Students Speak Out Against the 'Hookup Culture'

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PRINCETON, N.J. -- CBN News has reported on the growth of immoral activities on college campuses such as Yale's "Sex Week."  It's part of a longtime trend of casual sex on college campuses known as the "hookup culture." But students are growing tired of it and taking a stand for sexual purity.   

Princeton University freshman Christian Say admits he likes to swim against the tide. He is one of many students pushing back against pressure to have sex before marriage. 

"We don't think the assumption should be that students are just going to be hooking up and having sex because there are people who think that is just not what leads to a good human life," Say told CBN News in a recent interview near the school's campus.

College professor and author Donna Freitas writes about that "hookup culture," naming three characteristics to describe it.

"Number one, it's anything from kissing to different types of sex," Freitas said. "And then two, it is brief, anything from 10 minutes to a whole night ... and then, three, you are not supposed to get attached."

However, Freitas also pointed out, "More often than not, that is the part that really trips students up. They have a really hard time not getting attached."

'Love and Lust in the Bubble'

"There is an understanding with a lot of people in the hookup culture that there is this sort of emptiness to it," Say told CBN News.

That emptiness spills out onto the pages of Princeton University's student newspaper with anonymous posts in a series called "Love and Lust in the Bubble."

In one column, a student wrote:

"During the second semester of my freshman year, two of my closest female friends and I created an 'Accomplishment Chart,' complete with a star for each 'accomplishment' we had achieved.  Whenever I looked at the star stickers adorning my section of the chart, I would always laugh out loud, remembering the awful, drunken hookup that each star symbolized. There were many nights, though, when I couldn't sleep from cringing at those memories. But I wouldn't take those experiences back. Without them, I would have never realized how much I hate the hookup culture here."

That pain reaches beyond Princeton's campus. Freitas tackles the subject in her most recent book, The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled and Confused About Intimacy.

"To hear so many students, either really unhappy or incredibly ambivalent [about] their sexual experiences in college is depressing to me," Freitas said.

Freitas surveyed more than 2,000 college students across the country. Forty-one percent of those students used words like "regretful," "miserable," "disgusted," "ashamed," "duped" and "abused" to describe their hookup experience.  Twenty-three percent of them expressed ambivalence.

From that study, the author concluded many of the students felt alone and unsure of how to change the culture.

Freitas said, "In a lot of ways, starting is the hardest part because that requires some courage. The biggest hurdle to that is you have got all these students on campus who will say 'I am the only one who feels this way, but everyone else is over here, and I am all alone over here.' But you have so many students who are saying that, so a part of me wants to say 'Listen, you are just like this other person. You should tell the world you feel that way and you are going to find all these friends.'"

Princeton Students Speak Up

Say, Audrey Pollnow and Ben Koons are challenging the hookup culture as leaders in the Anscombe Society. The campus organization is named after Elizabeth Anscombe, the 20th century philosopher who preached traditional sexual ethics.  

Pollnow noted, "We are not the most popular on campus, though there a lot of students who are actually supportive of us."

Koons, the group's president, was also quick to note, "We are not a chastity club. It is not like high school where you get purity rings or anything like that. Nobody is checking up on you to see have you failed to be chaste this week. Nobody is doing that sort of thing."

In its mission statement, Princeton's Anscombe Society describes itself as "dedicated to affirming the importance of the family, marriage and a proper understanding of the role of sex and sexuality. It is a mission that is not partisan or religious."

"That's a very important part of the group is that we think you can hold to these positions that might seem like very difficult positions nowadays, without ascribing to any particular faith, without any special revelation from God," Koons said. "We think that these are just rules, written on the hearts of men."

Cassy Hough founded Princeton's Anscombe Society when she was a student in 2005.

"It was with the goal of providing that intellectual, that cultural voice, letting students know there are reasons behind these commitments," Hough told CBN News. "But also, there is a community of support if they were tired of the hookup culture."

Hough continues to grow that community. After graduating, Cassy started The Love & Fidelity Network.  Thus far, she has helped students launch groups like the Anscombe Society on 25 college campuses.

"Young people are aware now that there is a network of young people -- that they are not alone," Hough said.  "There is a network of young people who have these commitments or even just share the same questions that they do."

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CBN News
Efrem Graham

Efrem Graham

News Anchor & Reporter

Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at