Last semester, Jenna Boccabella and I conducted research on how Marist students feel about hookup culture. The results showed us something that we did not expect: the majority of participants believed that hook up culture impedes the possibility of having a meaningful exclusive relationship. This made me question what Marist students love and hate about being single or in an exclusive relationship. Why do they want to be in a relationship and what stops them from participating in one? To find out, Jenna and I conducted another survey.
We spread the survey through direct-messaging random Marist students on Instagram, posting on Facebook groups and asking professors to email it to their students. A total of 190 students completed the survey, in which 144 identified as women, 44 as men, and 2 people identified as non-binary. A majority of the participants were straight women and juniors.
As we predicted, the majority of participants want to be in a relationship (44.2 percent) or are already in a relationship (32.1 percent), while the remainder of the single participants do not want to be in an exclusive relationship (23.7 percent). While many of the male respondents were in a relationship, the plurality of single men said they were not interested in having an exclusive relationship.
So what are the perks of an exclusive relationship for Marist students? Support (27.6 percent) and partnership (26.7 percent) were the top two selected, with romance (25.8 percent) to follow and consistent sex (18.6 percent) as the last advantage. I think it is particularly interesting that consistent sex was the least important. The reason for this may be that consistent sex is not an advantage to exclusive relationships because consistent casual sex is an option while single. Other perks that participants mentioned were love, friendship, fun, loyalty, and security.
Of course, there are also negatives to being in an exclusive relationship. Whether you have been in a relationship or not, we all know that getting your heart broken is by far the worst outcome. Potential heartbreak (39.9 percent) was the most selected con of being in a relationship, followed by time commitment (25.3 percent), getting bored (15.4 percent), and lack of freedom (14.4 percent). Other cons that participants mentioned were feeling stuck, long-distance, spending money on your partner, not knowing if they are the one, taking on the problems of your partner, post-grad plans, lack of experience with other sexual partners, dependency, and jealousy.
If we end up with a broken heart or have been on our own for a while it is essential to keep the positive side of single life in mind. Participants believe the time to focus on yourself (32.4 percent) and independence (30.2 percent) are the most beneficial parts of being single. On the other hand, flirting (21.1 percent) and hook-ups (14 percent) were the least selected because Marist students would rather having exclusive and real connections than participate in our hook-up culture.
Not only is being on your own the best part of being single, but it is also the worst. Lack of intimacy/affection (30.1 percent) and loneliness (30.1 percent) were the most selected cons by participants, followed by feeling unwanted (23.6 percent) and bad/awkward first dates (13.1 percent). Other cons that participants mentioned were inconsistent sex, being the third wheel, and dating apps.
Since Marist students are longing for meaningful relationships, we asked if they think they would meet or have met another Marist student they would spend the rest of their life with. The majority of participants that said yes are currently in relationships with people at Marist and talked more about the actual “person” they have met. One participant said, “I met the person that I am in love with at Marist when I never thought I would. Before meeting this person, I held the perception that most straight men at Marist would hold similar character traits that I find both unattractive and problematic. But the odds proved to be different for me.”
Others were neutral and open-minded. One participant commented, “While I don’t think everyone should expect to, I believe it is a definite possibility. My parents met in college and have been together so I’ve seen it work in action.”
Those who said no, blame this on the Marist environment (e.g., Marist is hookup centric, people have differing beliefs, etc). One of the common reasons revolved around Marist being a small school. Participants said that “it is extremely hard to find someone who has not had sex with or dated someone in your friend group. If Marist were bigger maybe this wouldn’t be such a problem,” and “Marist tends to be cliquey and rarely dates outside their circles or the classes they attend. I feel as if it would be hard to find someone here.”
Others pointed out that they wouldn’t be able to meet someone here because Marist is a majority straight and white campus. Participants said, “I don’t think I fit into the Marist mold of beauty standards being a woman of color. I also have a different set of values I think than most people I meet.” Another mentioned that Marist students seem uninterested in dating outside of their race and social scene, “I am a POC on campus full of mostly white people, not that I wouldn’t date a white person, but I feel as if white guys on campus are not open to interracial relationships. Even if they were, I feel that our difference in life experiences would be too much of a gap (for me at least).”
Marist students want to have sincere exclusive relationships, and while some are hopeful, others assume they wouldn’t meet someone they are compatible with on campus. Although participants consider being single to be a time for independence and personal growth, single life is also associated with loneliness and boredom. For the students who believe they won’t meet a partner here, there are certainly people on this campus looking for you too. And for those looking to stay single, I think remaining open-minded in regards to having a relationship could be an incredible opportunity for growth, vulnerability, and love. Independence does not have to be limiting.
Email your questions and matters of the heart to our Sex & Love columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org.