The Happy Trail

In defense of a small school hookup culture: How a close-knit community can build accountability

I would like to share some reflections gathered over the last three and a half years in regards to small-school hookup and dating culture.

At small schools, or in small communities, it’s easy to build a reputation. This can be good or bad. A small community can hold people accountable to their actions.

One example of this is Peer Allies.

In the last three years they have grown into a recognizable and widely effective force on campus in fighting sexual assault due in part to the ability to engage a small community into action.

Firstly, what are the drawbacks of dating in a small school environment? Typically, one hears the same several arguments. The dating pool is too small. Once you’ve hooked up with someone, everyone on campus knows about it. And finally, that it’s too hard to date casually.

These are completely valid concerns, but I have come to view them in a different light. I don’t mean to say that there aren’t any drawbacks to dating or hooking up at a small school. What I mean to say is that I have come to understand how attending a small school makes opportunities for growth available.

But what do I mean by a reputation? Well, not your sexual performance, (although that may develop a reputation in its own right), but rather I wish to discuss a reputation based on how you treat your partner.

In a close-knit community, I believe people are more apt to take note of how partners treat each other, and therefore are more likely to take action when something is amiss.

People might not outright ostracize you, but word gets around. If you conduct yourself in an inconsiderate manner to your partners, soon you build a reputation that spreads quickly.

I want to quickly point out that there isn’t one type of relationship. There are many, and what people get out of them is as diverse as the people in them. But one thing that I’ve learned from hooking up at a small school is to value my partner as an individual. I can’t just throw away the person when I become uncomfortable.

In a larger setting, I may go through dozens of partners without learning anything new about myself or gaining any insight into how to communicate with others.

Again, that isn’t to put down relationships that are based on the physical, or any singular quality in particular. I simply want to make the point that being in close contact with my partner in a community of our immediate peers makes me understand and focus on them in a deeper manner.

Some might be urged to defend a large hookup culture, or claim that there’s no difference between large and small schools. I have only attended a small school, and so in that respect I am biased.

But I believe it is reasonable to operate under the assumption that social conventions differ when they entail vastly disparate amounts of persons.

Essentially what I want to say is this: if you’re frustrated or tired or fed up with the potential partners here on campus, it’s okay. That’s normal and completely valid.

But first, ask yourself what you want out of any encounter, be it sexual or otherwise, and trust your partner to do the same.

Being at a small school has forced me to slow myself down and engage my partners on a deep and meaningful level.

I credit the intentionality and inclusivity of a small-school environment with helping me find a healthy balance in my relationships.

But then again, maybe that’s just a part of growing up.