Recently, I had the pleasure of reading another PolicyMic pundit's take on hooking up and race. The writer succinctly summed up her argument by stating that hooking up is different for women of color and that the scenes described in recent pieces by the New York Times and the Huffington Post are not truly inclusive of them.
I agreed wholeheartedly with many of the arguments in the piece, in particular the fact that women of color feel the pressure to be considered respectable and not sexually available due to the jezebel stereotypes that still persist. As an Afro-Latina college students, and a feminist aware of the interestions of power, race, and privilege, I felt the need to speak about responsible ways to approach the hook up culture from perpsectives of race, class and gender.
One inherent discussion that I have seen missing from official talks about the hook-up culture are the links between the "blurred lines" that hook ups permit, and the abumdance of consensual sex on college campuses. As the controversy over a clip of the TV series Girls showed, the fine line between rape and a bad hook up can be easily crossed. However, the ways in which structures race, power and heteronormativity dominate present discussions about the millenial hook up culture remain to be truly explored.
Though I can only speak from a limited experience, I hope that the topics I discuss below offer some insight into what is missing to create more socially-conscious discussions about the fun inherent in hook ups.
1. No Fetishizing Stereotypes, Please
The recent video, "Asian Girlz", only proves the extremes to which people will go to fetishize others. Though the band Day Above Ground stated that video was not meant to insult women of Asian descent, it is clear that the video insulted plenty of women who face the effects of yellow fever in their dating lives.
Women of color in the hook-up scene are often racialized and fetishized in ways that enhance the structures of power that have subjugated people of color in the United States. In the hook up scene, understanding that the stereotypes that black women are sexually available jezebels, Asian women are submissive, and Latinas are muy caliente (my personal pet peeve) extend beyond the bedroom, reaching back into the United State's history of oppression, slavery, conquest, and war.
You might think this a stretch, but when women of color are claimed or passed over in majority-white universities, this creates the kind of discomfort that is reminiscent of the racialized rejection of bodies of color in the past.
2. Consensual Sex is HOT
Next time things start getting sexy, try disrupting the patriarchy-sponsored rape culture by asking "Hey, you want to (dance) (leave) (kiss) ...?" Practicing consent is a humanizing act that much rivals the going-ons at major universities, including the description of the hook up scene in the New York Times piece: "You go in, and they take you down to a dark basement," Haley, a blond, pink-cheeked senior, recalled of her first frat parties in freshman year. "There's girls dancing in the middle, and there’s guys lurking on the sides and then coming and basically pressing their genitals up against you and trying to dance."
Dark basement? Lurking? Ain't about that life.
This feminist knows that hook ups can be turned around from the anonymous, dark place described here into an experience that is both gratifying and safe for all parties involved. Consent is a crucial act that establishes a line of communication, ensuring that hook ups are reasonably more safe.
3. Disrupt the Sexual Market Theory
The brouhaha over recent findings that college women participate in the hook-up scene is the idea that they are somehow disrupting sexual market value ideas.
In the sexual market theory, men have a lower risk when they participate in sexual activity. In conventional wisdom, they appreciate power and influence, be it first because of how many chicks they've bagged, or later because they are worldly men with experience. Women, though they hold sex as a resource, are at a higher risk to suffer its adverse effects, like unintended pregnancies. They supposedly depreciate in value when they choose to mete out this resource at their leisure.
Until the young women participating in the hook up culture unhook their sexual experience from a system that weighs their sexual choices against their moral character, not much will change.
The neoliberal nature of the sexual value market may be a lot think about when a few drinks have gone to your head. However, the key to disrupting traditional ideals of sex and gender lies in the intentionality with which young women participate in this sexual scene. In other words, don't participate in discourse that is derogatory to women, labeling them as promiscuous for their sexual activities.
4. Confront Class Privilege, Pt. 1
In analyzing the hook up scene people tend to pass over embedded class elements. Class plays an important role at the macro level, dictating the kinds of students that will be present on college campuses, and at the micro level, limiting or enhancing the choices of these students within certain social situations.
The normative stereotypes of the hook up scene often involves flowing alcohol at a frat party basement, or drinks at a bar or club. At one point, while I worked two jobs and managed school, the expense of buying tickets to go to clubs, getting drinks at bars and endlessly hopping from midnight-inflated frat parties was simply too expensive. I settled for beer/water pong and theme parties with friends instead. The point of the anecdote is to demonstrate that while some college students feel liberated by the hook-up culture, others can feel that the class elements inherent in it best serve students with more privilege.
5. Confront Class Privilege, Pt. 2
In order to portray the conventional beauty that makes certain women attractive to certain men in the hook-up scene, college students often have to go to the great expense of purchasing the clothing, accessories, and for women, beauty products that will enable them to fit in and attract the opposite sex. Consider this the cost of a date at a nice restaurant, but perhaps multiply it by every pair of expensive jeans or dresses that you've purchased before a big college party. Looking conventionally cute has a price, too. This of course assumes that people in the hook-up scene are intentional enough about their appearance to make purchasing choices around it, which let's be real, many are.
6. Create Hospitable Environments for LGBTQ Students
One of the problems with recent discussions of the hook-up scene is its exclusion of LGBTQ folks. Apparently, as recent articles have demonstrated, only heterosexual couples enjoy the occasional casual hook up every now and then. As this Daily Princetonian article writes, LGBTQ students face unique obstacles on their campuses in regards to hooking up.
Acknowledging the fact that certain scenes on campus might be inhospitable, if not completely adverse, to LGBTQ students is a start for allies. Understanding that there are other hook-up scenes that we may know little about is also crucial. Finally, creating safe environments for LGBTQ students to explore their sexuality through hook ups or relationships seems paramount.
Therefore, while this Daily Princetonian article writes that "the extent of homophobia on campus remains unclear," allies should be working to know how homophobia affects LGBTQ folks in their campus, in their hook up scene, and how we can make our individual communities safer.
7. Discuss, Discuss, Discuss
Engage in honest and open conversation with your male and female friends about the hook up culture on your campus. Do socially-conscious students feel qualms about engaging in the hook up scene, given debate about racial and gender structures? Are there sexual health resources available on campus to ensure safe sexual activity? Does alcohol play a dangerous role in the campus hook up scenes? Should there be more discussion about sexual assault prevention?
Let me know your thoughts @Saudisauds.