Mainstream media outlets like the New York Times and Time magazine have really been enjoying themselves lately with voyeuristic millennial trend stories that seem to fetishize an entire generation. The most recent one is the New York Times salacious, 4,800-word article about UPenn girls and the school's hook-up culture, titled "Sex on Campus: She Can Play That Game, Too." Because bloggers take smug delight in knocking down The Times a few pegs, the commentary about the feature has been relentless over the last few weeks. For those of us familiar with decades of progressive "sex-on-campus" talk (i.e.: anyone who's stepped foot on a college campus in the last 30+ years), the NYT article felt like someone woke up from a nap that started in the Victorian Age and saw coed couples having no-strings-attached relationships for the very first time. Nevermind the movies, tv shows, books, and hundreds -- if not thousands -- of other trend stories from all sorts of outlets about casual sex on college campuses these days. Just take a look at it's thesis statement:
"Until recently, those who studied the rise of hookup culture had generally assumed that it was driven by men... But there is an increasing realization that young women are propelling it, too."
The Times sudden relevaltion that we were living in a hook-up culture that both men and women were invested in was very weird.
On Friday, Slate writer Lisa Wade expounded on the Times trend piece, discovering the socio-economic reality that hook-up culture really sorta only applies to rich, white, drunk college kids. In otherwords, people of privilege. The Atlantic summarizes:
"Only 14 percent of students hookup more than 10 times in four years and these students are more likely than others to be white, wealthy, heterosexual, able-bodied, and conventionally attractive, according to quantitative studies of hookup behavior," writes Slate's Lisa Wade, putting the New York Times's recent trend story in a new context by looking at race instead of gender. Wade cites a quantitative study from Indiana University's Laura Hamilton and the University of Michigan's Elizabeth A. Armstrong, who found data that support earlier studies that "found that white students, those who drink, and students with higher parental income are more likely to hook up."
However, it's all about looking at the college student population as a whole. Again, The Atlantic:
But when you recall that many four-year colleges are playgrounds for the rich and white, the study's results are not all that revolutionary. First, consider that white students accounted for 61 percent of all undergraduates, according to the U.S. Census. And then take into account that 80 percent of college students drink according to the National Institutes of Health report.
And then factor in the financials: A 2006 UCLA study found that the incoming class of 2005 "came from households with a parental median income of $74,000—60 percent higher than the national average of $46,326." And ABC News reported this past May that there's a growing trend of colleges offering more financial aid to rich students in an effort to woo them — at the expense of poorer students, of course.
Back at Slate, Wade argues that college hook-up culture is really a reflection of sexual norms in life outside college:
People with privilege—based on race, class, ability, attractiveness, sexual orientation, and, yes, gender—get to set the terms for everyone else. Their ideologies dominate our discourses, their particular set of values gets to appear universal, and everyone is subject to their behavioral norms. Students feel that a hookup culture dominates their colleges not because it is actually widely embraced, but because the people with the most power to shape campus culture like it that way.
Fair statement? Or do you think college's hook-up culture applies to everyone on campus, regardless of race or socialeconomic background? Discuss in the comments.