SHAPE, MARS talk dating, hookup culture


Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

Jennifer Katz, a SESP senior, speaks to an audience of Northwestern students about maintaining ongoing consent while dating and hooking up. SHAPE and MARS hosted a panel on healthy relationships as part of their “Ask Someone Out” week.

Alice Yin, Assistant Campus Editor

Northwestern got a crash course in romance and hookups at a Monday night kickoff for Ask Someone Out, a weeklong initiative to encourage students to be more expressive in their relationships.

Hosted by Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators and Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault, the event featured a panel of students who discussed personal viewpoints on communication in dating and hookup culture.

About 70 students crowded into a Locy Hall classroom to hear the panel.

Weinberg junior Erik Baker, a MARS member, moderated the event. He said that although the initiative’s name suggests the focus is on asking people out, the event aimed to promote communication on both ends of a relationship.

“While we encourage people to ask someone out, we want to recognize it is completely valid if you are not interested in a romantic or sexual relationship,” Baker told The Daily. “The other side of this coin is rejecting someone … taking no for an answer, allowing someone to be comfortable telling you no.”

Panelists discussed consent in relationships and sex, agreeing that a “maybe” means “no” and that consent should be active and ongoing to be valid.

They also addressed romantic and sexual activity while intoxicated, urging audience members to wait to hook up if either party is drunk. Panelists talked about body language and more subtle aspects of dating and hookup culture, discussing social cues on whether someone appears comfortable or interested.

“There’s no harm in saying exactly what you want,” said SESP senior Jennifer Katz, a SHAPE panelist. “Then everyone’s really clear about what happens. You can always change your mind; you’re not signing a contract.”

Weinberg sophomore James Yoon, who attended the event, said he was grateful it also explored societal pressures that lead to sexual assault.

“What was really important that they discussed was behavior and being at a party,” Yoon said. “Sometimes it’s confusing, hookup culture … but they mentioned a lot about getting a very specific ‘yes.’”

Panelists also shared advice about coping with rejection in both hookups and relationships. They stressed that communication was usually the solution to scenarios with gray areas.

“I don’t think asking someone out will ruin your friendship,” said Communication sophomore Ari Radcliffe-Greene, a MARS panelist at the event. “It’s so much more painful not knowing where a relationship is at.”

Panelists and audience members discussed sexist connotations in the term “friend zone,” which is used to indicate when people reject romantic advances by saying they wish to remain friends.

“The friend zone is also a sexist ‘she put me in there’ term,” said Weinberg sophomore Isabel Sturla during the audience question-and-answer session. “(It’s) thinking women owe something to someone who is nice to them, just because you do things for them.”

After the event, Baker said that although communication may be intimidating, voicing one’s feelings leads to healthier relationships.

“We construct a dichotomy between sexual assault and healthy sex, or abusive and healthy relationships,” Baker said. “You can have bad sex and not assault, or an unhealthy relationship that’s not abusive … Ultimately communication among college students is important for relationships that aren’t violent.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @alice__yin