Is The ‘Hook Up’ Culture On Elite College Campuses Good For Career Oriented Women?

Photo courtesy of Courtney Carmody

Photo courtesy of Courtney Carmody

A recent article in the New York Times paints a complicated portrait of sex on college campuses.   Many women are rejecting serious relationships because they wish to be unencumbered as they pursue high-flying careers. Instead they opt for 'hookups' and don't bother themselves with finding a soulmate or future spouse.   The article focuses on the Ivy League, University of Pennsylvania -- a place where women dream of becoming President, founding the next Facebook or being a Wall Street titan. They say they can't image being married in their 20's and dragging around a relationship as they chase their goals.

On one hand I find it encouraging that very young women are embracing their sexuality and focusing on career. At 22 women absolutely have time on their side. They rightly recognize that marrying early sometimes curtails career goals...at least for women.   From my observations, well-educated wives (obviously, I'm talking about straight marriages here) are more likely to sideline or curb their own career ambitions than are husbands. Taking it at face value, this story makes me want to say, "You go girl!" Thinking about it further, I have some concerns about the campus 'hookup' trend:

  • As per the article there is evidence to suggest that women are less sexuality satisfied in a casual relationship than the men.   For instance, they are more likely to give oral sex than to receive it.
  • A 1977 Princeton grad and New York City HR consultant, Susan Patton worries that today's young women are squandering one of their best opportunities to meet a potential mate.   She's not suggesting that women go to college for their "MRS" degree, she's simply saying that college contains a large pool of smart, eligible men.   Couples can grow and achieve together.
  • The women interviewed for this article won't give their names and, in one case, the number of sexual partners she's had. This suggests to me that these women still feel shame over casual sexual encounters and/or judgement from society at large.
  • There was a time when young men would get married early and still pursue their professional goals without worrying whether or not a spouse would be along for the ride.   Support from the spouse was just assumed (Think Al Gore or Mitt Romney). It's clear that a young woman cannot make that assumption.   They seem to believe that marriage means scaling back professional goals, which I find very sad.
  • Finally, no one is writing this article about men. The marriage/sex/career conversation is still only about women. No one cares if a 20-year-old man says, "I don't have time for a girlfriend. I'm too focused on starting my first software company." It's just assumed that things will fall into place for them, nor are they getting judged for 'hooking up.'

To read the full New York Times article, click here.