From a young age, we are trained to believe that traits have inherent feminine or masculine qualities. Women are emotional. Men are logical. Women are nurturers. Men are providers. Women are pursued. Men are pursuers. These rigid roles largely stem from stereotypes but still leave lasting marks on impressionable minds. #ThanksPatriarchy. Although at Bowdoin we strive to be more inclusive and understanding of the human experience, we are not immune from the lasting effects of a lifetime of conditioning. Our perception and expression of gender inform our everyday interactions, especially in situations where these roles are held more closely, like during a hookup.
We interviewed Alix Pupo ’18 about their experience navigating the hookup and dating scene here at Bowdoin. This is a continuation of a series of perspectives on Bowdoin’s hookup culture through the lens of differing gender identities.
Anne Gregory/Amber Rock: What has your experience been with the dating scene at Bowdoin? Have you noticed a lack of a dating scene?
Alix Pupo: Definitely. So my first year and a half or so here, I wasn’t actually out as non-binary. So in that time I did date one person. I dated them identifying as a man, and they identified as a woman. Once I did come out as non-binary, the options definitely did shrink because there’s an issue of people being unsure of what non-binary means, and that can sort of repel people initially. There’s also just not a lot of people that are attracted to a more feminine-presenting, male-looking kind of person. So it definitely shrinks the number of people. Bright side of that being, it’s very cool when you find someone who’s like “you’re hot.”
AG/AR: How has your identity interacted with the hookup and dating scene at Bowdoin?
AP: Very much so. Before I was out I had a lot of anxiety surrounding the fact that I would sort of get slotted into the male role in relationships or hookup situations, and that just felt really wrong to me, and I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why. And then once I was able to come out, I was able to realize that this is something that I need [in order] to feel comfortable in relationships, and also a thing that people need to be okay with. So it definitely made me more selective with the people I was looking to be in relationships with, and also made people be more selective of me, which like I said, sort of diminishes the amount of people that are dating possibilities.
AG/AR: Something we’ve heard a ton from queer students is limited options and limited availability for hookups or dating. Is that a large barrier you’ve found?
AP: Yeah, for sure. And I’ve definitely heard this from other queer people at this school. There are just not a lot of queer people here. And the queer community all knows each other, and so if you start to date or hookup with people in that group, it gets gross and incest-y. And because Bowdoin is so small and because 24 College brings people together, and you’re able to meet basically everybody else in the queer community on campus, it would then sort of be weird to hookup with someone in that group knowing that you are sort of linked to them forever.
AG/AR: In terms of the way that you view the hookup scene now versus the way you did as a first-year, how has that change been? Do you feel jaded? Optimistic?
AP: I’ll try to look at it in two ways. The first one just being that when I came in as a first year, I wasn’t out as non-binary—I wasn’t really out to myself. I knew that I was different but I didn’t really know how, and how to tackle that. So hooking up to me felt more like a pressure, because hooking up with a woman meant I could justify myself as a man and then there was no insecurity behind that. So a lot of my hookups and relationships the first two years really had that component of like, I need to do this to sort of validate my gender identity. Versus the second two years, it was more contingent on me actually knowing what I’m about and wanting something that feels comfortable for me. And that took off a ton of pressure and just made me content with the fact that I’m not always hooking up with people—and if I am, it’s something that I want. The second one being when you come into Bowdoin, you just don’t exactly know what college is like, and I definitely heard that in college people hook up a lot, and I wasn’t even entirely sure what that meant … like are people jumping on each other having sex everywhere? So that was definitely scary at the time, but now I’m able to communicate about it a lot better with partners and all just like in general. And I think communication is very important.