The Sound of Settling: A Look at the Hook-Up Culture of ConnColl

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. Similarly true, a single man with a 30 rack, a Camel card, and a school with a 60:40 women/men ratio must not be in want of a girlfriend.

Survey ten random women of Connecticut College: eight out of ten of them are “relationship-people,” the type of girls who’d like to meet the parents and receive “good morning!” text messages and go out to dinner with the same boy for a prolonged period of time.

These are many of the same women, however, who head to Cro every Saturday night in their best tube tops and skinniest jeans, who attend floor parties in Johnson to snag a lax bro, who introduce themselves to guys with their cleavage.

These are the girls who are settling.

What results in the uneven distribution of dating vs. dicking around? Why are women so conditioned to prefer relationships?

Women are trained to be monogamous: love stories and sad songs are marketed to us and bridal shops outnumber tuxedo rental places nearly two to one.

Unlike men, we can also get pregnant.

Perhaps this trend starts with our parents. In our homes and in our faces, parents influence our perceptions of how we should be. They want to see us, as their children, happy, but they also want us to be “normal,” to fulfill an ideal of not necessarily a perfect child, but a usual one. This goes somewhat swimmingly until the years that every parent dreads: college.

Colleges and universities are breeding grounds for new trends that couldn’t survive anywhere else—the “experimental years,” where you can get away with practically anything and blame it on “oh, I was in college:” dreadlocks, piercings, streaking across the bridge that leads to the Athletic Center, conveniently located right above Route 32.

What started as a fad has turned a horde of undergrads into commitment-phobes. Gone is the tradition of courting, of asking a girl her name and her phone number before discovering her choice in underwear, or of dating, of dinner, a movie, and a goodnight kiss at the door. This is the age of “hooking up,” a term that is more flexible than the social living part of the honor code, Cro dances, parties at the Ridge, and, of course, the awkward Sunday mornings in Harris.

This is the age of “Learnen Dem Hoes.”

“Learnen Dem Hoes,” an invented Saturday-night class, presents a strictly male perspective, a small glimpse into the mind of the non-committing man. Enter Ross, head professor and creator of Learnen Dem Hoes, AMS 320. Using examples from his life and the lives of his friends, Ross reviews the common problems and misunderstandings that come with the “hooking up” territory—a murky place—and establishes rules for them. (Rule #12: It is totally fine to hook up with two girls in the same friend circle. “Break dat shit up.”)

The self-proclaimed “Professor,” Ross, is nineteen years old, has never dated a girl, and is known for proclamations like, “I’ll get married when I lose the will to live!” He is therefore a perfect example of The Douchebag: the guy that fascinates you until you have feelings for him.

Once, upset after “being a nice guy” and letting his friend make a move on a girl that they were both interested in, Ross lamented, “This doesn’t happen to me! I don’t pay for pussy!”

His friend Charles, in an attempt to console him, reminded, “But you are paying… with your emotions.”

Accordingly, Charles is The Normal Guy: he’s had girlfriends, he’s receptive to marriage, he hooks up with girls and remembers their names. He doesn’t scour the campus for the easiest drunk target, nor does he sit in a room full of men on a Saturday night. Charles is a representation of many Conn guys—boasting neither tattoos nor funky hairstyles, he is generally nondescript. At Connecticut College, that is considered “normal.”

A “normal” man, however, does not have the same mindset as a “normal” woman. Though boasting a serious, long-term relationship in high school, nearly four years have passed and Charles is “not looking for another one.” As he once said to me, “Jazmine, this is the first time I’ve gone to school with girls. I need to have fun.”

The other major player in this class is Joseph, Ross’ roommate, starring as The Nice Guy. A rare creature, Joseph purchased a bouquet of roses on Valentine’s Day, giving a single rose to each close female friend of his.

Still, Joseph chooses to live a life of ambiguity: “If I’m going to date someone, I want to be in it 100 percent. I’ve been hanging out with this girl a lot, and we’ve been having a lot of fun, but I’m not in a place for a relationship right now. I don’t want to mess it up.”

To the untrained ear, Joseph’s explanation may seem acceptable, but listen closer: “If I’m going to date someone, I want to be in it 100 percent. I’ve been hanging out with this girl a lot [for the past six months], and we’ve been having a lot of fun [I even brought her home to meet my mom], but I’m not in a place for a relationship right now [I told her this on Valentine’s Day]. I don’t want to mess it up [but believe me, I have].”

Ross, Adam, and Joseph arguably represent the three categories in which women label men—a lesser crime now that I’ve discovered we’re called everything from “biddies” to “stage two clingers.” They have different dating histories, vary in age, and come from different hometowns, but they are united in one sentiment: we don’t want to date.

The creator of the “course,” Ross, blames the population inequality on the newfound trend. “With such a large selection of… let’s just call it fruit, why would any guy just stick to the grapefruit or the oranges? We need our Vitamin C. We’re going to eat as much fruit as possible.”

Feel special yet?

Though Ross’ lessons are (mostly) in jest, it reveals an interesting pattern amongst the college population: girls who are more willing to settle. To counter the lack on on-campus commitment, newer, mini-relationships have sprung up. Created out of the inevitable “I’m not looking for a relationship,” girls have finagled “better than nothing” situations, things that can resemble a relationship if you squint real hard.

