Does hook-up culture hurt women?

There is other evidence of lingering inequality. Consider the language often used to describe college hookups. If the relationships are becoming more equal why, then, is the language used to describe them becoming more misogynistic? For example: A popular synonym for sex—or, at least, a certain kind of sex—on college campuses is the word “pound.” Young men pound (and the act of pounding is as un-tender as it sounds). Young women, however, get pounded. As a sexual descriptor, the word has its roots in porn, which is perhaps why both genders use it, despite its decidedly unequal connotations. (A recently released Pew Research Center report found that eight percent of female video viewers said they watched adult videos online, up from two percent just three years ago).

But, really, is there any liberation in being pounded; in being on the receiving end of porn-style sex? Unlike “hooking up,” which at least applies to both genders, “pounding” describes a dynamic in which one party—the pounder—invariably benefits more. Megan, a senior at a New York college, said that girls who repeatedly engage in being “pounded” take on a certain worn out look. “They’re not liberated, or free, as much as it’d be nice to believe,” Megan told me. “They’re a receptacle, and the guys don’t view them as ‘equals.’” This calls to mind the excellent book Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, in which author Ariel Levy pointed out that perhaps certain “empowered” young women who show up at parties dressed as porn stars or make out with one another for show are doing so less to satisfy their own personal desire than out of a desire to be seen as “hot” by men.

There are actual numbers that seem to indicate the pervasiveness of hookup culture is likely greatly exaggerated, and therefore not as empowering or pleasurable as some women might have you believe. A study presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Sociological Association found that just under one-third of college students have had more than one partner in the past year—a number comparable to rates in 1988, 1996, 2002, and 2010. Which means that hooking up has not, in fact, actually replaced committed relationships at all.