Hang up the Hookups

by Chris Canniff


There never seems to be any shortage of discussion surrounding the hookup culture at Boston College.  Kerry Cronin’s talks on dating and sex routinely draw huge crowds.  Of course, students also spend a lot of time talking about it amongst themselves, albeit with a tone and perspective that is usually different than Cronin’s.  While she advocates replacing hookups with proper dating rituals aimed at love, students who are heard talking about hookups are often relating the sordid details of their misadventures to their friends.  People smile, nod, and laugh along as they hear the stories.  But, the overwhelming attendance at Cronin’s talks indicates that students know the pain that is involved in hookups and instead want something more—to be valued as people and not used as objects.


The hookup culture is ubiquitous in the social experience of Boston College students from the time they arrive at Freshman Orientation all the way through Senior Week.  Second semester senior year is when things amp up, as many students wish to hookup with people whom they have been eyeing all four years.  This is where the Senior Five comes into play.  Many seniors will come up with a list of five specific individuals with whom they hope to hookup before graduation.


As a senior last year, I witnessed that intensification of the hookup culture taking place all around me.  I recently said to a few current seniors that people behave strangely during their last semester.  The stress, the anxiety, the fear of the unknown future—all of this weighs heavily in one’s final months here.


One night last year, I was spending some time with another senior.  She and I spent about an hour together talking about the future.  She already had a job for after graduation, and it was going to take her far across the country, away from her family.  She told me about the uncertainties she was facing about moving to a new city, getting established in her career, and finding stability.  We had a great and meaningful conversation.  It wasn’t the only one that she and I ever had, but this one stands out because of what happened afterward.


When I returned to my room in Ruby, the first thing I did was check Facebook before starting my homework.  Several posts on my newsfeed caught my attention.  Someone had started a Senior Five Facebook page.  Seniors were anonymously submitting their list of five people, and the moderator of this page was posting those lists for everyone to see—mostly lists of females sent in by men.  The young woman whom I had just been with is very attractive.  I saw her name on nearly half of the hundreds of Senior Five posts.


The blatant objectification of all of these young women was astonishing.  The people who engage in the hookup culture and who submitted these posts had no concern for the people they listed; they saw them simply as objects.


The people who submitted the name of the young woman whom I had been with were not concerned with her, with who she is as a person.  The fact that she has fears about her future, hopes for it as well; the fact that she has a family and boyfriend who love her and whom she loves; the fact that she is a faith-filled individual with spiritual aspirations; the fact that she is a human being like the rest of us—none of this concerned them.


She and countless others are the invisible victims of the fashionable idea that hookups are harmless and healthy.  They are invisible in the sense that the true face of the person is deliberately obscured, and the physical body is viewed and evaluated separate from the person.


Somehow, when people hurt other people, they do it because they fail in some way to see that it is another person who is standing there before them.  Persons are ends to be loved and respected, not means to be used and discarded.  They are not tools towards our goals; they are genuinely other people who must be loved and reverenced accordingly.  The first step towards loving another person is recognizing that the other person is there.  And so, I think it is time to hang up the hookups and to strive for agape—the real and costly love which is self-gift.


As C.S. Lewis noted in The Weight of Glory, by every action we take, we are either helping or hindering every person we encounter towards one of two eternal destinations.  He said, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors…Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ, the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.” 

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