There’s a stranger in my bed
There’s a pounding in my head
Glitter all over the room
Pink flamingos in the pool
I smell like a minibar
DJ’s passed out in the yard
Barbies on the barbeque
Is this a hickey or a bruise
—Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)
In chapter 3 of her book, Bogle defines the necessity of ambiguity in the term “hooking up.” For males, facing pressure from same-sex friends to participate in hook up culture and “go all the way,” this ambiguity allows any interaction, even kissing, to be considered “hooking up.” For women, however, the opposite is true. We discussed in class the need for women to often times explain the depth of interaction when they refer to a “hook up.” What this means to say is that when a women tells her friends of a “hook up,” she then is often compelled to eliminate the ambiguity inherent to the term by telling her friends the specifics of this interaction. Even within this hook up culture, there is a clear divide between women and men when it comes to their experiences and how they describe the interaction to even their closest friends.
The ambiguity present in the term “hook up” is necessary to the culture of hooking up on college campuses in much the same way that individuals who do not fit into the gender binary find safety in identifying with an ambiguous term. For example, some transgendered and intersexed individuals do not feel comfortable identifying as either male or female. In this case, these individuals often find comfort in using gender-neutral pronouns such as “they/them/theirs.” In this case, those who identify as anything other than male or female do not ascribe to the “traditional” gender binary. Because of this, they are often ostracized, denied opportunities and suffer a greater risk of abuse and homelessness than those who belong to the dominant group and identify as either female or male. The ambiguity of genders, or the blurring of lines where they would traditionally be drawn often makes people uncomfortable. For hook-up culture, however, these are the exact features which serve to benefit those who exist within this culture. For women, as Bogle puts it, they are given the identities of either the “good girl” or the “slut.” Women therefore address the ambiguity to often assure others that they do, in fact, belong to the “good girl” identity. For men, on the other hand, the ambiguity present in this term is often assumed to mean the most it could, or to mean he did in fact have penetrative sex with his hook up partner. What dominated these understandings is the ever-pervasive moral boundaries which are dictated by society, which we then reflect back and to one another.
In the song by Ke$ha quoted at the beginning of this post, she makes clear not only the perceived popularity of hooking up, but also the casualness it is often received with. However, this representation in pop-culture doesn’t serve as a true mirror for the lived experiences of individuals within hook-up culture. We learned that truthfully, while a majority of college students have engaged in some form of hooking up, a much smaller percentage engaged in sexual intercourse with their hook-up partner. Often times in media, hooking up is portrayed as the ideal relationship, because it excludes emotions and focuses purely on the physical aspect of sex. However, this portrayal is both unrealistic and detrimental to those who use media as a lens through which to view culture and frame societal expectations for themselves.
A definite issue with Bogle’s first three chapters is her description of her procedure when compelling her results. In the first chapter of “Hooking Up,” Bogle makes it clear that she decided to sample a group that was mostly heterosexual, white and upper-middle class, but that she did so very strategically (Bogle 6). Her decision was is based in the fact that these groups are not only the majority, but hold social power in nearly all situations. We identified this lack of diversity as a problematic feature of her study in class. By focusing only on the dominant scripts of understanding, Bogle is in fact playing into the power structures she claims to push against. However, given that there is overall a lack of study in the arena of hook up culture on college campuses, it remains to be seen that there must first be a study of the interactions of this culture with society. Once this has been established, then there can be further exploration into the intricacies of interaction between groups that are in the minority and the culture of hooking up on college campuses. This is not to say that Bogle is justified in excluding most minority groups, but that given the limited nature of scholarly exploration into hook-up culture, she stands to provide a basis for future publications regarding the more nuanced interactions that result of hook up culture at universities.
We’ve discussed at length the paradoxical nature of an ambiguous term which demands definition at every mention – why do you think this term hasn’t evolved or changed to be more specific? Are the benefits to those hiding behind it enough to justify a term which requires definition every time it is used? Colloquially, what does the term “hooking up” mean where you are from, without further refinement by explanation?