Kaplan-Maxfield Connects ‘Random Hookups’ and Jesuit Ideals

Thomas Kaplan-Maxfield

How does the Jesuit examen coincide with random hookups? Thomas Kaplan-Maxfield, a beloved English professor on campus, had some insight on that question.

Students poured into Gasson on Monday night ready to hear the Undergraduate Government of Boston College-sponsored talk “What is Love?” only to realize there were no seats left. Instead of leaving, they stood in the back, not wanting to miss this talk from Kaplan-Maxfield.

The talk began with student speakers sharing personal experiences about their relationships and love.

Sarah Bradley, LSOE ’17, shared experiences that ranged from her own “emotionally abusive and unhealthy” relationship to the hookup culture at BC. Instead of degrading hookup culture, she emphasized listening to one’s own voice when it comes to reflecting on what the best decision in any relationship is. She encouraged independence and empowerment for all.

“Always listen to the voice that should be the loudest in your head, [which is] your own, and trust that,” she said.

Next up was Nicolas Buonanduci, MCAS ’19, who discussed dealing with atypical relationships at BC. He reflected on his past of being one of few gay kids in his hometown, and how he allowed people’s opinions and actions to affect his relationship with another boy. Now at BC, he notes the downside of the culture here that he feels affects some of his peers.

“I know a few gay men who are nervous about pursuing a relationship with another man because they feel like the ‘BC bro culture’ would be their enemy,” he said.  

Last of the students to speak was Gabby Zabbo, CSON ’18, whose talk centered around consent. She spoke about the importance of consent in all types of relationships: long-term ones, casual ones, and one-night stands.

“I’ll repeat that again, she said. “You never have to do anything you don’t want to do.”

After the reflections from the student panel, Kaplan-Maxfield, lovingly referred to as TKM by his “fan club,” was up next to speak. His remarks throughout the night drew many laughs and agreeing nods from the crowd.

He also didn’t resist mentioning fellow professor Kerry Cronin and his opposing ideas with her on hookup culture. Cronin is known for her famous dating assignment on campus, encouraging students to break free of the hookup culture and seek meaningful relationships with people.

Kaplan-Maxfield resents the idea that the prevalent hookup culture is so denounced and shameful. He defines love very broadly instead.

“Love is the principle of connectedness, and what that means is that any connection is a form of love,” he said.

Kaplan-Maxfield then made the point that people can’t generalize love as good or random hookups as bad. Instead, people must look at the particulars to see how they are affecting the individual.

He noted the inherent human nature of hookup culture as well, referencing stories like Adam and Eve and how the seeking of something forbidden, as he believes random hookups are viewed, makes hookups all the more inevitable.

Kaplan-Maxfield then cited some direct benefits random hookups can have on people. Specifically referencing the Jesuit examen, he suggested a reason this reflection coincides with random hookups. He did not denounce the reflective culture, but wonders if random hookups act as a reflection in a much different way from how students often focus on it in class.

“What if random hookups were a way of countering all these examens you’re doing?” he said. “We become more soulful not just when we fall in love, but when we have more hookups we become more soulful … [With] feelings of shame or guilt or ‘what does this mean for me?’ … these are all soulful questions.”

On his last point of health, he reminded the audience that health is rooted in the word “whole,” and that this means to include both the good and the bad in one’s life. He argued that in this case, random hookups can be inherently healthy.

“With random hookups, we are revealing and concealing at the same time,” he said. “Morality wants to make it one-sided but it’s both good and bad. This notion that random hookups aren’t really about the whole person, and therefore can’t be healthy, is kind of challenged if we pay attention to the actual hookup itself.”

Kaplan-Maxfield ended his speech encouraging students to think about these things when they make decisions regarding relationships or hookups. He urged health in the sense of being whole above all and reminded the students of an important point regarding not just love but being human in general.

“To be whole for all of us means that we would include all of the parts of us that other lives might not want to include,” he said.

Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Staff