By HANNA ROSIN [The Atlantic] – On a mild fall afternoon in 2011, I sat in a courtyard with some undergraduates at Yale to ask about their romantic lives. A few months earlier, a group of mostly feminist-minded students had filed a Title IX complaint against the university for tolerating a “hostile sexual environment on campus.” The students specifically cited a 2010 incident when members of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity stood outside freshman dorms chanting “No means yes! Yes means anal!” I’d heard this phrase before, from the business-school students, of course: on spring break, they had played a game called “dirty rounds”—something like charades, except instead of acting out movie or book titles, they acted out sex slogans like the one above, or terms like pink sock (what your anus looks like after too much anal sex). But the Yale undergraduates had not reached that level of blitheness. They were incensed. The week before I arrived, an unrelated group of students ran a letter in the campus paper complaining that the heart of the problem was “Yale’s sexual culture” itself, that the “hookup culture is fertile ground for acts of sexual selfishness, insensitivity, cruelty and malice.”
At Yale I heard stories like the ones I had read in many journalistic accounts of the hookup culture. One sorority girl, a junior with a beautiful tan, long dark hair, and a great figure, whom I’ll call Tali, told me that freshman year she, like many of her peers, was high on her first taste of the hookup culture and didn’t want a boyfriend. “It was empowering, to have that kind of control,” she recalls. “Guys were texting and calling me all the time, and I was turning them down. I really enjoyed it! I had these options to hook up if I wanted them, and no one would judge me for it.” But then, sometime during sophomore year, her feelings changed. She got tired of relationships that just faded away, “no end, no beginning.” Like many of the other college women I talked with, Tali and her friends seemed much more sexually experienced and knowing than my friends at college. They were as blasé about blow jobs and anal sex as the one girl I remember from my junior year whom we all considered destined for a tragic early marriage or an asylum. But they were also more innocent. When I asked Tali what she really wanted, she didn’t say anything about commitment or marriage or a return to a more chivalrous age. “Some guy to ask me out on a date to the frozen-yogurt place,” she said. That’s it. A $3 date.
But the soda-fountain nostalgia of this answer quickly dissipated when I asked Tali and her peers a related question: Did they want the hookup culture to go away—might they prefer the mores of an earlier age, with formal dating and slightly more obvious rules? This question, each time, prompted a look of horror. Reform the culture, maybe, teach women to “advocate for themselves”—a phrase I heard many times—but end it? Never. Even one of the women who had initiated the Title IX complaint, Alexandra Brodsky, felt this way. “I would never come down on the hookup culture,” she said. “Plenty of women enjoy having casual sex.”