The culture of hookups on campus–an open letter to young people

My dear young friends,

Kudos to the NYT for doing an in-depth article on sex on campus.  Writing about the topic is not easy, and yet it is clear to me that we must. I read the article and my thoughts immediately went to all the conversations I have had over the last few years, mostly with young women and even some with more open young fellows. 

Engaging in a conversation is important–I can’t help but think that MY generation has done a very bad job of sharing and inspiring. We have sent the message loud and clear that you must achieve your professional goals, but we may not have been as open in discussing the meaning of our relationships. Many of us may have failed at relationships (look around to see those who are divorced), or we are now wrestling with our own compromises and are revisiting choices we made or feel uncomfortable about where we are and what remains to be done.

We are human beings, with deep emotions.  Our sexuality is an important component of who we are and how we live.  We must discuss how to make it work for us, not against us.  Health is the one gift we cannot throw away.  Respects for others and for ourselves is fundamental.

How do we keep the balance between our self and that of a companion? How do we define success?

More and more it is clear to me that the definition of success is an important one.  The answer will be different for each one of us, and yet look around you.  We tend to have a very rigid definition of success.

All of you that know me well know that I am not passing judgment of any sort.  But I am concerned that we are not talking enough about our own vulnerabilities, supporting each other, being conscious of what it means to treasure what we have been given, to nurture ourselves, to grow into our best selves.  We owe it to ourselves and to you, the next generation, to learn about others and ourselves, to connect meaningfully in all aspects of our lives.

I have no expertise and no background to discuss what is going on from a sociological perspective.  But I feel it is our responsibility to talk about the issues that underlie hookups and alcohol consumption. The malaise underneath this new cultural phenomenon is palpable. I feel it.  I have spoken to many of you, and you do too. 

I offer no answers, but I do think we should start talking, understanding the consequences (physical and emotional) of our behaviors and expectations.  Let’s do it without judgment, let’s remain open.  So much remains to be done for all of us women and men, to be fully human, to live up to our potential. Let’s get the conversation going.  Universities are not doing it, parents are trying, aunts are attempting.  Let’s do it.  There is more than the birds and the bees and safe sex to those conversations.

This I believe, that we must connect and care for each other deeply.  And we can start to show it by talking without judgment.

Life is Amazing! Live well.

Anna Grassini

The article on the NYT is found at this link



3 comments on “The culture of hookups on campus–an open letter to young people

  1. Hi Anna,

    Thanks for starting this! I, too, read and was deeply disturbed by that article. (Not the article, but what it conveyed.)

    Here is what I found missing from any aspect of those girls’ lives: Passion.

    Not necessarily romantic passion (but I’m not excluding that, either!). Passion about anything: Art, science, engineering, social justice.

    These are women whose lives are deeply impoverished (despite all their “elite” privileges) because they seem to have nothing whatsoever to feel passionate about.

    You don’t work all night in the lab, as Marie Curie did, to “improve your career prospects”. You don’t risk your life registering people to vote in the 1960s American South to “get a line item on your resume”.

    And if you’re truly passionate about something–anything!–you don’t have time for the inconsequential and the trivial.

    Like hookups, yes.

    But also housework :-). (Okay, I’m not saying that a clean house is antithetical to living with passion. But you get my point!).

    It’s not about hookups (having them or not).

    It’s about living a life without passion, a life so centered on goals, achievements, accomplishments that it neglects the fundamental question of what all those goals are FOR.

    If they are in the service of your greater passion–then great!

    But that doesn’t seem to be what these women are doing–perhaps because nobody has ever asked them about their passions. (Perhaps.)

    Faith, hope, love… and the greatest of these is love. And passion is another expression of love…

  2. Anna, your thoughts are so much more articulate and meaningful than any of the garbage in the NYT article, you really have a knack for getting to the heart of the matter. I find the whole language of “hookup” and young women who feel obliged to perform oral sex on men they don’t especially care about to be truly depressing. I suppose casual sex is here to stay, but I am dismayed too by the number of failed relationships and marriages. I also blame our culture of competitiveness and idealized standards of beauty and financial success that lead young people to pursue questionable goals. Thank goodness for 16 year old Malala, who gave such a moving and eloquent speech at the UN yesterday on her birthday. I was inspired by the young people who gave her a standing ovation. Maybe there’s hope after all.

  3. There is hope! But I do believe we must engage in conversation….

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