When I finished “Delving into the ethics of swooping,” Tom Corbani’s column in last week’s Phoenix, I found myself rather puzzled. I admit, it does make sense to question and counter the legitimacy of the stigma that seems so desperately attached to the act of swooping. HOWEVER. I personally find it hard to believe that a first year is qualified to do so just weeks after setting foot on campus and discovering the phenomenon.
Once upon a time (a few mistakes ago), I started a new chapter of my life called “College.” As the not-yet-jaded, bright-eyed first year that I was, I looked forward to coming into my identity and exploring my recently-discovered sexuality. I had finally gotten through all six seasons of The L Word, an off-air Showtime series that borders on softcore porn, and I was pretty fucking determined to be just like Shane. I admired her impeccable womanizing abilities that had even straight girls falling for her (or wanting to fuck her at the very least). Having spent the past seven years at an all-girls school and not acknowledging my love for women until the last couple of years, I was extraordinarily inexperienced in hookup culture. I had this grand plan of coming to Swat and being a player, even though I knew I would never be as irresistible as Shane. Eager to be out despite my misleadingly heterosexual appearance (at the time), I joined as many queer groups as I could and repeatedly found a way to announce my sexual preference while introducing myself to new people.
It is not uncommon for incoming students to have this mindset. Part of the freshman experience (particularly first semester) is, arguably, one of hooking up with lots of people and generally being sort of carefree. And that’s not to say that sophomores and upper classes cannot partake in hookup culture; it just gets old (for some) after a while. Also, the first year of college is a particularly good time to try a lot of things and figure out what you want, which, by the time it’s sophomore year, may have changed several times. And that’s okay!
So the problem isn’t just that freshman are “vulnerable as they adapt to a new environment,” as Corbani claims. It’s not so much about the new environment as it is growing up. There’s no swooping until after fall break frankly because you grow up a lot and fuck around a lot during your first year of college. But we will go more into that later.
Corbani also critiques his understanding of swooping as “a narrow and ageist construction of sexual dynamics by which older means active, and younger means passive,” but clearly fails to grasp the specificity. Swooping does only refer to when the older person is active, but by no means does it encompass all interclass relations. There is a term for when the first year initiates, my friends, and that term is known as “upswooping.”
But it’s not even that I have a problem with swooping (or upswooping) in its entirety. I think either can be fine…sometimes…to an extent.
Anyways, back to my recollection of freshman year. It was just a couple weeks into the school year, and I was still trying to make friends. And then I had the utmost pleasure of making out with a sophomore from one of my classes! After doing so for a couple of weeks, it was time to discuss a relationship. Not forgetting my hopes of playing the field a bit, I settled for an open relationship. As it got closer to fall break, we continued to talk about when would be an alright time to be exclusive. Even though we weren’t exclusive, I felt a bit bad because I would hook up with someone else from time to time and she wouldn’t. If I hooked up with someone else I felt like I was cheating on her, but it was allowed. Whenever I expressed this to her she assured me that she hooked up with a lot of people freshman year too and just wasn’t into that anymore, but that she didn’t want to deprive me of my freshman experience. Shortly after fall break I agreed to be exclusive and that was that. I still wasn’t feel completely ready, but I wanted to be fair and knew it was the right thing to do.
So, following the lesbian handbook very closely, we U-Hauled and attached at the hip. I probably spent the majority of the first semester in her room. No, I definitely spent the majority of the first semester in her room. All of her friends became my friends, too. We ate all our meals together. My life practically revolved around her. It even got to the point that every time I was on my own hall, another freshman would jest: “You live here?”
And then we broke up. In February. And you know what, Corbani? It sucked, because I got swooped before fall break. Why does that matter? Because I didn’t have time to make other friends because I was too busy U-Hauling.
In conclusion, there’s a reason that swooping before fall break is discouraged. Oh and for future reference, when attaching your name to a strong opinion on something you haven’t had the chance to witness or experience, make sure that you are qualified to pass such judgment. Because often times, the repercussions of swooping are not in full effect immediately.