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Sex & Love A freshman’s guide to dating, hooking up, and knowing what you want

Dec. 3, 2018
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Illustration by Hannah Kang

Do you remember gym class in elementary school? Watching everyone else getting picked and you standing there alone, confused? I’m not that bad at dodgeball, you thought to yourself. Then you were picked—not by one of your classmates, but by the gym teacher because he felt bad for you. And when you were finally in the game, you were the first one out.

This is what the dating world is like in college.

When I told my friend I was writing this article, she looked up at me from her homework and said nonchalantly, “Isn’t that like a blind man leading the way in the dark?”

As much as I’d hate to admit it, she was right.

I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing in terms of dating or hooking up in college, and should not be advising anyone on anything. However, over the past few months I’ve learned a lot about what kind of person I am and what I want out of others. So take this with a grain of salt. I may still not know what I am doing, but I certainly know the mistakes I will not be repeating.

Like any other nineteen-year-old, I was stubbornly convinced that I knew exactly who I was and what I wanted. I was determined to be single when I entered college, to release myself from worrying about what was happening back home, so I waved goodbye to my high school boyfriend and greeted college with a blank slate.

Advice often imparted to college freshmen is to not be in a relationship at all. By the twenty-third time I’d heard that, I was in disbelief. But it made sense—the thought of having to take care of someone else when I couldn’t even cook pasta by myself was terrifying.

Being in a relationship at this point in your life can be amazing. It takes a lot of the loneliness away when you start feeling homesick. It’s just not for everyone. It isn’t for the ones who thought they’d found the love of their lives and now have to avoid doing their laundry at the same time as their orientation-week hookup, those who were set up by friends and now must endure their tiring jokes and jabs, or the students who have been pretending their phone died to escape certain phone calls.

We’re in a vulnerable stage in our lives, after all. 

Our senior years were chaotic. We didn’t have time to be alone with our own thoughts, instead of staying busy with final exams and college applications; the summer before leaving for college was spent trying to connect with our family and create lasting memories with friends. When we got to university, we faced packed dorm rooms filled with nothing but emotions. 

It’s so easy for freshman-year relationships to be rushed. But when you take yourself off the market so early on, you’re likely denying yourself the chance to get to know who you are outside of your hometown, beyond your partner. It’s hard to figure out who you are when you don’t devote some time to learning how to be alone.

On the other hand, some prefer the temporary form of companionship. Hooking up is everywhere in college. Most of the time, you won’t even realize people around you are doing it (pun intended)! People are generally pretty open about it, though. My friends openly discuss sex, as described in my analysis of modern day hook-up culture: “Today’s youth is more accepting of and open about sexuality, choosing to look past the social stigmatization surrounding it.”

When I’m in the back of the lecture hall, I often see waves of people on Tinder, passing their phones around to their friends, asking for their input on whether or not they should swipe left or swipe right. Tinder has radically changed the ways people meet. The app has even rolled out a "Tinder U” feature, allowing students to more easily meet people at their own school. As it requires a .edu email address to sign up, Tinder U adds a level of security to your online dating journey.

With that in mind, my only advice for hooking up in college is to keep yourself safe. Don’t sip on a drink you’ve left unattended; let your friends know where you’re going, send them your location, and keep them updated throughout the night to ensure your own safety; stay sexually protected. You can use this handy dandy article by Adolescent Content’s very own Leyla Jafarian to explore ways to keep you and your partner safe!

At the end of the day, it all comes down to knowing what you want. It takes time to figure out your needs, and in all honesty,  it takes mistakes too.

Still a freshman,

Wen Hsiao