I've always been a hopeless romantic. I'm a big fan of rom-coms and corny love songs and mushy love poems (indeed the only time I feel inspired to write poetry is when I have a crush on a guy). And for years, I've wanted to have a boyfriend.
I had my first romantic relationship during my freshman year of high school. Our first date was seeing the live-action Cinderella in the movie theater I had been going to since I was a kid. We lasted a month and seven days. We started dating, broke up, got back together again, broke up again and when after the second breakup I asked him if he wanted to get back together he simply sent me the link to Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" music video on YouTube.
That was my first and only real taste of romance. I've been single ever since, much to my growing frustration. But throughout high school, whenever I complained about feeling sad and lonely being single, my friends would tell me that I would get a boyfriend in college. After all, there were bound to be plenty of openly gay and bi guys in college, so surely I could find a guy who would like me back.
So I started my freshman year of college determined to find a boyfriend and optimistic about my chances. And now the first semester is almost over and, to my disappointment, there is no boyfriend in sight. Granted, I spent a large part of this semester having a crush on a straight guy and that clearly wasn't going to go anywhere. But it feels like at GW, many guys- straight, gay, or bi- simply aren't interested in romantic relationships at all, only hookups.
I concede that this is a somewhat broad generalization but the decline in romantic relationships among college students in favor of short-term intimacy through hookup culture is a trend that's been documented by several research studies. A recent article in the Atlantic notes that hookup culture "might more accurately be described as lack-of-relationship culture" and Alexandra Solomon, a psychology professor at Northwestern has recognized that "many students have absorbed the idea that love is secondary to academic and professional success- or, at any rate, is best delayed until those things have been secured."
Up to 80% of college students in North America report engaging in casual hookups. The reasons for this are varied. For one, young people are more sexually liberated than older generations and less attached to the idea that sex has to occur within the framework of a romantic relationship. Additionally, college students may feel too busy for a relationship but still desire sexual pleasure. And apps like Tinder which were theoretically supposed to be dating apps have in reality functioned as hookup apps, make finding a sexual partner for a one-night stand as easy as online shopping.
I'm not a social conservative and I don't see the rise of casual sex as an inherently bad thing. Sex can be fun and pleasurable and shouldn't have to occur only in a romantic relationship. But at the same time, I worry that too much emphasis on hookups has led to the demise of romance, and for a hopeless romantic like me, that's cause for concern.
As a gay male, I am naturally a big fan of gay sex; I think gay sex is natural and beautiful and amazing. As queer people, our physical intimacy has long been looked down upon and criminalized. Laws banning gay sex were only struck down by the Supreme Court in 2003. I think gay sex should be celebrated, but I also think that gay love is even more worthy of celebration.
To me, a romantic relationship would be far more emotionally fulfilling than a hookup. Yes sexual pleasure is great and it's something a vast majority of humans crave but as humans, we also have other needs- the need for emotional support, the need to be loved. And sex can play a very important role in romantic relationships, like increasing affection. But even more than satisfying personal desires, queer love serves as a symbol, of love that can overcome hate, of love that is proud, love that has no shame. Queer love is beautiful and special because, for a long time, society has told queer people that our love is wrong yet we continue to love fiercely, despite the lingering prejudice and stigma and we believe that in the end love will always win.
Maybe I've just been listening to too much Taylor Swift, or watching "Call Me By Your Name" too many times, or spending too much time on Tinder and Grindr (probably all three). But at the end of the day I, like almost everyone else, just want somebody to love. Here's to hoping I meet him soon.