“It’s college. Everyone Meets’: Truths and Misconceptions About Connection Culture at Brown – The Brown Daily Herald | Team Cansler

Generation Z is having less sex than previous generations, but for many young people at Brown, the perception that everyone engages in “connection culture,” or casual sexual activity, remains.

“There’s this idea of ​​’it’s college,'” Monique Jonath said of ’24. “Everybody’s dating and everybody’s loving it … or they’re in an amazing relationship and they’re having sex all the time.” Jonath said this idea creates a looming pressure to participate in hookup culture.

“Whenever we want something, we assume everyone else has it,” they added.

The Herald spoke to several college students about the unspoken pressures that hookup culture cultivates about how often they should have sex and what that sex means — socially and personally. Social norms, along with dating apps and parties, contribute to these pressures but often don’t clarify what healthy intimacy and fulfilling sex can be, students say.

The Herald and Brown Opinion Project’s Fall 2022 poll found that 25% of college students were in a long-term relationship. Of the college students who reported being single, nearly 40% said they were looking for a relationship, almost a quarter said they were looking for something casual, and the remaining two-fifths said they weren’t looking.

David Rangel, assistant professor of education, said that people’s overestimation of how many people actually have casual sex stems from the broad definition of a date. “People think everyone is joining because nobody really knows what it means,” he said. Since people think everyone is joining, they feel like they should be too, he said.

Rangel teaches EDUC 1310: Inside Higher Ed: Sex, Class and Admissions, which spends three weeks unpacking hookup culture on college campuses. Hookup culture influences how people think even when they don’t participate, he explained, characterizing it as an institutional and structural pattern that shapes what they think people need to do.

Part of the pressure from hookup culture comes from how much people talk about it, Jonath said. Talking about sex can be associated with shame, so it’s exciting to talk about, they explained. There’s “(sex) wanting, and then there’s also wanting to be wanted and wanting to show other people that you’re wanted,” they added.

Results from the BDH/BOP poll indicated that seniors were more likely to be in long-term relationships and the Class of 2026 were most likely to be single and not seeking.

Mason Scurry ’25 said that as a first grader he felt more pressure to meet people. He explained that popular media gives the impression that people are always together in college, but he feels that pressure has been “mellowed” the longer he has been in college.

Olivia Hanley ’25 agreed, adding that the culture of connection can be more prominent for first graders as it is often the first time students have been away from home.

Rangel said gender also plays a role in how people participate in and talk about connection culture. Women generally have more societal restrictions when talking about dating as they are more likely to be shamed for perceived promiscuity, he explained. He added that patriarchy is present in hookup culture because men are typically more capable of governing and enjoying casual sex.

Rangel went on to talk about the gender orgasm gap. “Across dating and long-term relationships, men are more likely to have orgasms than women,” he said, “but that distance narrows as the level of the relationship increases.” He added that women tend to talk about more relational aspects of sex , while men emphasize the leisure aspects.

Students also discussed how dating apps and new technologies are influencing the culture of connection.

Scurry said he used dating apps at home in Montana because being a gay man made it harder to find people in his dating pool. At Brown, he feels he doesn’t need to use apps as much because there’s a larger and more prominent gay community.

While Scurry said he believes most people use dating apps to actually date people, Hanley said she believes apps are used primarily so people can find connections.

Jonath said they used dating apps, but when they actually hooked up with someone they’d met on the platform, “it felt like I was trying to fabricate a desire between the two of us, a story of the.” wanting or the attraction it was. actually not there.”

Although they don’t use dating apps often, Jonath sometimes turns to online dating “to have a quick fix that’s being sought,” they said. “I feel like I’ll stick with it every once in a while, honestly, for validation,” they added.

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Addison Kerwin ’24 said that the culture of connection causes people to be more casual in their intimacy. But she explained how that nonchalance can make it difficult for people to have conversations about consent or sex. She added that her motivation for connections can sometimes be fueled by a “desire for validation,” rather than actually wanting to have sex with someone.

Vicky Chen ’24 said the students here are “more free-spirited,” so she assumes people are looser in their connections. Calvin Kirk ’25 noted that the nature of a connection “depends on the person”.

“I wish there were more relationships,” said Anjali Deepak ’23, “at this point it’s incestuous. Everyone is connected to everyone else and I think that speaks to nonchalance as opposed to relationships.”

The university’s Sexual Health Awareness Group aims to help students get the information they need to find out “what their own values ​​and beliefs about sexuality are,” said Naomi Ninneman, associate director of empowerment and education Prevention Services at BWell.

Groups like SHAG are important to Ninnenman because students in higher education still face information gaps when it comes to sex education. Those gaps usually stem from inaccurate information or stigma used as fear tactics, she added.

SHAG provides students with a safe space to ask questions and learn more about intimacy “rather than being ashamed of something that doesn’t have to be shameful in any way,” Ninnenman said, urging students to take a step back from culture, regardless of outside pressure to make an independent decision about their relationships. .

“Sex should be something pleasant and happy. It can be something that heals,” Ninneman said. “A healthy sexuality is part of being a healthy person.”

Additional reporting by Jacob Smollen.


Elysee Barakett

Elysee Barakett is senior writer at Metro. She reports primarily on activism in Providence. She is part of Class 2025 studying International and Public Affairs on the Policy and Governance track.

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