If you want to date, don't come to Bowdoin.
At a school where hook-ups out number dates more than three to one, students looking for a dating scene may be sorely disappointed. First year Branden Asemah expected to come to Bowdoin and date a lot of people, but so far "it's just not happening." From what he has seen, the drunken hook-up has taken the place of the date.
Thirty-four percent of Bowdoin students, or 583 people, responded to a survey conducted by the Orient about dating and relationship experiences. The poll was advertised through e-mail and on the student digest. In addition, the Orient interviewed 15 students of various backgrounds and experiences.
Seventy-five percent of students that have hooked up at Bowdoin reported that alcohol at least sometimes significantly influenced their decision, according to the poll. Hooking up was defined as "anything from kissing to having sex."
The poll also showed that more Bowdoin students engage in one-night hook-ups than any other type of romantic or sexual interaction, including going on dates and being involved in a committed or casual relationship. The second most common type of interaction was hooking up with the same person multiple times, without a relationship.
The respondents were divided almost evenly between the four classes. Sixty-three percent of respondents were female and 37 percent male. Ninety-three percent of those who took the survey identified as exclusively or predominantly heterosexual. Four percent of respondents said they were exclusively or predominantly homosexual, while three percent of students said they were bisexual.
According to first year Chris Fung, students at Bowdoin expect to go out, get drunk and hook up.
"A lot of people come to college thinking they're going to be hooking up with a lot of people."
"It's a matter of convenience," explained Barrett Brown '09. "[Drunken hook-ups] are a quick fix with more limited commitment [than being in a relationship]." Brown said he thought Bowdoin students were too busy to date and sought out hook-ups because they are easier than relationships both in terms of time and emotional investment.
Following a drunken hook-up, the students involved tend to avoid each other, said Erin York '09. York said that she has rarely been approached by someone she has hooked up with, and the avoidance can "hurt a lot."
Margot Farrell Clark '09 attributed the prevalence of drunken hook-ups to the fact that there are not oppotunities for men and women to form intimate relationships. She explained that drunken hook-ups are the "only outlet for interacting with the opposite sex."
On the other hand, George Aumoithe '11 said that he thought that queer students were left out of the hook-up scene. "The general hook-up culture doesn't allow for someone who's just come out to safely develop their sexuality," he said.
"There's a feeling of not wanting to overstep your boundaries," Aumoithe said, referring to approaching someone whose sexuality he is unsure of. "You don't want to ostracize them."
A junior, who requested that her sexual orientation not be made public, said that "the fear of being rejected is amplified when you're not even sure if that person is interested in whatever sex you are."
For Hayley McHugh '09, there are both positive and negative sides to the hook-up culture. "I think it's almost liberating now that both men and women can make the choice to just hook up," she said.
However, she added, "I have seen people cry the next day or the next week when they are not contacted by somebody they just spent the night with, and that's unhealthy because it can have lasting consequences on your self-esteem."
By the time they are seniors, many students grow out of the hook-up scene, according to Lindsey Schickner '09. Schickner said that she thought hook-ups were more common among younger students, but that people become "dissatisfied with hooking up by the time you get to senior year."
According to the poll, only 17 percent of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with the dating scene at Bowdoin, which was defined as all romantic or sexual interactions. Thirty-four percent of students polled were unsatisfied and 14 percent were very unsatisfied. The remainder were indifferent.
Students that identified themselves as predominantly or exclusively homosexual were the least satisfied with the dating scene at Bowdoin, with 40 percent reporting they were "unsatisfied" and 32 percent reporting they were "very unsatisfied."
"As a gay black man, it doubly sucks," said Aumoithe. "There's only so many gay students."
Thirty-five percent of predominantly or exclusively heterosexual students were "unsatisfied" and 13 percent were "very unsatisfied."
Aliyah Sabharwal '09 said that she was dissatisfied with how little dating happened at Bowdoin. "It feels like it's not really plausible [to go on a date] unless you really put yourself out there," she said. "We're not comfortable enough just to acknowledge that 'Yeah, I'd like to go on a date.'"
Of students who identified as single, 54 percent said they wished they were in a relationship, while eight percent said they did not wish they were in a relationship. Thirty-eight percent said they were unsure.
Last year on "Date Day," Mike Krohn '09 tried an unusual approach for getting a date. On the day that a number of student organizations encouraged Bowdoin to ask other students out on dates, Krohn posted a message on the Student Digest that said he was looking for a date.
"I got a text at two in the morning, and a bunch of e-mails the next day," said Krohn.
"I think I ended up getting meals or taking walks with five or six different girls," he added.
Krohn said that he dated one of the women for a few months and has remained friends with a couple others.
