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On hookup culture: a round table with Bowdoin men

October 13, 2017

This piece represents the opinion of the authors.

We interviewed three men, Mac Brower ’18, Justin Weathers ’18, and Harry Porter ’19 about their experiences navigating the hookup and dating scene here at Bowdoin. This is a continuation of a series of perspectives on Bowdoin’s hookup culture through the lens of differing gender identities.

Anne Gregory/Amber Rock: How has your experience been with the dating scene at Bowdoin?

Mac Brower: I did a blind date once, but it was pretty awkward. I know blind dates are usually like, ‘oh I think you would get along with this person,’ but in this case it was like oh here’s another person in the class of 2018 who’s gay, go have lunch with him. It was fine—there was nothing wrong with the guy—but I was like this isn’t gonna happen again. I guess for me everything about the hookup and dating scene is that there’s very few of us.

Justin Weathers: I guess I didn’t think of college as place where people go to date. But it does seem taboo for someone to have a mature, intimate relationship with someone that’s not in the dark, between the hours of 12a.m. and 3a.m..

Harry Porter: There’s a lot of guidelines surrounding hookups, like being exclusive or not, that have confused my idea of what actually dating someone is. Like when you’re hooking up with someone exclusively it feels like you’re dating, but then there’s all these different lines you draw with emotional boundaries.

MB: Because a consistent hookup is not the same thing as dating someone.

HP: Right, and as I’ve gotten older and more mature I think I’ve wanted to have the dating aspect, but it’s kind of taboo.

JW: I feel like people aren’t trying to date, or be in an established relationship, but because of that taboo it also eliminates any potential for like monogamous, healthy relationships that aren’t necessarily dating someone. If I do see people dating I’m like damn, they love each other. Like they’re fully in it. But then it seems like there’s no in between—between that and like oh—we hookup on a Saturday night and never see each other.

MB: And for me personally sometimes I feel jaded and bitter when I see couples. Because at this point I’ve never had a real relationship before, and I’ve done the hookup thing, and it was fun, but at at this point in my life I know that it’s not satisfying anymore. So then when I see people that are in a relationship, I’m like how the hell did that happen? Especially gay relationships. I’m like where the fuck did you come from?

AG/AR: How has your identity affected your interaction with Bowdoin’s hookup scene?

MB: I think my experience is very different from like the typical Bowdoin one because I can’t just go to a party and hookup with someone; I have to plan. Like I would not be surprised if I didn’t hook up with a single Bowdoin student this entire year. And it’s not because I don’t want to. I’m a 21 year old guy—I want to hook up with people. But there just aren’t people, and it’s not easy to find people. It can be very frustrating at times, especially being at a small school like this.

JW: I’m straight, so it’s not like my dating pool is particularly small, but I think particularly in terms of race, dating outside of my race will at the very least raise eyebrows. And not to say that Bowdoin students aren’t okay with interracial dating, but I’ve been in an interracial relationship before, and it comes with its own complications, just like how that dynamic between two people is negotiated. And then there’s how the black community will react to that, especially because I’m so invested in that community. There does seem to sometimes be glass ceilings on potential for relationships across differences. Every sexual experience feels in some way weirdly politicized.

HP: I definitely agree. It’s a different experience being a person of color in the hookup scene at a small, private, white institution. Especially being a person who identifies as biracial, it’s a little different. It’s easier to hook up and be in that kind of culture at a social house party or something like that, but I think that the dating pool is just smaller because …  well you’re not necessarily stigmatized for dating outside of your race, but you’re more just along the line of being almost fetishized as a person of color.

JW: Yeah I think Harry makes a good distinction about dating versus hooking up as a man of color. And once you get into the realm of emotions and vulnerability, you do have to be a lot more aware of fetishization—or is this person just interested in me because of the cultural capital that comes along with? Once you make yourself vulnerable to someone, you have to be ready to consider all of the potential reasons behind that engagement on both ends.

AG/AR: In terms of looking forward and back at the same time, how has your view of the hookup scene changed since your first year? Do you feel optimistic? Jaded?

MB: When I was a firstyear I definitely felt like there was more out there. Like I guess this is me being a washed up, jaded senior—like a senior washed up gay or something like that. I didn’t think about how small it would be, because there’s all these weird dynamics of people hooking up with each others exes and what not. I thought there would be these four years of opportunity and then it didn’t really work out that way. I don’t really have much advice to give on that because, what am I supposed to say? Like hey, it keeps being terrible every year! But I don’t know, maybe my advice would be not to confine yourself to the Bowdoin community. For men in my position, you have to look outward, because Bowdoin is too small. Like, look west young man.

JW: I mean I don’t know that I want to place judgment on the scene—it is what it is. I guess the lack of maturity in the dating scene has been sometimes frustrating. I do wish that there was more opportunity for people to just kind of get to know each other and see where things go as opposed to the kind of fleeting, secret, uncomfortable way that I think it currently operates. There seems to be a certain level of dissatisfaction.

HP: I think as a first year I was very satisfied with the idea of partying, because I was just excited to be in college, and that was something that I hadn’t been that accustomed to. But I think as I’ve been at Bowdoin and have seen the party scene, my issue is less with the hookup culture and dating scene as it is with the party scene, and the fact that these parties are designed more for hookups, and less for actually getting to know someone. And when you’re being a little more vulnerable, it gives you more room for possibly dating someone as opposed to going to a party and going home with someone and not knowing a lot about them. But I wouldn’t change much else, because I think everyone’s perspective is unique and that’s what makes college college.

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