Welcome to college, an era of experimentation and education that reaches far outside the classroom.

Such newfound independence and freedom from parental eyes inspire freshmen to experience new things — including casual sex. Although older generations may insist that casual sex is a fresh new millennial horror, we hardly invented the practice. Technological advances in the 1920s, the sexual revolution of the 1960s and decreased dating have shaped the hook-up culture we know today.

Hook-up culture flourishes within college campuses such as University of Wisconsin, where alcohol is treated as an essential part of social life. Of course, casual, commitment-free sex hardly requires alcohol, but the thrill of lowered inhibitions and dimly lit house parties certainly oil the gears for some people.

Hook-up partners could be strangers, acquaintances or close friends. Many freshmen leave the dorms aiming to bring someone home to their lofted bed, but this doesn’t mean everyone must participate in hook-up culture. But for those who do, here are some friendly guidelines to follow. 

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Ambiguity Abounds

The term “hook-up” can mean many different things — anywhere from sex to making out with clothes on. People use the term loosely to fit their comfort level. However, without a concrete definition, the opportunity for uninformed consent presents itself.

If someone asks to “hook up,” all involved partners should be fully aware of what that entails. Consent should be clear, freely given, enthusiastic and informed — and the absence of a “no” does not mean “yes.” Alcohol endangers the “freely given” portion of consent; when someone is passed out, vomiting, slurring or otherwise incapacitated, they are unable to give consent. If you wouldn’t give someone the keys to your car, then you shouldn’t be having sex with them. The definition for “hook-up” may be ambiguous, but consent is not.

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Doing the Deed

When going out and aiming to hook up, bring a few important items: a barrier method, dorm room keys, WiscCard, a buddy and a safe way home (even if it’s the next morning in last night’s clothes). Feeling extra prepared? Wear your favorite underwear, bring plenty of lube and make sure to pocket a few bucks for Ian’s Pizza later.

That said, dorm sex is a tricky beast. Lofted beds, roommates and semi-public spaces make hooking up seem like an awful lot of trouble. Communicate early on with roommates about boundaries, and decide on a system to alert one another to arrival of hook-up partners. Getting it on in showers, dens and other shared spaces is not only explicitly forbidden, but violates other’s personal space. Subjecting floor mates to sexy noises/sights without consent is wrong.

But the thrill of bringing someone home to hook up in the dorms delights many. Luckily those lofted beds invite the missionary position, a classic that provides excellent clitoris stimulation for those that have them.

Enjoy one another and explore. 

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Realizing Risks

Sometimes encounters bring casualties besides sex — such as pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. Monogamous folk only need to be tested for STIs once or twice a year, but those enjoying more partners should visit their local STI clinic three to four times every year. University Health Services offers free STI and HIV testing for all UW students.

Take advantage and visit them at 333 East Campus Mall.

Also, apps such as Tinder, Grindr, Zoosk, OkCupid, CMB (Coffee Meets Bagel), Pure, and endless others put hooking up in the palm of our hands. Hooking up is easy to organize through apps that offer instant conversation (such as Tinder), but make sure to meet in a public place to meet them first. Of course, one can abuse the power of faceless communication and deceive others. But being authentic online is within reach for most of us, especially since our generation grew up with the Internet.

Slut Shaming & Double Standards

If an alien were to arrive on planet Earth to observe human beings, they would immediately be able to understand gender roles and stereotypes based on some college students discussing hook-ups.

Women who don’t have sex are often perceived as prudes, but if she has too many partners and she’s a whore. Meanwhile, men with partners aplenty are known as studs or players. This dichotomy is sexist and false. The amount of sex a person has — and the people that they choose to hook up with — has nothing to do with their value.

Plus, these stereotypes have nothing to do with the true motivation behind hook-ups. Anecdotal evidence regarding college women’s sexual lives revealed that they avoided relationships because they found it too time-consuming. The combination of school, jobs, internships, extracurriculars and friends make it difficult to balance a relationship. Casual intimacy allows people to experiment sexually without expending excessive emotional energy.

That being said, plenty of people prefer relationships, which can begin in all sorts of ways. Every day people’s one night stands are turning into the love of their life. Courting comes in all shapes and sizes.

Welcome to UW, Badgers. Be safe and stay sexy.

Meredith Head is a psychology and gender and women’s studies major planning to pursue a career in sex therapy. She welcomes any comments, questions or suggestions at [email protected].