"Why wouldn't you want to get to know people? I think life is about getting to know people and about having interesting relationships, friendships, and I just wanted to get out there and get to know some people that I didn't know," Krohn said.
One of the organizers of this year's Date Day, Shana Natelson '10, described a date as "a great way to spend time with someone out of class."
She said that the goal of Date Day, on December 3, was to encourage people not to "wait until Saturday night to make a move" if they are interested in someone.
Natelson said that hooking up "is fine" if both parties are interested, "but if you're into someone and you want to put in the time, that's where the date can come in."
Julia Bond '09 said that Bowdoin students "haven't been presented with many opportunities to ask people on dates."
But she added that "when given the opportunity, people are pretty excited to go on a date."
Bond explained that "every once in a while there is a wave for pushing dating." Still, 63 percent of students said that they had never asked anyone out on a date at Bowdoin. Seventy-two percent of women and 46 percent of men had never asked another Bowdoin student out. Of the senior class, 47 percent had asked someone on a date.
Farrell Clark was in the minority of women who had asked someone out on a date. "It's like, just ask someone!" she said. "It's more awkward to have weird tensions with someone, better to ask them out."
Bond said, "I'm just disenchanted with the fact that it's considered awkward to be a little bit more honest about your intentions or your feelings."
Brown said that asking someone out is perceived as being serious. "It's more than 'Hey I'd like to get to know you,'" he said.
Reasons for Not Dating
For many students, asking someone out is just too intimidating. Half of the respondents indicated that they have refrained from asking someone out because they were too nervous.
Bond said for most students "asking someone out on a date is scary and there's no need to do that because you'll probably see them tomorrow at lunch."
"The sooner you learn that you're not going to die if someone rejects you the better off you'll be," Bond added.
However, Schickner said she has never felt comfortable asking someone out and has never needed to because of how small Bowdoin is. "If you want to see someone out you don't have to make an effort, you'll see them around."
Aumoithe said that the queer community is even smaller and that he knows everyone who is openly gay. "It's the same old, same old," he said.
"When you have 1600 kids it feels like everyone is in your business," Bond said. "If you ask someone out, even if you don't tell your friends, they tell their friends."
Brown said that the small size of the school meant there was "no safety of anonymity."
York said she would be uncomfortable asking someone out because "it's a big deal" and because "word would get around." In addition, she said she would be afraid of being perceived as too aggressive or confident and worried her actions would be perceived as "weird or wrong." "I wouldn't trust him not to say something bad about me," she said.
As busy as Bowdoin students may be, most did not indicate on the survey that dating was a scheduling issue. Only 18 percent of students have ever chosen not to pursue someone or ended a relationship because it was too much of a time commitment. Even so, the students that spoke with the Orient said they viewed relationships or dating as a significant time commitment.
"My friends and I have joked that if you're in a serious relationship it's like taking a fifth class," McHugh said.
Natelson said that she does not have enough time to be in a relationship. "A relationship is just one more commitment, not that it's not a great commitment."
"Everyone at Bowdoin is so busy that it's really hard to spend a lot of time dating if you aren't in a committed relationship," Krohn said.
Having more than one committed relationship in college is unusual for most Bowdoin students. Of students who have been involved in a committed relationship at Bowdoin, only 23 percent have had more than one. For seniors who have had relationships at Bowdoin, only 32 percent have been in more than one.
A student who wished to remain anonymous to avoid upsetting her boyfriend said that "it's detrimental to devote yourself to one person."
"Unless you want your relationship to be a significant part of your experience [at Bowdoin] you can't have it be serious," she said. "All I want is that one night stand and I can't get it."
Several of the students the Orient spoke with said their relationships started with drunken hook-ups. Still, a few others were skeptical that hooking up was the best way to start a relationship.
"If [a relationship] starts out with a hook-up I'm not really choosing that person for who they are," said Becca Spiro '09.
Similarly, Brown said he was "suspicious that substantive relationships can start from drunken hook-ups."
One student who requested anonymity said that while her current relationship began with a series of drunken hook-ups, after a while she "got sick of having it be nothing, just hook-ups." She told her now boyfriend that she did not want to hook up anymore, and then he asked her out on a date.
"No one had ever asked me out on a date before," she said.
They started spending time together sober, and ended up in a committed relationship.
But students who are in a relationship are a minority on campus. Sixty-one percent of students who responded to the survey said that they are not currently in a relationship. The most commonly given reason why students were single is because they had not pursued the person they were interested in.
For Thomas Blaber '10, changing the dating scene at Bowdoin is a matter of personal initiative.
"Either you're celibate, a slut, or married, and in a lot of ways that's true, but I feel like it's not hard to break that if people just want to," he said.