Hooking-up And Dating Aren’t Mutually Exclusive

Red Sox vs. Yankees; Celtics vs. Lakers; Boston College vs. Boston University; Newton vs. Upper—we have this thing for rivalries. We love pitting two sides against each other, and making it a point to highlight their differences rather than commonalities. We love picking one of them, and we won’t ever be seen cheering for the other side. Win or lose, we won’t budge.

BC sees another addition to this list: hook-up culture vs. dating culture. There is this widely-held belief that these two cultures are night and day. We must choose only choose one, they say. It is probably wise to specify that by the dating culture, I mean going on dates, not long-term relationships.

This seemingly natural rivalry is something that has always intrigued me. I first noticed it when I attended one of Kerry Cronin’s famous talks on dating. She gave a talk outlining what a date really is, why people go on dates, and what people should try to get out of a date. If every BC student listened to what she had to say, BC would probably be a better place. Needless to say, the infamous hook-up culture came up, and she said that people either fall into the hook-up or the dating category. She also made a point to show how the dating culture is far more satisfying, and all-around better, than the hook-up culture.

While I completely agree, it seemed that many students left with the wrong idea. The way that we speak of the two cultures, it’s as if they are on competing sides. Naturally, this entails that they are in someway substitutes for one another, as if we only need one.

We often compare the two because they have so much overlap. There’s this idea of intimacy, vulnerability, and attraction. But these comparisons lead us to a false belief: that they are two different ways to achieve emotional fulfillment. Naturally, if we put them on the same spectrum in such a way, we must choose the “better” one. If asked that way, most people would agree that dates are all-in-all better.

So why do people hookup? Why does Kerry Cronin have to make her students ask someone on a date? Shouldn’t we all naturally want to ask people on dates, if it’s so much better? Maybe. But that’s not what’s happening here. The hook-up culture is more prevalent than any type of dating, by far.

The truth is, hooking up is easier. It’s a way to escape our weekly reality, to feel free. It’s accessible because so many people on campus share the same mindset. It gives us a rush. It gives us that instant gratification that we crave. It might even help your confidence. That’s why people choose that team, that’s why that team is winning.

Dating, on the other hand, isn’t as easy. It takes courage. It somehow implies both rejection and something bigger, something more long-term. Who knows where it’ll go? That is what makes it so scary: it is so uncertain. It takes us out of our comfort zone. It forces us to be vulnerable. But a lot of the fears associated with dating stem from misunderstanding. We see a date as step one, where step 27 is a marriage. We have this idea that a date is naturally a precursor to a big commitment. But it’s not—at least it shouldn’t be. It’s just a way to get to know someone better, and to let that person know you might be romantically interested.

Now, what makes the hook-up culture so bad? Well, it’s currently the dominant outlet for emotional fulfillment. People think that hooking up is a suitable way to be fulfilled, because we keep comparing it to dating in an attempt to out it. And that is what makes it so destructive. That is why people have their hearts broken from hooking up: no one is on the same page. The first half is solely looking for physical pleasure while the other half is looking for something more, something romantic. This is a recipe for disaster.

The main issue lies in how we oppose the two cultures. If we tell people to stop hooking up and start dating instead, they won’t listen. People are stubborn. People will keep hooking up, and continue to have their hearts unsatisfied, or even broken.

But what if we stop trying to make people choose between the two? What if we stop telling people to date instead of hooking up, as if the two were substitutable? Yes, it’s true, dating is much more fulfilling, but that doesn’t mean it is something you necessarily must choose over hooking up. When we assign a team to everyone, we bind them to it. We force a rivalry.

Instead, we should present them as they are: two different means to two different ends, not two clashing ends of a spectrum. Maybe then people would feel less of a need to choose one, and would date more. People might ask someone out instead of hoping to run into them at a Mod. Isn’t that what we’ve wanted all along?

People would realize that hooking up isn’t an effective way to be emotionally fulfilled but that it is an effective way to be physically fulfilled.

In an ideal world, the two coexist, side by side. I don’t think this is too much of a reach for BC. But stop trying to fight the hook-up culture by shoving dates on students, and calling it the answer, because, evidently, that hasn’t tipped the scale one bit. Actually, the only way to balance the two is to not put them on the same scale at all.


Featured Image by Breck Wills / Heights Graphic