It is assumed that Bowdoin students understand the social norms that are deeply embedded within the hookup culture. If they don’t, they quickly learn, like I did.

I discovered that it wasn’t okay to contact a person during the week; that’d seem too clingy or overbearing. I learned that both my hookup and myself were expected to send the first text. And that transitioning from a drunken hookup to a sober one was an entirely different story.

I feel like these standards have prevented me from being the forward and bold person that I normally am. So, I decided to run a social experiment and interview my past hookups. I wanted to see if their perception of our hookup mirrored my own.
I opened the conversation by asking why each boy had wanted to hook up with me. Boy one said, “Sex,” while Boy two told me, “That’s a tough one, but I have an answer: Because college was a new experience for me and along with that broad experience comes other small experiences, and I guess you were part of one of them.” Notice the contrast. Boy three said I had “asked him to dance” so he said yes and that he “also wanted to hook up with somebody to see what it was like.” Boy four thought I was “a pretty cool person” and “had gotten to know [me] a little.” Boy five declined to be interviewed.

Next, I asked them what they thought of me when they first saw me. I expected similar answers about my defining features, such as my wildly curly hair or five foot tall stature. They gave adjectives like “interesting,” “very short” and “cute.”

After these preliminary questions, I asked them what they expected from me before and after our hookup. Boy one expected to do it again. Boy two told me that he “always expected a first move from me” and after the fact, “wanted me to always be on the same page as him.” Boy three conveyed that he expected to “dance and make out,” and added, “one-night stands aren’t [his] thing.” Boy four stated that he didn’t expect anything serious before or after.

I then told them to say what they liked and disliked about it. They were very honest, which I appreciated. Boy one stated that he “liked the stroll we took in the park afterwards” and “didn’t like that we didn’t have sex.” Truthfully, I didn’t like that part either. Boy two said he “liked that we were exclusive for the most part” and “disliked that [I] played so hard to get.” Boy three told me that it was fun, but thought that me “texting while we were dancing was odd.” That’s definitely fair; I’d think that was weird, too. Boy four expressed that he liked that “we were both on the same page,” and that there “wasn’t really anything [he] disliked.”

They then shared with me what they remembered. Boy one said, “Everything.” Fun fact: I do too. Boy two revealed that I was his “first Bowdoin hookup,” and he could recall our “funny, awkward interactions when we were surrounded by friends.” He was my first hookup here as well. Boy three’s response was pretty standard for a DFMO (Dance Floor Make Out): “I remember we hooked up twice, went to Super Snacks, talked in your room, and watched a movie with some people.” Boy four remembered having a good time with me.

Finally, I asked them to tell me what they would have done differently. Boy one and three said “nothing,” while Boy two wished he had “made it happen more often” and “would’ve made it even more exclusive,” and Boy four wouldn’t have changed anything and was “happy about what happened.”

I was pleasantly surprised by not only their willingness to be interviewed, but also by the candidness in their responses. It’d be hypocritical of me to not answer my own questions.

Boy one, we got along extremely well. You were attractive. I wouldn’t do anything differently now since we’ve gone our separate ways, but I did feel disrespected because you never contacted me afterward. But to be fair, I could’ve contacted you.

Boy two, we were friends at first, and I wanted more. You’d ignore me sometimes then would apologize. I’d react dramatically, so I’m sorry for that. But I eventually got tired of it all and just expected to stay friends with you, which we did.

Boy three, I wanted a DFMO too. Don’t worry.

Boy four, I heard you were a nice guy. I remember approaching your friend to ask if you were single. I’m glad that you liked my honesty; I wasn’t sure if you did. I wouldn’t do anything differently.

In truth, I’m not the biggest fan of the hookup culture here. It seems like a never-ending cycle of objectification and a source of anxiety for both sides.

However, sometimes I think hookups can be fun. They’re liberating and can provide you immediate satisfaction. When Boy one expressed that he wanted to be with me solely for sex, I was okay with that. He was a Tinder hookup, after all.

Some of their answers seemed a bit contradictory. How can I avoid the label of “someone who plays hard to get” if I’m expected to not be clingy? And simultaneously, how can Boy two tell me he wants to be with me again if hookup culture says he’s “supposed” to want to be with me only once, twice, and nothing more?

During my time at Bowdoin, I have always found that students who participate in the hookup culture skirt around these types of questions. I have realized that we abide by these norms for fear of rejection or embarrassment. But these unwritten rules can lead to a severe lack of communication or worse—anger and pain.

So, the next time you find yourself grinding with someone, stop and ask them, “Why do you want to hook up with me?”

You never know, you could be rejected, or you might find they want more. That’s all part of the fun.

-Hayley Nicholas is a member of the Class of 2017