Having read Kurz’s second column and knowing that an article by Vivienne Chen is sharing this page, I am well aware that there has been quite a bit written on this issue. I wouldn’t be writing this column today if I didn’t think the discussion thus far has been laboring under a false assumption that prevents it from getting at the real issue. There is a simple problem with the line of thinking that romantic or sexual relationships are fundamentally and essentially dependent on gender relations. The problem with this assumption is made obvious by the existence of people for whom relationships are manifestly not predicated on these considerations — gay people.
Let’s first get a few things straight, if you will. I am not whining about the mere fact that all the articles in this series have so far been heteronormative, true though it may be. I respect that both Kurz and Schwartz and Chen in today’s piece are not trying to say anything about gays and the hookup culture and were limiting their discussions, if I understood them correctly, to the subset of the hookup culture that is the straight hookup culture. However, the fact that these issues exist in the gay community as well as the straight community shows that this is not a gender issue and can’t be explained away with talk of knights and damsels.
From my experience, gays on campus are confronted with the same issues and are forced to make the same choices when it comes to dating/hooking up as straights on campus. Some might even claim there is a perceived stronger emphasis on the hookup culture among gays, making the question of “hookup versus date” an even more charged one. But my point is when I hear my straight friends talk about the lack of a good dating culture on campus, it sounds exactly the same as when I hear my gay friends talk about it. And when I hear my straight friends having complex, sometimes good, sometimes bad feelings about their sexual exploits, it sounds a lot like the kinds of things my gay friends say. As diverse as our identities and love lives may be, we all equally have to struggle with, as the beautiful series in the Street has shown us, love and lust in the bubble.
So sure, whether a girl feels empowered and a guy feels chauvinistic is going to affect how they relate to each other. But this is not simply an “us-versus-them” situation. Schwartz says, “[My female friends] all share one commonality: They know what they want, and they can make their own choices.” Kurz says,“At the same time, men and women are different and have complementary needs that can be met within the context of a dating culture.” But how a straight girl relates to a straight guy is hopefully more dependent on the guy as an individual than the guy as one of countless “guys.” When someone is dating or having sex with a person, they are doing so with that person, not with that person’s entire gender.
We should stop thinking about how we feel about hypothetical partners of indeterminate other groups, but rather about how we feel about the actual people in our lives. This might mean some people decide they can’t know a person as an individual from a dancefloor makeout, and others decide it would be inauthentic to go to Small World Coffee with a person they really just don’t want to date. Either way, it has to be about the actual other person, not just one’s personal and political views about people in general, or else we get stuck in a world of medieval fantasy and never get around to actually dating or having sex.
Luke Massa is a philosophy major from Ridley Park, Pa. He can be reached at email@example.com.