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Commentary By Joel Carela: Hook-Ups Don't Work For Me

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Attending a frat or sorority party, joining a club and surviving cafeteria food are among the non-academic rites of passage when a student goes away to college. Commentator Joel Carela's first semester exposed him to still another extracurricular activity. Carela participates in WAMU's Youth Voices program in partnership with Youth Radio and D.C's Latin American Youth Center:

I've always been put off by TV shows and movies that glorify casual sex. Like the "American Pie" movies, whose main characters are always in search of a quick and easy hook-up. They make the guys who can separate sex and emotions seem normal and emasculate the ones who develop feelings beyond the mattress.

As an emotional person, I never liked that message -- but I guess somehow it seeped into my brain.

Last fall, I started college and moved into a dorm with more than 100 other hormonal teenagers. Suddenly, we had easy access to all sorts of things that were out of reach back home: alcohol, drugs and each other.

It wasn't long before I started to connect really well with a guy in my international politics class, who also happened to live across the hall. We shared an affinity for baroque-era choral music and an interest in the British monarchy.

We hung out all the time -- at lunch, at dinner and at night in his room. It took only two weeks for our relationship to turn physical.

We had the kind of undefined, friends-having-fun relationship for which college seems to be a breeding ground, the kind of relationship I never imagined myself having. Once, in his room, he said to me, "This is nothing, right?" and I just said, "Of course, yeah." It seemed easier than talking about the feelings I was starting to develop for him.

After each hook-up, my brain kept telling me to stop -- it wasn't a good idea to be in a casual relationship when I wanted more. But then we'd hang out again. I justified it to myself, thinking, "Here I am, the first few weeks of school, and I'm already getting busy. It's every teenage boy’s dream, right?"

I could only pretend for so long. One evening on my way to dinner, I picked up a pamphlet on loneliness from the counseling center. Before I finished reading the first page, I started to tear up. And when I ran into some friends who asked me what was wrong, I broke down and cried.

After that, I went to counseling.

On my college campus, casual hook-ups aren't just socially acceptable, they're almost the norm. Being sexually liberated means being able to separate sex and feelings. But that "American Pie" mindset doesn't work for me, and to pretend otherwise is definitely not liberating.

I don't regret what happened. Maybe it was an important rite of passage. But next time, I'll be honest about how I really feel.

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