On hookup culture: a round table with Bowdoin women
September 29, 2017
We interviewed three women, Anais Leroy ’20, Sophie Sadovnikoff ’19 and Tess Trinka ’18 about their experiences navigating the hookup and dating scene here at Bowdoin. This is the beginning of a series of perspectives on Bowdoin’s hookup culture through the lens of differing gender identities.
Anne Gregory/Amber Rock: Have you felt the lack of a dating scene at bowdoin?
Anais Leroy: I don’t know what’s wrong with people. I feel like I’ve kind of bought into it, and sometimes I have to catch myself, because it’s not normal to be like “What? He asked you on a date? What did you do? Does he want something from you?” It’s just so out of the ordinary here, that narrative here is so not talked about that it becomes so rare for it to happen.
Tess Trinka: And I don’t even consider the dates I go on with my boyfriend “dates.” It’s just like, “oh we’re going out to dinner.” We attach this very specific meaning to a date. I don’t know why I don’t call going to dinner with my boyfriend a date, I just don’t for some reason. No one just does the “dating” thing.
Sophie Sadovnikoff: It’s hard for me to conceptualize a relationship starting by going out on a first date. That’s just not what’s happened with me or my friends here.
AG/AR: How has your identity affected your interaction with Bowdoin’s hookup scene?
AL: Being a black straight woman on this campus has really defined the romantic/dating/hookup experience for me. One of the things that has to go into [considering] the hookup scene is that there’s a spectrum. There’s either women who don’t feel pretty because they aren’t approached or taken into consideration when it comes to attractiveness, or you can actually get to the point where you’re fetishized by some men. That was one of the things that happened at Epicuria. I was with my friends, all POC women, and at one point, I kid you not, there was a circle of white men around us coming in. So I’ve definitely dealt with the uncertainty of like, “Oh is it because some of these men are inherently racist when it comes to their choice of women to hookup with, or if they’re like I would never date a black girl.” Or is it the side of, “I’ve never been with a black girl, I wanna get with one just because I’ve heard they’re good in bed.” And so I feel like sometimes it’s like a minefield. You have to think, is this a good person to go after, will they respect me, are they non-discriminatory and open to dating different types of women?
SS: Like completely, just because my identity as a queer person completely structures my experience with dating, relationships, sex, all of it. And here, it’s a really small community, especially of people that are out, so there’s a lot of overlap. And I made a lot of my friends through the queer community, so a lot of my close friends make up a solid chunk of my potential dating pool. But we’re such good friends that we would never date. So for me my experience with the Bowdoin hookup scene isn’t really with the Bowdoin hookup scene, it’s with the queer Bowdoin hookup scene, which feels like a different world to me. For me my queer identity has changed the playing field—or it is the playing field, basically.
TT: I think as a straight white woman I have a lot of privilege in the hookup scene on campus. I think as a woman, that part of my identity is felt a lot in party spaces just because I’ve seen how much more power men have in hookup situations.
AL: And race also comes into play. I remember some of my friends were not welcomed into an athlete house because they were black girls. Those men were like, “Oh you just can’t be here.” And honestly, I wish it wasn’t racism but it definitely was, because it was these women invading an all white space. And in that situation, my friend didn’t want to be the person to cause a scene, and be like you’re calling me out because I’m black in this space. But we just let this happen on these teams. Like have these teams ever sat down and thought about these attitudes that they cultivate toward people of different socioeconomic backgrounds, racial groups, affinity groups? What are they talking about that’s causing this negativity to be formed?
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?
TT: I’d say both. As a first year I thought no one wanted to be in a relationship, and the fact that I did was really isolating. But I think now a lot of my friends do want to be relationships or are now in relationships, and I definitely feel less isolated by fact that I’m in one. But I also think the fact that I ever felt that no one wants to be in a relationship is problematic, and I think that we still talk about the hookup/dating scene here as a hookup scene and not a dating scene. Until we change our language about it, nothing is going to change.
AL: I agree with Tess, but I think as of right now I’m kind of jaded by the hookup scene. As a first year, I was like, “everyone’s hooking up.” But now after listening to people’s stories and hearing about what happens behind closed doors—when I think people are having great experiences—people are really dissatisfied and getting hurt. And I think that sometimes people who don’t have sexual experience are left out of these conversations. I remember I went to The Vagina Monologues, and they had this whole talk for lack of sexual experience, and there happened to be a lot of POC women explaining their experiences and how their point of view isn’t regarded as important because they’re not directly involved in the hookup scene.
SS: Since my first year I’ve changed a lot. When I first came to Bowdoin I was so excited because it was my first time out of high school and out on campus, and it was the first time I ever had a queer social life. And so I jumped right in. Like my first relationship started when we hooked up at Epicuria, so it was [after] a month into being at Bowdoin that I ended up with someone. I also found that in my first year I was putting a lot of value on being able to hook up with people, or people wanting to hook up with me and a lot of my self-worth was coming from that. So that’s been a huge way I’ve changed—I put less weight on it than I used to. But I’ve gotten to a place where I’m happy to do that, and I feel really comfortable with that. So while the scene hasn’t changed that much for me, I’ve definitely changed a lot in the way that I interact with it—probably for the better.
Stay tuned for next issue’s edition: the Bowdoin male perspective!
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“And race also comes into play. I remember some of my friends were not welcomed into an athlete house because they were black girls.”
This is a very serious accusation that would be dealt with by the administration with full force and covered by the Orient with ferocity. Why have neither of these things happened?