Credit: Zara Iqbal | Mustang News

Neta Bar is a business administration sophomore and opinion columnist for Mustang News. Her views reflected in this piece don’t necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.

You meet at a party, in class, on an app or through friends. You kiss before you talk and you’re in each other’s beds before you know each other’s last names. Their number might go unsaved in your phone during the first couple of weeks of hooking up. 

Time goes by and you inevitably meet a fork in the road: the “what are we” talk –– defining the relationship. One wants more and one craves casual. You come to a half-hearted consensus: “fuck it, let’s be exclusive” and, before you know it, a new relationship is born. 

This is college hookup culture. This is modern romance.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for our generation exploring sexuality in a way that is more open (read: less taboo) than our predecessors. However, with that openness should come honesty and communication –– crucial pieces that tend to be missing in the framework of hookup culture as it exists today. 

In fact, we see quite the opposite. We see a feigned vulnerability. People build a façade of trust as they learn everything about one another physically, but nothing about each other’s genuine personhood. This dynamic fosters a false intimacy that evokes feelings adjacent to true connection, when, in reality, the chemistry is half-baked.

This lack of sincerity as couples first build their sexual relationships is a catalyst for major cracks in the foundation as the relationships turn from casual sex to commitment. 

The foundation of a loving, healthy relationship is multifaceted and looks different for each unique couple. There are several critical components we see without fail in the relationships that actually see longevity –– trust, transparency, openness and honesty; collectively, the antithesis of a fling that flimsily evolves into something more.

In consequence of the false intimacy, these relationships are ticking time bombs. By conflating the infatuation of physical intimacy with the fulfilling emotions that love is supposed to elicit, we convince ourselves that we have real feelings for the other person. We find each other cool enough, attractive enough; if they’re tolerable enough to sleep with, why not date them?

Couples must choose to either remain stagnant and keep hooking up, unlabeled and inexclusive, or be cornered into a clumsy, rushed, foundationless relationship, for no reason other than pure convenience. 

When the beginning of a relationship develops on the basis of a particular goal (such as sex), there is not as much room for the relationship to legitimately grow. As opposed to the organic sequence of events that typically leads to a romantic relationship –– namely, friendship as a first step –– people are now dating almost by default. The dating begins simply due to the fact that this is the new norm; essentially because they “might as well.” 

None of that is to say that these couples wouldn’t necessarily be a good match under different circumstances –– in fact, quite the opposite. At the end of the day, people are entering a dynamic in which they know the most physically intimate yet least personal things about each other. They know every curve of one another’s body but not the complexities of each other’s minds. They could be absolute soulmates, if the relationship they rushed into wasn’t designed to collapse. 

Seeing people as goals or endpoints, instead of thoughts and passions, is hindering our generation from cultivating genuinely sustainable relationships. Our culture is contributing to a troubling butterfly effect: as individuals recognize that all people our age are looking for is casual intimacy, many lower their standards of fulfillment to adjust to the new norm. The result? A fundamental loneliness that people don’t even realize they’re experiencing, as they’re too afraid to ask for more.

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