My college experience has been filled with sexual tension in the classroom, dance floor make-outs and a scattering of emotionally-intimate partnerships. Reflecting upon my time here, I notice an unhealthy trend in the amount of respect with which boys treat me and my body. The contemporary hookup culture on our college campuses facilitates a peculiar dynamic, in which the shrouding of true feelings in order to maintain purely sexual relationships dominates over genuinely romantic relations between any two people.
It’s a weird phenomenon. Nearly every hookup situation is a competition for who can have the least amount of feelings. Memes across the Internet show various iterations of the concept: “When you catch feelings…” Such are the so-called relationships during our college experience—and I detest it.
Why is there an incessant fear of expressing emotions towards someone with whom you are brushing bodies? I mean, of course, you are going to have some feelings for a person when you are kissing, hooking up with or otherwise 'making love' to them. We are social animals. It is in our nature as human beings to form relationships with others, which indubitably suggests developing feelings for another person. By forcing ourselves into emotional isolation, by neglecting to express or, moreover, acknowledge the butterflies we feel for another person, we are doing ourselves a disservice.
All of this stems from the need to have the upper hand in the relationship, and whoever is the most emotionally distant has the upper hand. It's absurd, I know, and it has most of us yelling “WTF” to the skies. But it happens. And while one person is busy trying to be the most aloof, least-attached one, they lose respect for the other.
It may not seem obvious, but to think of someone as just a body, as someone with whom you are having sex but are otherwise not emotionally attached to, is objectifying and outright disrespectful: “Which of my romantic partners are worth respecting?” We choose which of our hookups are worth the respect, the communication, the pleasure and perhaps even some emotional intimacy.
Many factors play into the dynamics of power and respect in a hookup. In my experience, the most prominent and simple marker of how much a boy respects me is how old or young he is in relation to myself. Quite the contrary to what I had anticipated, guys who are older than me treat my body with less respect than those who are younger.
It sounds counterintuitive, right? We expect those older than us to be more weathered in their approach to sexual and emotional relationships. Yet, consistently, the boys who are younger than me treat me with respect—actions ranging from using protection to texting me back.
Respecting another’s body while hooking up is not as difficult or trying as you may expect. I think the basic rules are something along the lines of providing pleasure to your partner, staying safe and communicating effectively. It’s really not that complicated. For most of my adult life, using a condom hasn't been necessary to older guys. Coming inside is done rather than said. My pleasure comes far after theirs, if at all.
Outside of the boundaries of sexual relationships, guys who are older than me are infinitely worse at texting me back, asking me what I want and telling me what they want. It is much more likely for me to be used by an older boy than a younger one.
Why is this? I think for one, boys who are older often act entitled because they are, in fact, older and therefore have some sort of superiority complex. More importantly, boys who are younger really internalize their youth and see us women as Athena-like: feminine and wise. This may, however, also vary upon how I act around each guy.
With a sophomore, I will approach each interaction with confidence, elegance and charisma. Yet, with alumni, I am reticent and shy, intimidated by their age and pre-assumed dominance. This is all a matter of reactions to the person, as an implicit power dynamic is established when entering into any relationship with someone of different age. This phenomenon is never a one-sided thing, and the way that I act only perpetuates the issue.
Everyone assumes a role in a new relationship. Oftentimes, if there is an age gap between two people, the power dynamics within their relationship are defined by this. After one gets to know the other person and builds up respect, the impetus for this power dynamic dissipates into more caring and emotional connection.
Yet if the hookup remains in this strange realm of suspension between relationship and 'just banging,' then petty things like age difference can have a huge impact on the upper-hand/lower-hand dichotomy that is disrupting 5C hookup culture.