Hooking Up and Grinding on the Dance Floor

By Sophie Sharps

These two articles, particularly Kimmel’s “Hooking Up: Sex In Guyland,” really explain the phenomenon my group is trying to explore in our group project. However, I never thought to consider the reasons why the term “hooking up” is such a vague and ambiguous term and how it might impact different social groups differently. This term is very deliberately left without a definition, as anyone can decide what the term means (and often this definition is very different for how you understand the actions of both yourself and others). Both Kimmel and Ronen discuss the double standards that exist regarding the sexuality and sex for men and women. Kimmel states that hooking up enhances a man’s reputation whereas it damages a female’s. He explains that men are seen as studs while women are seen as sluts. Therefore, the ambiguity of the term “hooking up” preserves the reputation of women while increasing how men are seen by their peers.

Discussions of hooking up and perceptions always remind me of Darcie and CC’s presentation over freshman orientation in which they ask questions using clickers so that the entire freshman class can respond anonymously and know the statistics immediately. Kimmel mentions a few figures from Bogle’s study that directly addressed the contrast in perceptions of others and selves versus the reality. While people “thought hooking up meant kissing and other stuff, they thought their friends were actually having intercourse.” Kimmel completed his own survey of guys across the country and discovered that while guys thought that about 80% of men on their campus had sex on any given weekend, the percentage was closer to 5 to 10 percent. Darcie and CC asked similar questions during orientation and we saw that our freshman class had similar assumptions. When asked what hooking up meant, the graph displayed widespread difference from making out to having intercourse. When asked how many people you think drink every weekend, the graph showed that most people assumed others were drinking multiple times a week, which then was not true when people answered the same question for themselves. Similarly, people perceived that the majority of students were drinking upwards of ten shots on average while this was wildly distorted and in reality the average number of alcohol consumed was much lower. There are so many factors that may contribute to these distortions and misperceptions people have about their peers. For one, the media dictates “norms” that we then translate to what everyone is doing, despite the fact that this is often not true. Another reason may be that those who do have these rare experiences discuss them so much that everyone around them believes this is what everyone else is doing. Culturally, drinking and hooking up in college is the ideal so those who fit this standard post pictures and find ways for everyone to know this is their lifestyle. Lastly, it is largely because of vague and ambiguous terms such as “hooking up” that these misconceptions exist. If someone brags about “hooking up” one night and everyone around them interprets that action as having intercourse when they actually did not, the numbers are already skewed higher towards the belief that everyone is having sex all the time. We have crafted a language that makes others seem perfect and individuals feel less than them because they do not live up to false, misunderstood standards.

What interests me from Ronen’s “Grinding on the Dance Floor” is how much this type of dancing is just a microcosm of how women and men are taught to act in all social settings. Ronen concludes that the heterosexual grinding script at these parties “reveals a gendered interactional dynamic that reproduces systematic gender inequality” (373). Throughout the entire life cycle of grinding that Ronen describes, men are the agents who initiate contact and women are the passive receivers of this action. Women are judged more harshly based on their actions, and judge themselves much more harshly than men. The atmosphere and music in college parties encourage grinding, just as many professional, political and legal atmospheres and circumstances encourage gender inequality. Ronen observed that women danced in same-sex groups while men were almost never found in groups but rather were described as “onlookers.” Ronen describes that “men entered the dance floor in individualistic, goal-oriented terms to initiate” (365). This is very similar to the professional arena, in which men have more power and individualistic freedom, while women are expected to be in less powerful, docile and submissive positions. Ronen also details circumstances in which women directly initiated contact, which confused men and made them lose interest. We live in a society in which men initiate action and women must be objects rather than agents. This is the norm in the romantic world, in the professional world, and in all spheres of social life. It is no surprise that this all occurs on the dance floor, as these gendered scripts are the same ones that reproduce inequality on a larger scale.


3 thoughts on “Hooking Up and Grinding on the Dance Floor

  1. Sophie,

    I loved reading your analysis of “Hooking Up: Sex in Guyland.” I also kept thinking about our group project and the vagueness of the term “Hook up.” When someone says, “So-and-so and I hooked up last night,” he/she can feel satisfied that they’ve given the “details” without actually giving the specifics of what he/she actually did. It gives the night mystery, and it’s up to the listener to construct his/her own reality.

    I’m also really glad you mentioned Darcie’s talk. That was one of the most useful things to hear as a freshman, to know that everyone entering college had pre-conceived notions about alcohol and dating and sex, and it was okay to not fit the “Hollywood” version. I remember watching an interview with Emma Watson when she was commenting on her experiences at Brown University. She said that all her views on American college life was from movies–solo cups, dancing, kissing, you name it. She imagined it as this “Animal House” and was surprised how parties actually were for the most part when she got to school.

    Emma Weisberg

  2. Sophie,

    As Emma also mentioned, I was glad to see you bring up Darcie and CC’s talks that we all experienced during orientation at Conn. One thing that interesting to think about though is that we’re all exposed to the facts, yet we still participate and feel stuck in this hookup culture that is a part of our campus, as it is many others. We have all been told numerous times now that people are looking for more than just a hookup, but we continue to believe that nobody wants more…

  3. It is definitely fascinating to see the difference between perception and reality. While everyone perceives things to be a certain way they are many times way off in their assessment of the situation. I wonder how differently people would behave if they perceived things to be differently what they originally thought they were or if they knew the exact truth of how things are. Would people’s actions change dramatically as they attempted to keep up with the norms. Your connection from the music at college parties encouraging grinding to political atmospheres also rang true. It is hard to break this mold when these roles are so ingrained in every setting.


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