Oh great, more slut-shaming” is one girl’s response when I ask her how she feels about Dave Kurz’s Daily Princetonian article “Why coffee dates trump DFMOs.”. Her scathing reaction had me especially baffled because it differed drastically from the reactions of many of my other female friends. To my even greater surprise, I found that many other female students on campus shared her biting condemnation of Kurz’s article and were in agreement that it represents yet another attack on women who dare to conduct themselves non-puritanically during their ventures to the Street.
In sharp contrast to these strongly negative online reactions, this was the first Prince article that I’ve ever seen my friends really excited about, and the first Prince article that a friend of mine told me that I simply MUST read. Instead of criticism, a common reaction of many of my Street-going female friends was something to the effect of “Wow, I wish guys asked me on coffee-dates”.
However, the polarity in response to Kurz’s piece in no way matches the responses to companion articles in The Prince’s “Love and Lust” section. Whereas Kurz’s controversial coffee date article elicited many dramatic reactions, the other articles received a generally supportive and unified response. One friend of mine said it best when she explained to me that she liked the Prince’s new “Love and Lust in the Bubble” section because the articles were relatable. Overall, she concluded that the Prince articles on sex and dating are nice to read because they mean that you aren’t alone in your experiences with romance on campus.
The fact that the Prince published a response article titled “Why gender equality trumps coffee dates,” by Sarah Schwartz, shows just how controversial Kurz’s article really is. Among the great number of girls who have been excitedly sending this article to each other, there are many other female students – such at Schwartz – who denounce Kurz’s proposal for more coffee dates on campus as a hetero-normative and anti-feminist approach to dating that presents women as victims in need of protection from the hook up culture.
While I certainly agree with the criticism of Kurz’s article that yes, at times Kurz does come across as a little egotistical, I think that attacks on Kurz for reasons of gender inequality are way off the mark. I believe that Kurz’s article is very black and white, and does not come anywhere close to addressing the complexities of dating and the hook up culture, but I also believe that the article is not at its heart misogynistic. In contrast, I would say that writers who suggest that women’s engagement in casual hook ups represents gender equality do far more to victimize college women then any male writer with a knight/damsel analogy.
Before I continue with my argument, I think it is important to note that there are certainly women on campus who are hooking up and finding physical and emotional satisfaction in their lifestyle choices. One respondent to the Kurz article writes, “I happen to enjoy the hook up culture here. I’m a female who likes to meet a guy on the street, make out for a little bit, and be able to go back to bed and not have to worry about maintaining a relationship the next day…The freedom to not be bog[ged] down in a relationship that takes up a large chunk of time, yet still enjoying interact[ions] with the opposite sex, is convenient. Yes, it’s not for everyone …but the ‘hook up culture’ provides a nice environment.” These women do exist and I agree that they are certainly not “victims.”
Another female Princeton student explains, “If you are a girl who loves hooking up and doesn’t want to go on dates then congratulations, Princeton’s culture and environment are perfect for you.” That is to say; women who are really happy with the hook up culture should feel very lucky. In a way, I think that many people would agree that you are certainly not victims of yourselves or of men and that yours is a very convenient and practical approach. I am however, unsure about how many of these women do actually exist, and how many women are only pretending to be content with this lifestyle.
In contrast to these women, I have spoken with many college girls who have found the “Love and Lust” article “Falling out of hooking up” to be extremely relatable to their own experiences. “Falling out of hooking up” is an anonymously written article about a Princeton girl who admits to herself that she and her friends have been pretending for a long time to be happy hooking up, and that in reality they feel both regretful and lonely. The writer asks, “Who else on campus [has] been burned by the hook up culture?” If I am correct in my understanding that many girls on campus have also felt “burned” by the hook up culture, why is it that girls get involved in casual hook ups in the first place?
Prince articles like “Why gender equality trumps coffee dates” perpetuate the myth that the way for women to achieve social equality with men is to conduct themselves the same way men do when involved in a potentially physical situation. It’s a fair point. You say, “I’m having fun! I want to hook up with him and he certainly wants to. Why do I have to stop?” As a female student, I should be able to engage in a casual hook up, enjoy it and experience equal consequences to my male peers. The problem with this idea is that it fails to recognize that women and men are equal but different. When women feel that the way to be equal and empowered is to participate freely in a male-oriented hook up culture, then Kurz is right in that women do become victims.
Many of these gender differences may be biological not societal. Primarily women and men frequently view physicality as different in its degree of meaning and significance. One comment to a “Love and Lust” article states, “You can’t just decide to ignore these gender differences because it’s trendy.” UCLA psychiatrist Dr. Miriam Grossman, agrees saying that, “intimate contact stimulates a female to “bond” with her mate through a well-known hormone called oxytocin….oxytocin is related to feelings of trust and attachment. Sadly, hook ups rarely result in meaningful relationships… females, can suffer psychological anguish from casual sex, while less vulnerable males can move on to their next targets.”
Another reason that physicality may be valued differently between genders is that sex poses a higher risk to females than it does to males because of the risk of injury or death associated with childbirth. Even with developments like birth control, research suggests that women may still be evolutionarily programmed to consider physical interaction with more weight than males do because of the perceived greater risk.
With this in mind, I would like to challenge the criticism that Kurz’s article is a example of “slut-shaming,” and instead question notions that dating is anti-feminist and that women’s uninhibited participation in the campus hook up culture will lead to gender equality. The Prince’s “Love and Lust” articles all attempt to present the same message: that there are many ways to approach romance, and that you have to do what is right for you and makes you happy. This campus newspaper column is important because I think many of the issues on campus regarding sex and dating remain unspoken, and that by bringing these issues to light we can help students to find better solutions to their romantic pursuits on campus, rather than trying to pursue romance in ways that we think are “normal.”
Women and men on campus should pursue romance in whatever fashion they truly think will make them happiest – whether this be hook ups, or dates, or telephone conversations. But please women, I urge you not to regard dating as an approach to romance that is outdated or demonstrates gender inequality. Because physicality tends to mean more to women than men, coffee dates can be an excellent pursuit because they represent an environment where the psychological effects of the romantic encounter would likely be equal for both parties. And if you are still concerned about your equality, remember that you don’t have to wait for someone to invite you to coffee, just ask the guy yourself.