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College Campus Hookup Culture and Its Effects On Self Esteem and Sexual Expression In College Age Women

Katherine Feinstein

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College women discuss the effects that hookup culture has on their self-esteem on campus.
Source: Jerk Magazine.net

Hookup Culture is a phenomenon especially prevalent on college campuses that operates through heteronormative sexual scripts. Though at times sexually freeing, the non-emotional, one-sided rules of hookup culture can also be sexually oppressive and damaging to the self esteem of college women. 

Casual sex is a sticky subject, especially for college age women. At a school like the University of Michigan with 40,000 students, the prevalence of hyper masculine frat culture and alcohol is no small effect.

It’s no wonder many women aren’t always having their sexual and romantic needs met. Further, sexual stigma and heteronormative gender roles may be creating an oppressive culture for heterosexual women, as well as leaving women to blame and shame themselves. 

A casual sexual  relationship between two people in college is connected by one's self-esteem, especially in college women.
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A study was conducted of 91 college-age women ranging from Freshmen (22%) to Seniors (4.4%) and varying in sexual identity to get a sense of if negative experiences with hookup culture and self-esteem are typical for women on campus.

As for if women even want casual sex to begin with, collectively 71.4% of women surveyed were either excited to have casual sex going into college or were considering/curious about it. 

Casual sex, it seems, is having its own movement as young people are decidedly more sexually active than they ever have been. 

According to the American Psychological Association (APA),  the age when people first marry and reproduce has been pushed back dramatically, while at the same time the age of puberty has dropped. Changing social and sexual scripts along with these developmental shifts have driven the rise of casual sex.

College women, then, don’t necessarily have as much legroom in determining what type of sexual encounter they’re looking for. When asked if they’ve felt in control of the encounter the times they’ve had one night stands or recurring casual sex, 51.2% of the women surveyed said that at times they’ve felt unheard. 

Olivia, who is a Junior at the University of Michigan, definitely felt as though the hookup culture has a power imbalance in that men have the final say, and she learned to not expect anything after a casual encounter. Further, there does seem to be a lack of respect when it comes to women’s expectations and pleasure. 

Hookup culture can be a touchy subject for college aged women, so young women further examine how it effects their self-esteem.
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From the 91 women surveyed, when asked if they felt their needs were being met during casual sex, 50% answered “sometimes.” And that “they had to ask for it and were not completely satisfied” if their partner did try to address their pleasure.

There are several factors playing into why some college women are being left unfulfilled in the hookup scene.  Because the majority of women represented in the discussed survey are in sororities on the UoM campus, one aspect that may be driving this male dominance is the influence of hyper-masculinity in college fraternities. 

Hyper-masculinity characterizes the uber-macho, patriarchal and dominant aspects of manhood that, in the right environment, condition and pressure young men to validate their own masculinity.

Author Alexandra Robbins noted how the prevailing masculine characteristics include being expected to suppress emotions, desire multiple sexual partners, want to dominate situations and have control over women. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the majority of fraternity men want to follow them. 

Robbins states that “most college guys don’t endorse traditional masculine norms, but believe that most other men do”. Fraternity men then overestimated aspects of masculine behavior such as how much their fraternity brothers use alcohol and other drugs, how much sex they actually have or want to have, and tolerance of behavior that degrades women. 

Another Junior at the University of Michigan, Ali, is also a sorority woman who has recognized the sexual power dynamics on campus. She noted a specific partner whose actions towards her were influenced by the hypermasculine narrative: 

“When I was hooking up with this guy, I remember the guys in his frat would make fun of him for being friends with me, but also staying loyal to me even though we were only f**k buddies. That definitely influenced him ultimately disrespecting me and hooking up with someone else because, according to his guy friends, he would be a ‘pu**y’ if he didn’t.”. 

Ali knew this partner as a good friend and knew that it wasn’t necessarily in his nature to hurt her as he did. Instead, she said “guys know exactly what they’re doing and do it in front of other guys. They’ll jab each other when it comes to girls, and it creates that dynamic.”.

