The Changing Landscape of College Dating

How 'hook-up' culture has redefined relationships in college

 By Kalaisha Totty Contributor

The high-pitched scream of blenders interrupted the rock music playing in the coffee house. Jazmin Alejos, seated near the window of the coffeehouse, tucked a piece of her short, shiny, black hair behind her ear and crossed her arms.

“I had invited my boyfriend to watch me teach dance to a group of high schoolers. He showed up, but he was super tipsy,” she said, laughing. “All these teenagers were asking me so many questions about his behavior, and on top of that, my mom was there and it was her first time meeting him. It was a total disaster.”

Alejos, 23, is a dance major attending Cerritos College. For Alejos, dance is a coping mechanism. Dance also introduced her to her current boyfriend. Entering college, she was going through a breakup of a relationship that began in high school.

“I wasn’t looking to date anyone, but it just sort of happened,” said Alejos, leaning back in her chair. She explained how she tried to talk herself out of dating him. “I would say to myself, ‘You’re not into him.’ I tried to look only at his flaws.”

Her boyfriend, also a dancer, has a collection of tattoos all over his left leg. Alejos explained how she used his tattoos as an excuse to not want to date him. “I told myself, ‘You don’t like tattoos,’” she said. But eventually, she changed her mind, “...and now [they’re] dating.”

Dating in college is made out to be this super dynamic thing. But when you take a closer look, most students aren’t really dating. The dating culture on college campuses has shifted. It’s more accurate to call it a hookup culture.

For many students, college has made dating a lot easier.

Maybe people define dating in different ways. Alejos’ definition of dating is getting to know the other person. Amanda studies sociology at Cal State Long Beach and defines dating as being exclusive. Amanda, who did not wish to disclose her real name after receiving a genital herpes diagnosis last year, said that identifying hookups and relationships is “pretty straightforward.”

“It’s either you just have sex or you go on dates,” she said, fidgeting with her long, pastel nails. Dating hasn’t been particularly hard for Amanda, but since last year it’s gotten a bit more complicated. Although she has a boyfriend now, who also has herpes, she found dating a bit challenging.

“I had to be responsible and disclose my condition. It was an extra aspect to dating,” she said.

For many students, college has made dating a lot easier. Amanda explained that the college atmosphere includes a lot more people and more outlets to meet people. “College was kind of a new start for me,” she said.

"...men decide what it is we’re doing: are we dating or are we just hooking up?”-Danniel Monroy said.

Josh Lester, a 24-year-old linguistics major at CSULB, agreed with Alejos that “dating is getting to know each other, it’s more than just sex.” Cerritos College dance student Danniel Monroy, 22, said dating is similar to just hooking up, but with a lot more effort.

“I’ve noticed that the guy usually takes the initiative to define what’s going on,” Monroy said, laughing nervously. Alejos agreed that men have more control over the dating scene. She said men control the stages of any relationship.

“I feel women have it easier because we know what we want, but men decide what it is we’re doing: are we dating or are we just hooking up?” she said.

Not only has dating culture in many colleges changed, but their hookup culture has shifted as well. Cypress College dance student Joselyn Herrera, 23, says men and women switched traditional gender roles recently, at least as far as heterosexual relations are concerned.

“It used to be that guys slept with whoever they wanted to and women were looking for relationships,” Herrera said. “Now I’ve seen a shift where guys are looking to be exclusive and women more commonly have more than one partner.”

Lester added that hookups have become more common and far less people are looking for relationships. That shift contributed to the new ways by which people meet each other. Almost unanimously, each interviewee cited social media as the way to meet people, and, overwhelmingly, Tinder.

Tinder is a dating app that shows you matches that are a certain proximity away from you. Bumble is basically the same, with the catch that only the women are allowed to send the first message or reaction.

“I don’t reach out to other[s] except on social media. My dating pool primarily came from Tinder and Bumble,” Amanda said.

Monroy explained how almost all of the girls he’s ever met, he met online. He told a story about a date that led to him to delete Tinder entirely.

“First of all, she looked nothing like her photo, but I encourage myself to be open-minded,” Monroy said. “Throughout the night, she wasn’t very communicative, then out of nowhere, she started talking to me about lesbian fantasies and if I wanted to be involved in a threesome.” Many people experience these type of disaster dates. In fact, it’s led some people to avoid dating altogether.

Ironically, although college opens more social doors, people have become more antisocial when it comes to dating. The culture of online dating has been on the rise since hookups became more popular, but it seems to have peaked and begun its downfall. While we navigate the changing dating landscape, we have Bumble’s words of wisdom: “You are worthy and you’re buzzworthy.”