Why are girls willing to succumb to this compromise? Though it’s not ideal, many women would rather get whatever they can than spend every night alone. “Women do not want to get left out in the cold, so they are competing for men on men’s terms,” Kathleen A. Bogle, a sociologist at La Salle University in Philadelphia, wrote. “This results in more casual hook-up encounters that do not end up leading to more serious romantic relationships. Since college women say they generally want ‘something more’ than just a casual hook-up, women end up losing out.” (NYT)

But stifling true feelings and accepting whatever is given to us is unhealthy. This practice starts early: a freshman recently came to visit me and to lament about her latest guy troubles.

She’d been in an ambiguous relationship with a fellow freshman for about two months, and, “All of a sudden,” she said, “things got weird.” Her relationship went from ripe to sour in the course of a week, and she didn’t understand why.

The confusion continues: grousing about not being able to find a truly attractive—both in looks and personality—guy that also returned the feelings, a sophomore friend chalked it up to not being one of “those girls” who easily hooks up after a dance or a party.

“That’s just not who I am,” she stated. “Sorry for having morals.”

Of my five closest friends, three have boyfriends. Not a single of these boyfriends goes to Conn. “No one dates at Conn,” the aforementioned freshman said, almost in disbelief. “I cannot think of a single person in a healthy, committed relationship with someone else than goes here. This is a poisonous environment.”

What could possibly be the antidote? Women standing their ground. Despite colonization, globalization, and Hillary Clinton, the world we live in is overwhelmingly patriarchal, and this affects everything from thinking twice about raising our hand in class to accepting a lower salary than male coworkers. Still, by not “giving up the goods” to just anyone, we send a loud message to men: we are women, not objects; people, not percentages. We are more than just a Saturday night.


  1. Interesting, and depressing. This leads me to believe that what is needed for women to truly have equality in our country is not social action, but individual action. At the core of the sexest views these Conn men hold (and let’s be real, they are representative of most colleges in the US), are experiences with individual women who have allowed themselves to be “schooled” by a disrepectful young man that they probably knew full well was just not that into them. We rage against men because they don’t respect us as equals. How about we go first, and respect ourselves. Ladies, hold yourselves in the highest regard. There’s still a lot of fun to be had on a Saturday night without hooking up!

  2. We haven’t taught our daughters well. Men haven’t changed, but women have, and obviously NOT for the better. If someone is dishing it out for free, why would they say ‘no’. If females are that desperate for attention,they’ll get just what they want…and not a bit more.

    • Placing the blame on women in the capacity you do, cheryl, is simply punishing these women more than society already does. How many girls can say they are happy with their hook-up culture? It is not specifically any one gender, generation, or institution’s fault. We have all bought into the idea that men are a special commodity and when you find one who tolerates you (in work, learning, friendship, as well as relationships), you should just suck it up and deal with it. Just because someone hooks up to feel a hint of affection, doesnt make them desperate, it simply shows the desperate situation women have been forced into through the inability of our society as a whole to respect a woman’s needs as equally as a man’s.

    • Like Lady O said, it really isn’t fair to blame women who do choose to have casual sex for this. For another thing, some women want casual sex, and the idea that they shouldn’t be allowed to do this purely because some other women might would miss out on some guy who might be willing to “settle” for a relationship with them is hardly fair. Then, too, blaming women for having casual sex always has a vague hint of slut-shaming about it, which I am vehemently against.

      I must admit, though, that my situation makes me unfamiliar with the problem described in this post. The college I’m at has a 60/40 male/female ratio. There are LOTS of guys who would rather like a steady girlfriend, and more than a few who bitch annoyingly about it. Sometimes I’ve ended up in more committed relationships than I originally intended as a result.

  3. coming from a woman who participates in the hook-up culture and enjoys it currently and who has been a ‘victim’ of it in the past …

    women and men need to be assertive and talk about their expectations for a relationship. let’s be realistic, prescribing any type of mono-dating culture: “Gone is the tradition of courting, of asking a girl her name and her phone number before discovering her choice in underwear, or of dating, of dinner, a movie, and a goodnight kiss at the door.” is dangerous, because that is not generally the way it happens.

    i do have friends (male and female) who have turned a one-night stand into a relationship, but i must say it is quite rare. if a man or woman wants to have a casual relationship, go for it! if a man or woman wants a serious relationship there is a need to set expectations. if you are afraid to outline your expectations or to ask questions, you are the only one creating your situation. and if consequently that person rejects you, would you have wanted to a relationship with them anyways? it’s simple, but think it through. if you think your hottie on a saturday night is telekentically checking you out … think again. that person knows as much as you–we’re attracted to each other and this could be fun (and safe!).

    this brings the issue of consent to the forefront. are you consenting to sex tonight? or are you consenting to sex tonight with a relationship attached? be personally responsible, if you would only do the latter, then do not have sex.

    “Though it’s not ideal, many women would rather get whatever they can than spend every night alone.” (can you scream desparate?!) Culture has also taught women to be dependant on someone else. Be comfortable in your skin, and set expectations for the type of relationship you want (and deserve), and be patient.

  4. This article is very interesting, and in many ways true. However, as a junior at a school with a similar situation, I think you’re forgetting one critical factor. The men have the power because there are less of them. I know a lot of girls who also aren’t looking for relationships, and men who are. It’s not a simple divide. But the men still hold the power because for every available guy, there seems to be at least 3 girls interested in them. We settle because the odds are against us. It’s often a numbers game on liberal arts campus. Even to hook up we may have to settle. Or flash a bit more cleavage. So while women settling is depressing, I would argue it’s not always because of pressure, but sheer practicality.

  5. “Despite colonization … the world we live in is overwhelmingly patriarchal.”
    Maybe swap “despite” for “because.”

Comments are closed.