So, what are all of these confusing standards and rules doing to women’s self-esteem? Hookup culture seems to do one of two things: it either empowers women in their sexuality and autonomy in making sexual choices or can have a judgmental effect that diminishes their self-worth. 

Out of the 91 women surveyed, only 6% said they had “never” felt bad about themselves after a casual sexual encounter. 21% of these women- a whopping fifth- said they felt bad about themselves “About half the time”. 

Collectively 94% of these women have had poor self esteem from one of these experiences at some point or another. 

Similarly, Olivia admitted she mainly has had boyfriends in college because of the poor self-esteem that hookup culture caused her. When asked to elaborate, Olivia touched on the mentality many sorority women have when it comes to monthly Greek Life “Date Parties”. 

Date Parties at UofM are events hosted by sororities and fraternities typically at a club in Detroit, in which sorority women or fraternity men invite a date and spend the night with them drinking heavily at the club. Olivia noted how, if you are asked to a fraternity date party, it is almost expected that you ‘hook up’ with your date. 

Further, Olivia recalled several mornings after a Date Party or night out and felt almost exposed when re-entering her sorority house. 

She noted, “People judged me when I would come back the morning after, and I felt terrible about myself. I would come back the morning after in a dress and we would all laugh as if it were a joke. But it actually really hurt me.”

Interestingly enough, Olivia found a college woman’s body count- or the number of people she has had sex with- is this “dirty little secret” that other women care about. Men, on the other hand, “don’t really care about body count”.

In analyzing this through Robbins’s lens, perhaps this is because a college man’s body count is essential to the validation of his masculinity. Whether or not this is universally true, it certainly plays a part in dictating the inherent roles female and male sexuality play in hookup culture.

Ali also noted that the notorious morning-after “walk of shame” can be a point of deprecation, but has actually used it as an opportunity for her to take back her sexuality. She said, “It can be empowering to do the walk of shame knowing it’s what you want and just being strong and ‘impolite’ with no mercy when guys do that to girls all the time and get no shit for it.”

Ali also found a strategy early on in her sexual experiences at UofM to assert her needs. Ali said, “I knew I had to be non-committal, as well as openly honest and brutal when it came to my expectations”.

Ali  “felt empowered” by taking control of her own sexuality in the hookup culture scene, and saw that this was the best way to protect herself and check imbalances of power.

Thus, casual sex in college can cut both ways. This is all not to say that casual sex is bad, or the availability and opportunity to express and experiment with one’s sexuality is always damaging. 

Casual sex can actually be extremely beneficial to one’s personal and sexual growth, especially at this age. The root of the problem is the collection of heteronormative, patriarchal, and hypermasculine narratives that dictate how partners should operate in casual sex encounters.

Moving forward, as pointed out by Ali, the most important thing in casual sex relationships is to “be upfront, confident, communicative, and unapologetic”.

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A Holiday Like No Other: 6 Ways to Have a Safe Thanksgiving in 2020

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Group of about 7 people celebrating Thanksgiving

Autumn has arrived, midterms are over, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. It’s a well-deserved break, especially for college students, and a chance to travel back to your homes to spend time with loved ones. Only, there’s a catch. It’s Thanksgiving 2020. It’s Thanksgiving in the middle of a global pandemic.

With that said, it is important to be aware of the consequences of large gatherings as the holiday season quickly approaches. Here are a few tips on how you can plan a safer Thanksgiving. 

Follow the Usual Protocol

Wear your mask and limit social contact. Avoid unnecessary outings, such as dining in restaurants or going to the store when you don’t need to. Quarantine yourself and get tested if you’re experiencing symptoms, or were within close contact with someone with the virus.

Turn on your notifications

Depending on where you live, your phone can now alert you if you are exposed to the virus. Apple and Google have built software into the latest versions of iPhones and Android devices to detect people through Bluetooth. If you have an iPhone, go to Settings and turn on Exposure Notifications to use this feature, which will alert you to any potential contact with a person who has the virus. However, this only works when the people around you have their notifications on.

