Combat Zone

Undercover, under the covers: Uncovering Puget Sound hookup culture

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

Investigative journalist and Harvard graduate Jenny Jensen here. Last Friday I took the red eye (first class) from New York City to the Seattle-Tacoma airport to dig into, uncover, expose and reveal a pervasive phenomenon amongst the collegiate youths –– hookup culture. Some call me bold, some call me brave, some say my niece goes to the University of Puget Sound and is super confused about sex, but –– no, stop, you guys –– I’m just doing my civic duty.   

Before my night of expose journalism I prepared my outfit: a vintage green and gold Puget Sound off-the-shoulder crop top, socks with the words “mom jeans” written all over them, Birkenstocks, and a pair of bike shorts (for comfort). Then I picked a discreet pseudonym for myself for the night: Dolly Parton. After fully embodying my alter-ego, pre-gaming with my niece in the Todd Phibbs third floor lounge and getting written up by an RA, I embarked into the crisp, damp evening.

Just wait you guys, it gets better!

In the middle of the first party I started dancing near junior Sylvia Smith. Smith was wearing a textured Patagonia crop top and Carhartts and her eyes sparkled like she had a secret. I noticed that she was eyeing sophomore Bobby Bizniss. Bizness sported a puff coat, jeans and $700 custom climbing shoes.

As the climax of “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” approached, I noticed that Smith and Bizness were making sensual eye contact across the dance floor. The chemistry was palatable. Strategically, Smith used the “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” choreography to get closer to Bizness. Bizness leaned forward and whispered, “Hey want to get some air?” Internally I squealed with delight –– the hookup was happening! I introduced myself as Dolly Parton and asked if I could tag along. I ensured, like any good journalist would, that I would just be a fly on the wall. The duo agreed, and began walking to Bizness’ Trimble suite with a youthful bounce.

Now THIS is the good stuff, y’all.

Once I parked myself in the corner of the Trimble suite the hookup began. But what is a hookup and what does it entail?

First, Smith unleashed her ENO hammock from its pouch and lassoed Bizness with it. She wrapped the ENO’s bountiful material around Bizness as if he were a cocooned caterpillar. Then, Bizness began whispering his favorite kinds of kayak-related jargon into Smith’s ear: “starboard, port, helmet, aft.” Smith exhaled and began listing different rivers in the Pacific Northwest that would make for a great kayak outing: “Snake, Colombia, Vedder, North Fork.”

The hookup climaxed when Bizness and Smith linked their carabiners together. After this linkage, Bizness asked Smith to leave and then he never said hi to her again –– even when they were right next to each other getting their morning oatmeal at the sub.

Anyway. After watching this hookup go down I was left with more questions than answers, so I decided to keep partying. Yes, I’m thinking it too –– I AM noble.

So, I fled the Trimble hookup scene and entered a basement party. As soon as I emerged into the smoky den I saw two women locking eyes across the … well how do I say it … the standing floor (not a hip was moving). Seniors Nora Johnson and Amy Parliman were bopping towards each other, and stepped outside for a smoke. I followed at their heels. They weren’t thrilled, per se, that I was there, but I guaranteed again that I would be a fly on the wall during the hookup.

I was led through several alleyways and wow were they walking fast and turning a lot. Impractical, but we’ve got to get our steps in. Finally, I ended up in a quaint room with a King Princess poster and twinkly lights. There was an essence of citrus in the air. T

he hookup began when Johnson started humming Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” into Parliman’s ear. Then Parliman began drumming the beat of “Bohemian Rhapsody” onto Johnson’s thigh. Yes –– at this point I was blushing. The pinnacle moment of the hookup was when they exchanged Soundcloud usernames and Parliman gave a youthful wink to Johnson.

My observance of hookup culture has changed my global outlook on youth, music, dance and sex. This experience has led me to believe that these open conversations are critical in preventing teen pregnancy and encouraging safe sexual encounters. This article is dedicated to my niece Emily Emmhershin.