Student panel chips away at hookup culture

Newswire photo courtesy of Sydney Sanders | Student researchers presented the findings of their summer research at the beginning of the semester. The researchers hosted a panel last Monday to breaking the taboo of discussing sex to help prevent sexual assault.

The panel hosted by the theology department entitled “Why We Need to Talk About Sex” discussed the perils of hookup culture on college campuses and challenged students to contemplate what more should be done to prevent sexual assault.

Unlike presentations by on-campus groups Xavier Students Against Sexual Assault, BRAVE Peer Educators or It’s On X, this event aimed to spark discussion rather than to educate or illicit specific action.

The panel was chaired by student researchers Daniel Bowling, Riley Head and Derek Adkins as well as theology professor Dr. Marcus Mescher. The trio of students received a research grant back in May to conduct research over the summer concerning the root causes of high rates of sexual assault on college campuses alongside Mescher.

To spark conversation, the panel presented data from former Xavier professor Jennifer Beste’s findings in her book ,College Hookup Culture and Christian Ethics. In the book, Beste determined that “hookup culture” was the leading cause of sexual assaults.

Hookup culture is hard to define by nature. It maintains an ambiguity around conversations about sex due to discomfort. There is a forced separation of emotional experiences from sexual experiences, which makes sex difficult to process.

Bowling explained that hookup culture is reflected in the words students use to discuss their casual sexual encounters.

“When you say ‘hook up,’ you could mean kissing, you could mean sex or anything in between. It’s just another way to not talk about sex,” Bowling said.

When sex is not discussed openly, expectations from persons involved are unclear. Someone who has experienced sexual assault may not know how to communicate their situation or emotions to those around them if they do not understand what happened to them. If sex is something that is seen as acceptable to talk about, students can more easily form a support network if they are in need.

Conversations like the one held at the panel are part of dismantling hookup culture by breaking the taboo around talking about sex.

During the presentation, the students were encouraged to mull over the presentation before the floor was opened to discussion.

Many students stepped up to ask a range of questions, such as “What is the purpose of hookup culture and why do we keep participating in it,” “Does the education provided in Manresa help with prevention at all?” and “Should the university take responsibility for the education of consensual sex, and to what extent is the university liable?”

Bowling was satisfied with the outcome of the event, particularly how engaged the students were.

“There was a buzz as we gave a break for people to reflect. We got a lot of questions from the audience,” he said.

The road to ending sexual assault on campus did not conclude with the event. The panel encourage students to continue the conversation with their friends and branch out to more active forms of sexual assault prevention, such as joining on-campus groups as they are comfortable.

By: Alanna Bellmont | Staff Writer