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The primary concerns of the piece in the first three sections (“An Economic Calculation,” “Independent Women,” and “Adapt, Have Fun”) revolve around ambitious students who aren’t interested in serious relationships, who prioritize their studies and their futures, and who have adjusted their romantic expectations since arriving at college.Given these narratives, hedged by Patton’s moralistic judgement, the prominence of sexual assault on college campuses is presented as an aspect of hookup culture—inextricably linked to women’s sexual liberation and independence.
Thus, “hookup panic” is an equally vague collection of anxieties about said mysterious young people.[began] to think of what had happened as rape.” The piece then devotes eight paragraphs to the idea that the “close relationship between hooking up and drinking leads to confusion and disagreement about the line between a ‘bad hookup’ and assault,” citing a study of two large universities in which 14 percent of the women had experienced sexual assault, and half of those assaults involved drugs or alcohol.Another Penn student quoted in the story describes a boy who physically coerced her into performing oral sex.The transition from quoting two college students describing non-consensual sex to quoting a sociologist who argues, “Guys don’t seem to care as much about women’s pleasure in the hookup, whereas they do seem to care quite a bit in the relationships,” suggests that consent is merely an aspect of female sexual pleasure, rather than a necessity.Forced sexual contact has nothing to with how women “fare” sexually.
But the importance of affirmative consent—not merely teaching boys to hear the word “no,” but to actively seek the word “yes”—must be isolated from the moralistic judgement that surrounds hookup panic. Writers can devote as many words as they like to worrying about such behaviors, and Susan Patton can continue to tell women that their new-found liberation (a premise which, as presented, is also worthy of interrogation) will leave them alone and undesirable. But it is even more damaging to act as if sexual assault and rape are the price women pay for independence and sexual freedom.