Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve discussed college hookup and dating culture in class. What is especially interesting about this is that we are able to observe our studies outside of the classroom. But what comes after college? In my experience, the easiest access point we have to glimpse our futures is on television. Honestly, most of the ideas I have about adult dating culture comes from one of my favorite shows, Friends.
Friends exposes a dating scene that does not differ too much from hookup culture: they go on a date or two with a stranger who finds them attractive, have sex, and then they may or may not end up in a relationship. Essentially, their social/romantic lives are not all that different from that of college students, save for some conversation which adds a level of legitimacy to their quest to find a life partner. This isn’t extremely different from Katherine Bogle’s observations in Hooking Up. A recent alumni says that romantic exchange “Definitely changes. There are more dates now… where you meet someone in a bar [and] they are a complete stranger… Sometimes maybe a girl goes home with a guy [to hook up]… but I think that’s a small percentage” (Bogle, 130). It seems as though the primary difference between dating in Friends and dating in Bogle’s account of post-grad life is the amount of actual sex people are having.
A major shift between college and post-college sexual exchanges that is easy to observe in television shows like Friends, as well as in Bogle’s account, is that the stakes for dating are much higher. “Hooking up” with a stranger is the norm for many college students, and it seems to be an occasional practice of graduated adults. However, Friends—among other television shows—is quick to explain that hooking up with someone right away, male or female, denies the participants a real opportunity to be in a long-term partnership. It seems as though this isn’t the case in college, unless a woman has already developed a reputation as a “Houserat” or a slut. Bogle says, “Many of the college women with whom I spoke were interested in hookup encounters evolving into relationships” (Bogle, 51). In the understanding I’ve been given about the adult world, sleeping with someone isn’t the best way to start a long-term relationship. The major stakes for relationships that appear after college is over most often come from societal pressures to “settle down” and eventually get married. On the other hand, a college relationship that stems from a hookup isn’t expected to be long-term or necessarily serious.
My hopes for high school were dashed when I realized that life was nothing like Dawson’s Creek. On the same note, it’s likely that Friends doesn’t accurately display the most common dating culture in the adult world (it’s easy to question the validity of the show if they’re a group of semi-unemployed adults living in a massive apartment in downtown New York).
Do believe that television shows warp our expectations for romantic relationships? Is it important to have a realistic representation of post-college life in pop culture, or is no harm done by idealizing a version of hookup culture for independent adults? Are there shows which more accurately depict what Bogle has learned from college alumni in Hooking Up?