Spread of many apples and leaves out of the cornucopia basket
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Consider a Virtual Celebration

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate and spend time with loved ones in a festive way. The CDC is discouraging Thanksgiving travel as cases continue to rise. Students who need to travel back home from campus can risk exposure in any type of public transport, be it airports, bus stations, or train stations. In addition, there’s no guarantee that all your guests follow COVID-safety guidelines, such as wearing masks and maintaining social distance.

One person can jeopardize everyone’s health. So why not ditch the risks and go virtual? It’s obviously not the same, but it’s Thanksgiving 2020.

The advancement of technology is at its peak and Zoom works well enough to do the trick. Drastic situations call for drastic measures.

Thanksgiving with Housemates

Again, ditch the risks of exposure in public transport, and host your own Thanksgiving with the people you are quarantining with. If you live off-campus with a couple of friends, this is a perfect time to host a Friendsgiving. However, it’s crucial that your housemates are following the COVID-guidelines for safety. Make sure that the gathering only consists of you and your housemates to limit your exposure to the virus.

Stay Outside and Limit the Gathering

As the weather becomes cooler, the United States is experiencing a spike in coronavirus cases. COVID-19 is making headlines once more as new cases soar above the thousands on the daily. Similar to influenza, COVID-19 survives longer in cold, dry air. People tend to stay inside during the cooler months, making themselves more vulnerable to the virus due to the restriction of air ventilation. If you insist on hosting or attending a gathering, make sure it’s small and held outside. 

A set dinner table, 5 plates set with dinner cloths wrapped on top, a variety of red and orange flowers in a vase on top the of the table
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Bring Your Own Food

Food is not a direct way to spread the virus, but it is still very much possible. Limit this possibility by encouraging your guests to bring their own food and drinks. This takes away from the traditional potluck Thanksgiving dinner, but at least you don’t have to eat the bland potato salad your aunt brings every year. It’s also wise to have a dry, ventilated bag to store the masks in while eating. Remember to also maintain social distancing as you dine. 

Everyone understands. Pandemic fatigue is real and the festive holiday season seems like a perfect way to unwind and get a little bit of a breather.

But before leaving the door without a mask on, take a moment and think: should you really gamble with the possibility of jeopardizing your health, and the health of your loved ones, for one gathering? Remember, Thanksgiving 2020 is a Thanksgiving like no other. It’s important to be cautious during these unprecedented times.

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How To Make A Smaller Thanksgiving Feast For Less Than 3 People

Mariah Olmstead

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A large Turkey float during the a parade in New York.
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On Thanksgiving, families across the U.S. gather in large numbers and eat a feast of delicious food. Family gatherings are a time to remember the old times, to have a laugh about a funny family member, and to reconnect. However, due to Covid-19 numbers rapidly growing, many families might have to consider cancelling large gatherings for the sake of everyone’s health and this can not only make everyone upset, but also means that many are going to have to spend Thanksgiving alone, or even with just their housemates.

Here is a list of ways that people can still enjoy the feast, but on a smaller scale and with more healthy options. 

Serve cornish hen instead of turkey

Turkeys usually sell from anywhere between $10 to $15 in some stores. They can also be heavy and big, taking most of the day to cook. Cornish hens not only look like turkeys, but they’re small enough for 1 to 2 people and take little time to cook. You can also stuff them! 

Dish out smaller portions

Delicious pies, perfect casseroles that pair with the turkey, and big portions make for great leftovers, but with a small gathering of 1-3 people, it can be difficult to cook them for so few people. Downsizing your portions of potatoes, green bean casserole, mac and cheese can still be just as good, but instead of having a ton of leftovers, everyone can enjoy the meal and not have to waste time trying to find those pesky containers to fit everything in. 

Three thanksgiving pies in a small table.
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Include healthier side dishes

While some people may be in quarantine, exercising and staying healthy can be a bit more difficult. Making healthy side dishes instead can still be just as delicious, but without all the guilt. Making quinoa salad instead of mashed potatoes, yogurt with fresh fruit instead of pies, and steamed broccoli instead of green bean casserole are all healthier options. 

