Ready to Mingle?

When I first arrived at Andover as a Junior, I was surprised by Andover’s dating and “hookup” culture. Admittedly, and perhaps naively, I expected a group of studious workaholics without time for anything other than classes, sports and extracurricular activities. I quickly realized (around the time I went to the first dance) that this was not the case. It is socially acceptable at Andover for people to become physically intimate before developing an emotional connection. It is normal for people to “hook up” and then not acknowledge each other the next day in Paresky Commons or on the paths. Often times, girls are used and yet pretend not to feel objectified or degraded by this culture: after all, everybody’s doing it. There is no reason to continue allowing ourselves to be objectified and degraded. Simple things, such as saying “hi” to each other in Commons, are easy to do and convey a sense of respect. By being honest with each other and by ceasing to accept treatment from others that is anything less than what we deserve, we can heighten the level of respect we have for each other and, more importantly, ourselves when in relationships. “Hooking up” is more common than actual long-term relationships at Andover. The most common progression for relationships on campus begins with two people hooking up casually; after some time, assuming they don’t immediately dislike each other, they might start talking or texting. Eventually, they just might develop an emotional relationship. This culture seems to me closer to that of a college than of a school with students as young as 13. This strange convention for becoming intimate is degrading and, in heterosexual relationships, gives almost all of the power to the guys. Girls pretend not to be bothered by boys who hook up with them but don’t even notice them in Commons. Girls pretend not to be hurt when a guy doesn’t want anything to do with her until Saturday night around 9:00 p.m. Both guys and girls make the excuse that their schedules are too busy for a committed relationship; they want to stay casual because they don’t have time for anything more serious. I call BS. If one wanted a relationship, he or she would make time for it. If one has time to “hook up,” chances are he or she could put the time in for a relationship as well. Still, Andover’s “hook up” culture can be at least partially attributed to the stressful lifestyle and the notion that completely physical relationships fit our hectic schedule. A combination of our independence and the school’s expectations for students creates an illusion of adulthood. Andover makes us think that we have already grown up. We try to act older, and this makes casual intimacy acceptable. I don’t think that the majority of males on campus are bothered by the progression of Andover relationships. Keeping things casual and physical is enough to satisfy most teenage boys. It is girls who end up unsatisfied and even hurt. Guys usually initiate this casual intimacy, selecting their partners based on physical appearance. As a result, superficiality becomes the social norm and girls accept objectification. Our culture needs to change. Boys are not the only ones at fault here. Girls, because they participate in casual intimacy and go along with the culture, allow these practices to perpetuate. We tell each other that it is fine if a guy avoids eye contact on the paths; we tell ourselves that that’s just how it is. But it doesn’t have to be, nor should it be. As a student body, we are committed to so many things: our school work, our sports, our extracurriculars. Why can’t we be committed to each other as well? Caroline Lu is a two-year Lower from Andover, MA.