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Christian Union
October 4, 2013

New Organization Offers Alternative to Hookup Culture at Princeton


A new student organization is spotlighting the dangers associated with the hookup culture that dominates Princeton University's social scene and offering counter-cultural alternatives.

During the spring semester, the university recognized The Alternative (www.bealternative.org), which exists to expose the harmful realities of the hookup culture and encourage students to pursue an alternative lifestyle, reducing the social acceptability of promiscuous behavior.

"The hookup culture is an assumed norm on Princeton's campus," said Jennifer Palmquist '13, outgoing president of The Alternative. "When it is so widespread and normalized, it is easy to become desensitized to what can actually be a damaging form of social interaction."

Promoting regard for the risks of a promiscuous lifestyle became close to Palmquist's heart after witnessing the destructive residual effects of casual sexual engagement across campus. This is especially true on "The Street," the place where Princeton's famed eating clubs are located.

"Our goal is to promote discussion surrounding the hookup culture and cause students to question the choices they make and how they influence their lives, both in the moment and in the future," she said. "The most frustrating aspect of the hookup culture is that it is the only prominent form of romantic interaction within the mainstream social scene."

Ali Smith Kennedy, a Christian Union ministry fellow at Princeton, noted students often are left with the impression that they are social misfits if they are not participating in short-term encounters.
But those who partake in loose sexual experiences often find the lifestyle "does not deliver on the promises," rather, it "results in tangible dissatisfaction," said Kennedy, Princeton '06.

"They're starting to see through it," said Kennedy. "They are asking, 'What are we settling for? Maybe, there's another way to experience relationships.' "

Despite widespread perceptions that hookups are acceptable and ingrained in collegiate culture, participants often feel they have violated their own internal standards. In addition to guilt, common reactions include regret, disappointment, confusion, embarrassment, awkwardness, reduced self-esteem, and depression.

"It is difficult to get students to see the long-term implications of living a hookup lifestyle. Not only is there much dissatisfaction and lack of fulfillment in the short term, but there are long-term implications to consider as well, like a decreasing value of long-term, monogamous, committed relationships, which can, in turn, decrease their chances for a successful marriage and family life." Kennedy said.

Students who experience serial sexual contacts often encounter complications when attempting to transition into more stable, emotionally intimate relationships. "Instead of learning in college how to relate to the opposite sex through committed relationships based on trust and respect, the 'no strings attached' paradigm fueled by the hookup culture often translates into dysfunction later on." Kennedy said.

Dave Kurz '12, a Christian Union intern, echoed those comments, noting undergraduates also need some basic instruction – as well as successful models – as they approach friendships and dating. While most Princeton students matriculate with extraordinary brainpower and motivation, they often are unversed in the practices and principles behind thriving, committed relationships.

"The campus environment is a pro-hookup culture," he said. "There are pressures in certain circles to conform to the norm. There's not a dating lifestyle. There are not a lot of life-giving or healthy relationships."

Student leaders with The Alternative say some undergrads also want wholesome options for leisure, recreation, and campus interaction.

"Since I've been here, The Street has maintained a monopoly on the social scene," said Seth DeValve ' 15. "Most freshmen don't feel really comfortable with what happens on The Street. Because that's what everyone does, they just go along with it. Before long, they get sucked in, too."

DeValve, a wide receiver for the Tigers, envisions The Alternative offering low-cost, high-energy activities such as volleyball tournaments, open-mic nights, and swing dances.

"When you go out to The Street, there is nothing planned. People stand around with beer in their hands the entire night. In my opinion, it's extremely repetitive and extremely boring, which becomes even more apparent going to The Street sober. I'm ready for a change and I believe other students are, too."

In addition to showcasing spirited activities that build camaraderie, student leaders with The Alternative simply want undergrads to consider the repercussions of promiscuous practices during their college years and beyond.

Angie Chiraz '16 is hoping to see "serious social transformation" on campus as students realize that another lifestyle is possible.

"It makes me really excited to think that incoming freshmen will see this social scene promoted from the start of their time at Princeton," said Chiraz, who is majoring in operations research and financial engineering.

Meanwhile, Princeton students are enthusiastic about their plans for an alternative social scene in the upcoming fall semester, with speakers and various social activities in the pipeline. "We are excited for what God is going to do next year," DeValve said. "More and more students are wanting to join us in setting a new alternative norm at Princeton and that's a really positive sign."