Use cupcake tins for smaller pies

Pies are a wonderful dessert option for any Thanksgiving dinner, but they typically serve 5 or more people. Cupcake tins are a better option if you wish to make pies but in mini portions. To make them, get all the ingredients that you would as if you were making a regular pie, however, roll out the dough and make circles using a glass or other round objects slightly bigger than that of the cupcake tins. Smaller pies are not only cuter, but they’re perfect for 1 to 3 people. 

Thanksgiving can still be fun with fewer people. It can be healthy, and safe for all. These three tips are great for anyone who wishes to have a safe, Covid free holiday for all. 

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The Future of American Health Care

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Under the Biden administration, the  Future of the American Health Care system still not clear
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With President-elect Joe Biden taking office in January, what will the future of American health care look like?

On November 6, AP called the election for Joe Biden, after passing the 270 electoral votes needed, with a win in Pennsylvania. What will the future of American health care look like under the Biden administration? 

Even under Biden’s administration, the Senate is so divided that it is unlikely that anything significant will change in the American health care system for at least two years. The debates over Medicare for All, public insurance, and federal control of drug prices, will likely lead to a standstill in the near future. Biden endorsed lowering the Medicare eligibility age and expanding Affordable Care Act grants, which is projected as unlikely to pass in the Republican-controlled Senate. 

Nonetheless, the Biden administration is planning ambitious actions to improve the future of American health care. Beyond expanding the ACA, Biden plans to help public health agencies as they deal with the continuous spread of COVID-19 and pass a stimulus bill to help support hospitals, doctors, and nursing homes. 

The most significant facet of Biden’s policy is the public option he intends to implement. This will be sold on Obamacare’s marketplaces—where nearly 12 million Americans buy their insurance—adding more competition in places where only a limited number of health care plans are available. The public option will also cover low-income Americans that cannot get insurance because their states are opposed to Obamacare. Biden’s plan will immediately enroll nearly 4 million citizens that have not been able to get health insurance because their states will not expand Medicaid. However, this plan may be too controversial to pass through Congress without a Democrat majority. 

Two arrows increasing with a bar graph in the background.
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For the majority of the 150 million people with employer-sponsored coverage, it may not make sense to join the program. They will not be able to use the money their employer pays for insurance premiums, nor can their employers choose to put their employees on the government plan. This will most likely make most people—from both large group coverage and the public option—still reliant on their job for health insurance benefits. Health insurance today is very unaffordable for middle-income citizens. However, under Biden’s plan, a family making $150,000 would pay no more than $12,750 in annual premiums

Biden will likely implement regulations to combat COVID-19. He rolled out his COVID-19 task force on November 19. The task force members include David Kessler, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner; Vivek Murthy, the former surgeon general; and Yale physician-researcher Marcella Nunez-Smith. Biden has said he wishes to implement a national mask mandate, but this will need to go through the local government. Aside from mask mandates Biden plans to work with Congress to implement several more components in his coronavirus action plan. Such as, providing free testing for all Americans, getting rid of out-of-pocket expenses for coronavirus treatment, and getting personal protective equipment (PPE) for essential workers. 

It is likely that Biden’s administration will review the regulations put forward by Trump to prevent birth control. Biden can reverse the Trump administration’s changes to the Title X program that institutes access to birth control and other reproductive health care. 

Politically, there are going to be many hoops the Biden administration will need to jump through to secure his plan for the future of American health care. The ACA—that narrowly passed eight years ago—will be brought back to court with Republicans looking to dismember it. This could mean that millions may lose their health insurance, including millions more with preexisting conditions. If the Supreme Court strikes down the ACA, Biden will put his “Bidencare” plan forward. This policy is estimated to provide health insurance to every person that resides in the U.S. legally. It will also, however, leave nearly 6.5 million undocumented immigrants without health insurance.

Stock market numbers next to green and red arrows.
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Yet, if Biden’s plan is put forward it would mean that much of the current health care system will remain in place. Workers will be able to get their health insurance through their employers, but also Medicare and Medicaid will remain. In order to do this, Democrats will need to win two Georgia Senate seats in a January runoff to reach a 50-50 tie in the Senate. Also Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris, will give the chamber to the Democrats as the president of the Senate. 

On January 20, the Biden administration is set to take office at the White House. Thus, marking a new presidency and beginning the new future of American health care.

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