The hookup culture of a small school

Before coming to Albion, I spent two years at a large public university. When I first arrived on Albion’s campus, I was, quite honestly, freaked out by how nice everyone was. People I didn’t know were smiling at me. Smiling. Who did they think they were, smiling at me like we were friends? It was weird, I felt like I had landed on an alien planet. But, as I soon came to find out, that laid-back friendliness is just something that makes a small liberal arts school different than a school of over 20,000 students. After spending a year here, there are a number of other differences I’ve noticed, but perhaps the most drastic difference is the difference in hookup culture.

Let me explain. It’s not that hookups happen more or less often than they did at my public university. It’s just that everything about how they happen and how the student body talks about and views them is different. Here are the five strangest things I’ve noticed about hookup culture at smaller schools like Albion compared to larger institutions:

1. One night stands are impossible. You know the pilot episode of Grey’s Anatomy? Where Meredith has a one-night stand with a hot guy at the bar (Derek), only to find out the next morning he’s her boss? The chances of that happening anywhere else in this world are incredibly slim. I swear, that kind of thing only happens on television. And on small college campuses. One of the things I love most about Albion is that it’s a small school, so everyone pretty much knows everyone. That being the case, you’ll find that your “one-night stand” is surely going to be in one of your classes, or you’ll run into him in Baldwin, or at the Dow, and then you’ll run into the classic “Do I act normal and say ‘hi’ and pretend like nothing happened or just stare straight ahead and pretend not to see him?” dilemma. And you know, I don’t think there’s a universally clear answer to that dilemma still.

2. Everybody is somebody else’s something. So you’re crushing on that cute guy in your geology class, huh? Chances are, if you’re at Albion, you already know basically his whole life story, including the fact that he used to hookup with one of your teammates. This makes things difficult. Do you have to check in with her first to make sure you wouldn’t be stepping on anyone’s feet? Do you just pretend like you had no idea they used to hook up? Do you just give up all together because he’s basically damaged goods now? You’d think by now there would be a common courtesy procedure outlined for how to deal with this. But no. Instead there’s just lots of awkwardness and polite tiptoeing around the truth to avoid that awkward “So I hear you’re with my ex-boyfriend now” conversation.

3. Walk of shames are impossible to disguise. Albion has a lot of themed parties. Surprisingly (though maybe it’s not so surprising), more than I ever attended at my public university. People here get really into these themes. So walk of shames after these parties are pretty hard to disguise when you’re trekking across the quad at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning wearing a shark costume or dressed as Miley Cyrus from this year’s VMA’s performance. Yikes.

4. Secret hookups aren’t a thing. At my old university, I had a friend who was hooking up with a guy for literally months and none of us had any idea who he was.  We eventually found out he was a semi-sketchy dude who none of us had ever even heard of before, so it was kind of disappointing when we did find out. That kind of secrecy, though, is next to impossible here at Albion. If you spend too much time with anyone, people will start to talk. And before long, everyone will know you’re hooking up. Even if you swear up and down that you aren’t hooking up, your friends will probably just nod knowingly with a sly smile – because they heard from their lab partner, who’s in the same fraternity as the boy you’ve been spending time with, that you didn’t leave his room until 3 a.m. last night. You’re not fooling anyone. Your secret, no matter how hard you might try, is definitely not a secret.

5. Slut-labeling is easier. It’s not that slut labeling happens more or less often here than it did at my larger university, but it seems easier to call someone a “slut” or a “manwhore” because there’s “evidence” to back it up. It’s never OK to judge someone on their sexual behavior or choices – everyone is entitled to make their own decisions, and they shouldn’t be judged for them.  The harsh reality is that people do judge others for their sexual behavior, even when it’s clearly none of their business. So when someone knows that you’ve been with a certain number of guys in the past semester, it’s easier for them to label you a “slut” with certainty. Even if someone says, “Oh, she’s not a slut,” being able to say, “Yes, she is, she slept with [insert number here] of guys this year,” makes it more difficult to dispute the fact (Though, for the record, it should be stated that no matter how many sexual partners one has, they are never a slut). At my larger university, sexual histories were more ambiguous. You might have had an idea that the girl you were interested in had been with quite a few guys, but you wouldn’t know for sure unless she made the choice to explicitly tell you. Here, disclosing your past sexual partners is less of a choice – everyone already knows.

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About Tess Haadsma 24 Articles
Tess is a senior from Battle Creek, Mich., studying English literature and psychology. She is a member of the swimming and diving team, and is an avid burrito enthusiast. Follow her on twitter at @TessHaadsma.

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