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Hillestad ’15: Why Brown Hookups feels wrong

I wasn’t the only one excited when Brown Hookups burst onto the scene. It seemed very “Brown” — countercultural, sexually liberating and forward-looking. My curiosity was piqued. Like many of my peers, I quickly friended Brown Hookups on Facebook, eagerly awaiting where this new development would go. But it’s been nothing but downhill from there, as I’ve slowly come to realize that Brown Hookups feels deeply wrong.

The feeling was hazy at first, but it bothered me like an itch I couldn’t quite scratch. After I mulled over Brown Hookups and discussed it with my friends, I’m finally starting to understand what’s so off-putting about Brown Hookups.

First and foremost, the fact that the page’s facilitators have opted to remain anonymous is unnerving. This isn’t some playful Facebook group like Brown Confessions. This is a site dedicated to getting Brown students to meet up, presumably for sex. And for reasons that remain mysterious, the people organizing these hookups hide behind the anonymous veil of social media. That feels wrong.

And if that wasn’t enough to evoke misgivings, then maybe the way they’ve used social media is. Brown Hookups has two Facebook groups, a Facebook community and company page on Facebook, as well as accounts on Instagram and Tumblr. All of those accounts post a constant stream of banal and unwanted nonsense.

Their most detestable posts are when the anonymous facilitators declare the most desirable man and woman each week. These are the people most requested for hookups. They post them every Monday, and every Monday I cringe. These individuals are put on display as mannequins for the Brown community to gawk at. Brown Hookups is not-so-subtly telling you who you should be like — or more accurately — who you should look like.

This is not some positive message of open sexuality. It isn’t even a neutral message. There is a distinct harm to the way Brown Hookups is distorting sexuality on campus. They are reducing members of the Brown community to their sex appeal and nothing else.

And their upcoming launch party looks to be just as harmful. The party has been advertised ceaselessly by their social media. One actual post on my Facebook newsfeed read “Brown Hookups and Brown Hookups shared Brown Hookups’ event,” with one like and one comment, both by Brown Hookups. I’m not alone when I say, “please stop.” We’ve all heard about your party by now, and for most of us, we’re not convinced.

The party oozes filth and reeks of danger. Many Brown students have rightly expressed concern that the party will be unsafe — full of predators who will assume being drunk at a hookup party counts as consent. After all, the party has been built around the idea of meeting your hookups. Add in drugs and alcohol and it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

The reactionary efforts by Brown Hookups to make the party seem secure are woefully inadequate. Their response consists of vague Facebook posts assuring us that the event will have security or reminding us that “Drinking is not a crime. Rape is.” And what few posts they make on safety are usually accompanied with blatant self-promotion. Brown Hookups seems to be content with lax security so long as their event is widely attended. And if their Facebook event is any indication, it won’t be. It’s almost like safety was an afterthought for them.

Finally, the immediate monetization of Brown Hookups is troubling. Very shortly after Brown Hookups was announced, it was made clear that the facilitators had their eyes on profit. Making money on arranging sexual encounters seems inherently wrong. And the specific method of monetization — small one-time money transfers rather than advertisements or a paid app — makes Brown Hookups seem like little more than a cash grab. The owners want to make money with their idea while they still can.

There are plenty of apps, like Tinder, that offer the same service, but for free and with better features. While not without its faults, apps like Tinder serve the same function without resorting to dubious micro-transactions.

By now, you may think I’m against the very idea of Brown Hookups, but I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with a hookups app. I’m all for a service that facilitates hookups between Brown students. Brown Hookups is not a bad idea, but the way it’s been carried out is both embarrassing and disgusting. It could have been transparent, but instead the founders decided to hide their identities. It could have carried a positive message, but instead Brown Hookups’ social media twisted the original idea into something grotesque and harmful. It could have been free, but instead they wanted to take advantage of Brown students.

Brown Hookups was a good idea. It was built on a solid foundation. But everything Brown Hookups has done since its inception has been terribly misguided. They’ve systematically bombarded social media with unwanted advertisements mixed in with their disturbing take on sexuality, all to build buzz for a sleazy and unsafe party for a cash-grab app. This doesn’t just feel wrong. It is wrong.

 

Sam Hillestad ’15 has been paid off by Tinder to denounce its competitors. He can be reached at samuel_hillestad@brown.edu.



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