The queer dating scene at the College can be hard to navigate. Don’t let that discourage you.

Jackson Small

I will never forget how my sophomore year roommate explained the queer dating scene at the College to me. It was late one night, and we were attempting to name every gay couple on campus that we could think of — we could only come up with about four or five. I wondered out loud why this was. I could think of a plethora of straight couples. While there are significantly more cisgender, straight students at the College, there is a queer population, large enough that two of its members should be able to name more than a few queer couples. My roommate and I came up with the answer, or should I say, an answer: the queer dating scene at the College is plagued by hookup culture. 

Queer people, especially gay men, are prone to one-night stands and failed talking stages. This leads to problems with intimacy and an aversion to relationships that last longer than a couple weeks. I have found, through much tribulation, that the College may not be the place for a queer person to be if they want to fall in love.

You could argue that hookup culture is not only for those looking for a cheap thrill, and I would believe you. But your successes in sexual rendezvous does not accurately portray the experience of all queer people on campus. Some members of the community are not comfortable engaging in these particular activities for a multitude of reasons and as a result are not taken seriously as active members of the queer dating scene on campus. If you opt out of queer hookup culture for whatever reason, it can be very hard to opt back in. At times, it even feels as though you have to earn it. Only by building up your metaphorical “intimacy resume” can you be considered a legitimate romantic or sexual option, and hookup culture, unfortunately, accounts for a lot of that experience.

Of course, there is a solution so simple that even a straight person could think of it: Just buy into hookup culture. Easy enough, right? Not necessarily. Hookup culture can be exclusionary. It favors those who self-identify as “emotionally unavailable.” (If I had a nickel for everytime I’ve heard that come from a gay man’s mouth…) It is hard to discern what the phrase “emotionally unavailable” actually means, especially when used so frequently by gay men to get them out of any sexual or romantic situation that goes beyond hooking up. Does it denote a sense of immaturity? A lack of self-awareness? Or something much more insidious? I believe that in the gay community, especially here at the College, to be “emotionally unavailable” is to be desirable, and I think that some people are beginning to take notice.

This is not to say that those participating in hookup culture are emotionally unavailable solely for the purpose of tricking people into bed. But, when those individuals who label themselves as such also lament not being able to find a partner, others begin to raise eyebrows. It is understandable that you will not discover gold on your first strike, but to claim emotional unavailability in the face of any romantic prospect perpetuates the environment of hookup culture that you are attempting to break free of. 

What is at stake when considering hookup culture is the danger of perpetuating the myth of gay male hypersexuality and allowing it to invade the queer dating scene at the College. I sincerely hope that this is not perceived as slut-shaming on my part, as that is absolutely not my intention. 

I am simply afraid of seeing my community harmed by those who perpetuate homophobic views and cast gay men as promiscuous or deviant. This myth is not only bad for the community at large, but even worse for its members. The myth of hypersexuality creates a standard for other gay men to hold themselves to and may push them to engage in certain activities that they do not want to, or are not ready to, do.

As I’m writing this piece, I can’t shake the feeling that someone else should be the author. I have not had as much experience with sex and romance as other queer people on this campus. But what ultimately drove me to take on the challenge was the value that I found in promoting the ways that someone with a distinct lack of intimacy experiences the College’s queer dating scene. If you’re struggling with navigating the queer dating scene on this campus in any way, all I can tell you is that there is no right way to approach it. Everyone moves at their own pace, and putting undue pressure on yourself to participate in hookup culture will only make you unhappy. Trust me. I found intimacy when I let go of all my expectations for it on this campus. 

Although I haven’t found love at Williams, that doesn’t mean that I won’t, and it doesn’t mean that you won’t, either. I am neither preaching abstinence nor its opposite. I am simply advocating for openness, because I want to see more queer love on this campus, even if I’m not the one experiencing it.  

Jackson Small ’24 is an anthropology major from Saranac Lake, N.Y.