college.)
But get this: These women feel totally liberated, too. Because they:
- Thought about what they want
- Weighed the benefit of being tied down vs. ambitious
- Decided it just wasn't worth it
- Realized college was "me time"
- Have plans for their lives which include being self-sufficient
- Want relationships eventually
- Will work on that later when THEY are ready
If it all stopped there, we might just go on about our day not thinking too much about this trend piece that feels two years too late. But that's not all: Instead, we are treated to the ol' switcheroo, where suddenly right after the portion of the story about smirky virginity loss and fun romps with dudes you can't even have coffee with, the story shifts into (and never exits) a long list of regrets and concerns, including a story of rape. Whereas part one of the story reads like an episode of Girls, part two is an after-school special.
It's not that the author couldn't include aspects of rape and rape culture in a story about women's sexual experiences in college. It's certainly something all women have to think about. It's the way it was thrown together that made it feel, intentionally or not, like a cause and effect. This woman goes to Penn, was quoted in the story and found the author's intent confusing, too:
It would also be remiss of me to ignore that the author juxtaposed the conversation about women's empowerment with one student's experience of rape. I'm not sure what she was trying to say, but it left many people struggling with this strange notion that sexual assault was to be an expected outcome for this non-traditional sexual experimentation. Let me just say this: "Hooking up" is nothing new and there is no way that rape should be expected outcome of anything. But that appears to be part of the author's assertion.
In the end, the article left me wondering what its real point was. As an old friend and fellow Penn alum wrote to me, "Have STD infections at Penn been on the rise? Are there more incidents of unintended pregnancy on campus?" Why did the author write this? Perhaps a provocative piece about Ivy League women and sex attracts New York Times readers, but sadly, it misrepresented the accomplished, strong and smart women that I know as Penn students, past and present.
Other things that felt unclear to me: Throughout the piece, we are reminded that in spite of how strong/feminist these women are, that they didn't want their names printed or their number of sexual partners:
In the meantime, from A.’s perspective, she was in charge of her own sexuality.
“I definitely wouldn’t say I’ve regretted any of my one-night stands,” she said.
“I’m a true feminist,” she added. “I’m a strong woman. I know what I want.”
At the same time, she didn’t want the number of people she had slept with printed, and she said it was important to her to keep her sexual life separate from her image as a leader at Penn.
ZOMG. WHO THE FUCK WANTS THEIR NUMBER OF SEXUAL PARTNERS EVER PRINTED ANYWHERE EVER FOR ANY REASON WHATSOEVER? Why would any woman be obligated to share her number of sexual partners with a reporter? To put her money where her vagina is? Also, there's no mention of a slut-shaming culture to help contextualize their choice to remain anonymous, just that the women don’t want to give their names.
Then we learn about how women at Penn on financial aid think all this hooking up is totes bizarre. And that once, a woman who wanted to "wrap things up" and get a casual hookup situation over with, tossed a dude a beej as a parting gift. Rich ladies like to PARTY, poor girls have to keep it real...virginal. (Potentially different class-based attitudes toward casual sex is actually really fascinating to me, and it's almost never explored.)
Then, the entire last section is devoted to Catherine, a Penn senior who finds hookup culture a "continuous source of heartbreak" and thinks her classmates "underestimated how hard it was to find the right person to be with."
So there you have it. A super balanced look at the how young women at the top schools are continually reshaping our notions of feminism, choice, and equality and how it affects their lives, er, lack of husbands.
But in the interest of presenting balance: Could we also talk to some dudes about this trend? Can we find out how a range of men feel about hookup culture at this very same school? Might it refute this notion that all the good men will be long gone, bedding down with 22 year olds while 32 year old women sit in their expensive condos they bought themselves crying with a glass of Chardonnay?
I bet if we asked them, we might find that, just like the varied, diverse women at Penn, some men there love getting nothing but poon with no presh, while others are actively engaged in relationships, sometimes get too attached themselves from hookups, and others actually want to marry their peers. I know a good man is hard to find and everything, but sheesh — you wouldn't even need these dudes to call you back again.
Image by Jim Cooke, photo via Getty.