Sexual Agency and Experimentation

Deborah Tolman’s Adolescent Girls’ Sexuality brings to light the idea of sexual subjectivity, or a young woman’s sense of self as a sexual person who is entitled to have sexual feelings and make active decisions about sexual behavior. Being sexual subjects requires young ladies to have more agency with their sexuality–to be active agents in the choices they are making. It also requires that these young women have sexual well-being, including sexual and reproductive health, comfort with one’s body, feelings and desires, and awareness of and having the freedom to act upon sexual desires.

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Seeing Double

Kathleen Bogle’s book, Hooking Up, devotes an entire chapter to discussing the double standard as it exists on college campuses. In it, she illustrates how women are seen as “good” if they do not have sex with many people, do not dress provocatively, and take things slow and wait awhile to have sex. A “bad” girl is one who may be incredibly sexy, but has sex with many men, dresses improperly, and has sex when she wants to. Bogle’s research has shown that men and women in hookup cultures want different things; men want only sex and women want relationships. Now, (setting aside psychological reasons like women being more emotional and getting attached more easily) some women are looking for relationships because they want to marry in a few years. Other women may feel the need to be in relationships to protect their reputations and not be labeled “sluts” for having sex. As far as sex goes, men can have sex as much as they want to without having to worry about any sort of social backlash; they have basically no rules. For women, however, it is a different story.  It is very easy for a woman to get a bad reputation– if she hooks up too often, hooks up with too many different people, hooks up with two friends (or frat brothers), dresses too scandalously, or behaves too wildly. When women do engage in these no-no’s, they are labeled as “sluts,” stigmatized, ostracized, and not seen as candidates for relationships. It seems women who want to be in relationships almost have to trick or coerce the men to be in them. Bogle found that guys are a little more willing to enter into friends-with-benefits relationships, although they are still worried about women wanting “more.” Because clearly men and women want different things, men want hookups and women want relationships, why do women not opt-out? Men are in a higher position of power within hookup culture, because that is all that they want. If women choose not to participate in hookup culture, they don’t really have any other options.

As an undergraduate female at Vanderbilt, I have seen, and even experienced firsthand, much of the double standard and differing goals of male and female students. One guy I’ve heard of is extremely well known for hooking up with lots of girls; people who talk of him almost regard him with a sort of awe. On the other hand, my female friend was once worrying about being seen dancing on guys at parties, as she didn’t want to get a bad rep like some other girls who were known for sleeping around. Guys really don’t have many “rules” governing what kind of behavior is acceptable. Hooking up with someone else’s girlfriend may make him mad at you, but you’ll still probably gain a lot of esteem from your friends. Really, guys can hook up with whomever they want, whenever they want, and not face much (if any) stigma. Girls, however, have to watch their steps. I do not agree with these labels or stigma, but I am describing what I see as dominant scripts here on campus. A woman who avoids sex and parties altogether may be branded a “good girl,” someone innocent and naive, or possibly a “goody-goody” who stands on a moral high ground above the other people who do engage in those behaviors. She can’t be too “good,” but woman cannot go too far in the other direction either. If she drinks and parties too much, she may get a name for that, especially if she makes a habit of getting “sloppily” drunk, passing out, or throwing up. If a woman has sex with too many people, she is seen as a “slut,” and then is less desirable. If a woman is looking for a relationship, she can’t have sex with the candidate too soon, or else he won’t see her as relationship material (I just want to point out that it takes two to tango here, he had sex just as soon as she did). Now, a woman’s safest bet here is to have a boyfriend (if she can snag one), or even a friend-with-benefits. She wouldn’t be judged for sleeping with too many people, or regarded as “too good” to hook up with anyone.

The problem is that a large amount of guys are not looking for relationships. They view college, especially the first couple years, as a time to let loose and have fun. Everyone just wants to party and live the college experience, right? I think that many freshmen, guys and girls, come into college with this mentality, but that over time, it gradually changes. I agree that girls are more likely to want relationships, but that there is no clear course to finding one when hooking up seems to be the only option.

I think this double standard is completely ridiculous, though the solution is not to start slut-shaming men equally. Men and women should be able to have sex whenever, however, and with whomever they want (with consent). No one should have to feel embarrassed about their sexuality. Having sex does not make someone a bad person. Our culture needs to recognize women as sexual beings with desires of their own who can make choices for themselves and do not need the fear of outside judgment to keep them in line. It is absurd to me that today, in 2014, men and women are still not equals. They may be protected from discriminatory practices by law, but in social situations with socially constructed rules and scripts for behavior, men are often favored.

How do you think we can work to eradicate the double standard? Why do you think guys do not seem to want relationships, but girls do? Does the double standard apply to non-heterosexual and non-cisgender people?

Fraternities have proven to be dangerous, so why are we not doing anything about it?


We’ve all probably been to at least one frat party in our lives. If anyone ever wanted to learn about hookup culture all they would have to do is visit Greek Row on a Friday night. Frats are the sixth worst insurance liability, behind asbestos companies, so why are college campuses not addressing frats when talking about sexual assault? Continue reading

What’s Sex Got to do With… My Final Blog Post

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Throughout this semester, I have learned a lot more than I actually thought I would. There is a huge relationship between sex and society and the two connect in many more ways than just one. Above everything else we discussed about in class, I think one of the most important things we talked about regarding the relationship between sex and society is hook up culture and how it affects rape culture (especially on college campuses). This topic is incredibly relevant to myself, as I am a college student. It is also very true in the sense that college campuses thrive from the hook up culture. And along with this, the hook up culture that involves drugs and alcohol and partying—contributes to the existence of a rape culture on college campuses.

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Everyone knows that while college is very grueling academically—the weekends can be pretty fun. College campuses are filled with frat parties, house parties, sports tailgates, and bars. To go along with these, there is always an abundance of both alcohol and drugs available and easily accessed. When all of these things come together they create an environment that a hook up culture thrives inside of. After every weekend (or night that students go out) you hear various stories about who hooked up with who and what they did. As young teens begin to grow up and become more sexually active, the hook up culture continues to become even more popular.

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My first week of college reinforced the idea that dating barely exists anymore. Perhaps it does exist outside of college for the graduated generation, but it is irrelevant and absent in college life. There is something about college that largely encourages a hook up scene opposed to a dating culture. If two college students are to start a relationship with one another—it will most likely emerge out of a hook up. Students will usually start “hooking up” before anything else. Then, after they become exclusive, or realize they like each other—they may switch from “hooking up” to being in a relationship. Typically, that is how college (and even high school) relationships form—nobody starts out by dating.

Alcohol is also a huge factor in the hook up culture. A lot of students feel the need to consume alcohol in order to feel more comfortable, outgoing, and not as shy—when going out to parties. Without alcohol in their system, some students fear possible rejection and think it is necessary to drink in order to have fun. Once alcohol gets into the mix of things, sexual assault can become more and more common. While I do think sexual assault and power based personal violence will also happen without alcohol being involved—it can definitely increase the chances. Another thing about alcohol is that when people start consuming it and grow to be intoxicated they can no longer give sexual consent. This can cause a lot of problems. Although I don’t think there is any chance that dating will ever take over the college hook up culture, college students do need to be careful and be aware of what could possibly happen at parties once alcohol and drugs are involved.