Studying in McCage until 2 a.m. is typical of a Swattie’s schedule. The intensity of academics at Swarthmore can overwhelm students, especially when they also have ten extracurricular activities. One of the major outlets for their accumulated stress is partying — and with partying comes hook-up culture. I believe that, despite my initial reservations, the hook-up culture has a positive impact on student well-being.
The term “hook-up” is ambiguous. It involves, to varying degrees, having a casual romantic encounter with someone. Although people do not expect much to come from a hook-up, there is always the possibility of an unanticipated long-term relationship.
People have different perspectives on hook-up culture. On one end of the spectrum, hooking-up is considered an abhorrent act that devalues the concept of “love,” and on the other, it is perceived as a positive, spontaneous act of “living in the moment.”
As an international student from a country with a more subtle, conservative attitude towards relationships, I had never witnessed hook-up culture before coming to Swarthmore. During the first week, I went through significant culture shock at the parties in which fellow classmates were involved in intimate physical contact. But over these several weeks, I came to acknowledge and accept hook-up culture as something that plays a rather positive role in the lives of students who choose to engage in this culture.
Hook-up culture provides a psychological and mental rest for students whose brains have been conditioned for long-term planning. Students are constantly reminded both consciously and subconsciously that the courses they take at Swarthmore, the exams and essays they endure, the grades they receive in each class, and the internships they are accepted into all affect their careers and ultimately, their future. It is difficult, if not impossible, to take actions without considering their effects on the future.
However, hook-up culture allows — and even forces — a change in students’ mentality: a mentality that focuses on the moment, devoid of long-term expectations or planning. The mental rest they enjoy has a therapeutic effect on their worn-out brains. The awkward encounters at Sharples the next day are trivial in comparison.
Needless to say, hook-up culture is positive only if the involved actors retain their responsibilities to respect each other. But overall, I believe the hook-up culture at Swarthmore has beneficial effects on the students.