NEWS: Whig-Clio debates whether hook-up culture is misogynistic


In a vote of 26-16, the audience members at a debate held by The American Whig-Cliosophic Society on Tuesday evening found that the so-called hook-up culture at Princeton does not promote misogyny.

Whig-Clio began the debate with the proposition that the hook-up culture is misogynistic. Benjamin Koons ’15 opened up the discussion by arguing that the hook-up culture at Princeton does promote misogyny. Koons explained being misogynistic as being “hateful or harmful to women” and said that the hook-up culture has a number of harmful effects on women. Koons is a former vice-president of the Anscombe Society.

The first of these effects, “unfriendliness,” comes from the casual nature of hook-ups, he said. In hook-ups, the most important quality men look for in their sexual partners is consent. Once that minimal level of consent is obtained, the main purpose of a hook-up is to enjoy oneself.

Furthermore, he added, the hook-up culture creates opportunities for sexual violence. When pursuing a hook-up, a person’s main goal is to get the consent of the other party, but once consent is obtained, the party pursuing the hook-up may behave excessively.

Koons added that heterosexual hook-ups are especially dangerous because the woman is alone in the presence of another human being who is likely stronger than she is. In addition, it is likely that both parties have been drinking.

In general, Koons said, hook-ups promote misogyny because they “separate the emotional intimacy from the physical.” Sexual intercourse has components of both physical and emotional intimacy, he added, and the separation of these components causes the problem of mixed signals.

Sarah Wiest ’14 opened up the debate for the opposition. Unlike Koons, she did not define misogyny as being “hateful or harmful to women.” Instead, she said she defines misogyny as “a state of mind, condition of society or history that assumes female inferiority.” Calling the hook-up culture misogynistic, she stated, is itself a misogynistic act. Wiest is a peer advisor for Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources and Education and co-directed the V-Day Campaign
production of “The Vagina Monologues” earlier this semester. She is a former writer for The Daily Princetonian.

Hooking up, she said, is an individual decision, the “power to act on your own erotic desire.” The argument that hook-ups are misogynistic, she added, makes a number of assumptions about the hook-up culture.

According to Wiest, the proposition’s argument portrays hooking up as an act in which women are taken advantage of and any consent is minimal. This portrayal, she said, “robs women of their choice” and “casts women into a heteronormative view of sex.”

She also noted that hook-ups are not confined to heterosexual intimacy. Hook-ups can also involve three-way or homosexual relationships, and the argument that “hook-ups can cause men to take advantage of women” is therefore too narrow in scope.

The proposition’s rebuttal was given by Audrey Pollnow ’13. Pollnow rebutted allegations that she and Koons had used misogynistic reasoning. Pollnow said that those who participate in hook-ups do so out of their own free will and that she and Koons did not assume that women are in a subordinate position within the hook-up culture. Rather, she said that their main problem with the hook-up culture is that it is “dehumanizing and desensitizing.” Pollnow is a former president of the Anscombe Society.

The opposition’s rebuttal came from Mitchell Johnston ’15. Johnston responded to the proposition’s arguments by stating that the fundamental issue in the debate over the hook-up culture is coercion, and he added that there is a fundamental difference between coercion and misogyny. Johnston is a member of Editorial Board of The Daily Princetonian.

In response to statements from the audience that people pursue hook-ups because they feel inferior and need to assert themselves, Johnston said that the hook-up culture is not about feeling inferior. Instead, it is “about respecting others’ choices.”

The hook-up culture, he said, is the result of personal desire and consent.

Whig-Clio president Matthew Saunders ’15 mentioned that the debate was held in observance of Women’s History Month, saying that Whig-Clio was interested in exploring the question, “Are women honored on campus?”

“This is an issue on which we must have dialogue,” he said.


4 thoughts on “NEWS: Whig-Clio debates whether hook-up culture is misogynistic

  1. “To rebut” means “to argue against, successfully.” For objectivity’s sake, you probably shouldn’t have used the word.

  2. Shouldn’t we first be asking whether there really is a hook-up culture on campus? The whole thing seems massively overblown.

  3. I think we need to point out the fact that none of the kids who are participating in or attending a Whig-Clio debate are hooking up with anyone.

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