Friends let friends hook-up drunk
For many students on campus, the weekends provide a much-needed opportunity to wind down from a stressful week full of class, homework, extracurricular activities and continuous email log-ins. With such full plates, combined with the popular College motto "work hard, play harder," it's understandable that students enjoy hanging out with friends and having a few drinks.
But what happens when excessive drinking begins to fuel students' sexual decision making? The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that the majority of college students drink, with upwards of 40 percent excessively so. This behavior can lead to a variety of dangerous behavior including illness, violence, accidents, vandalism, poor academic performance and risky sex.
Let's Talk About It (LTAI) is a new program that examines the ways in which alcohol fuels sexual decision-making. LTAI conducts simulations of real world scenarios including alcohol and sex to determine how students would react to a particular situation.
In their recently released study, one question sought to determine the role that friends play in these decisions. The following question was posed to 141 undergraduate students from nine different classes: "As the evening wears on, your friend Jane meets up with a person she has had her eye on for quite some time. The two of them have a couple drinks together and things are getting pretty hot. The new acquaintance invites Jane over to his place."
Students were asked to choose from three decisions regarding their behavior in this situation. Nearly 39 percent of students chose the first option: "Try to persuade her not to go by reminding her that she may regret it." Only 21.4 percent chose the second option: "Wish Jane a fun time," while 39.9 percent chose the last option: "Make sure Jane gets home safely."
The study used these results to make lofty claims on the behavior of college students regarding alcohol and sex. The National Communication Association determined that students place more importance on their peer relationships and would thus go with the less risky options, and that "these findings suggest friends don't let friends hook-up drunk, and the salience of the hook-up culture might be overstated."
But how strongly do these results reflect the behavior of students here on the Hill? Do students often find it necessary to interfere in the decisions that they see others make while intoxicated, or do they allow their friends to make their own decisions?
"I find the results of this survey quite surprising," Peter Kirk '11 said. "Based on that scenario in which the two people were already soberly attracted to each other and had consumed a small amount of alcohol I would unhesitatingly choose option B. Jane is an adult who is entirely and solely responsible for the results of her actions - if Jane can't get home safely or can't take care of herself after a couple drinks, maybe she shouldn't be drinking at all."
The majority of the students spoken to on the Hill regarding this issue agreed with Kirk. "It is easy to take that survey sober and believe you would do the right thing," Sarina Strohl '14 said. "I think the majority of people would choose the low to moderate risk option. However, I also think that any friend, if intoxicated enough, can lose track. On especially crazy nights I don't know if the majority [of students] would try to, or be successful in, stopping their friends from making risky decisions."
Many students on the Hill feel that if someone is old enough to drink, he or she is old enough to make their own decisions regarding hooking-up, whether it be a simple make-out session or sex. Elise DeSimone '12 agreed, noting that "if they're capable of making their own decisions, then they're old enough to know what they're doing.
"At this point we're old enough-people do stupid stuff all the time."
Additionally, many students don't associate interfering in a friend's alcohol-affected decision as being a good friend. "It's not my place, but I'm also not sure if I would want them to do the same for me, even if I know that they will regret it in the morning," Courtney Yeager '12 said.
In fact, interfering in a friend's drunken hook-up might actually go against accepted social codes. "Who wants to have their friends intervene in their sex life or be the one to intervene in their friends' sex lives? No one," Kristine Walters '12 said. "If both you and your friends are in agreement that the situation is safe then why not have a little fun?"
Despite disagreeing with the findings of the LTAI survey, students on the Hill do agree that safety is still the most important factor in these situations.
"I would pull my friend aside to see how much she has had to drink. If she is too drunk I will take her home myself knowing that she is unable to make logical decisions," Walters said.
"Obviously there are common sense issues that come into play here," Kirk added. "If Jane were clearly too intoxicated to know what she was doing I would absolutely intervene, as I hope everyone at Colby would. Ditto if it appears she's being taken advantage of."
Another theme that developed throughout the responses was that the other party in the situation would be a determining factor in deciding whether or not to intervene.
"If my friend is capable of making decisions I still take into consideration if the guy is a 'creeper' or a good guy," Walters said. "Based on whether I know him, my friend knows him or if I know by reputation he is a decent guy, I will let my friend leave with him. Before I let my friend go I will ask her if she is sure she wants to go and why just so that she thinks it through one last time."
Students also questioned how members of the opposite sex would respond to the same situation. Many felt that girls are more likely to look out for their friends, and that guys are more willing to let their friends make their own mistakes.
"Girls are more likely to be cautious and look out for their friends, while guys are more likely to encourage it. It's not always the case, but it's socially acceptable that way," a student said.
While the findings of the LTAI survey are debatable, students on the Hill seem to find a balance in allowing their friends to behave like college students while still ensuring their safety. If students on the Hill are willing to engage in the drinking and hook-up culture, they should not have to rely on their friends to make sure they are doing so safely.