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Sex on the Sly: Is It Possible to Cheat on a Hookup?

Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 01:11

Let’s agree for a moment that Kenyon is, by-and-large, a hookup culture school. This is by no means a bad thing, and it isn’t necessarily abnormal for college students to have one-night stands. But quite frankly, how many legitimate “couples” can you name?

I went to a stand-up show recently, and out of a crowd of at least 50 people, there was one couple. That means four percent of the Kenyon population is in a relationship. Even if that percentage were more than double, it’s still a pretty low figure. It’s not like college students aren’t getting together, it’s just mostly casual. There are the occasional monogamous partners, but they don’t always label themselves.

Those half-serious couples end up in the dating equivalent of international waters, and plenty of questions can arise. If you’ve been hooking up with the same person, and only that person, for a while, but you don’t have a label on the relationship, would it be cheating if you got with someone else?

Let’s take a hypothetical couple. They’ve been exclusive with each other for a while now; let’s say a couple of weeks.

Some argue that cheating is not possible. If there has been no discussion, or if they have agreed to not put a label on it, then quite frankly, it doesn’t count. The very definition of a relationship implies faithfulness and commitment; rejecting that label is rejecting that responsibility. You are saying, “No, we aren’t committed. We are enjoying ourselves.” Essentially, you aren’t committed unless you say so; your fun isn’t exclusive. This was, primarily, the male perspective.

Others argue that “cheating” is going behind someone’s back to get with another person, physically or emotionally. If you don’t tell the other person you’re going to be hooking up with someone else, even if you tell them the very next day, it’s cheating, because they’re not even necessarily aware of the possibility. Unless you verbally state that there might be someone else, it’s cheating. This was, primarily, the female perspective.

As a guy, honestly, I side more with the first opinion. My argument would be that a relationship is something that has to be decided on, and until that point, it doesn’t exist. But I’m starting to understand the other (seemingly more feminine) perspective. If you’ve committed that much time to a person, there’s an unspoken bond. That doesn’t mean, however, that both sides recognize what that unspoken bond might signify.

It boils down to this: if one side thinks it’s cheating, it doesn’t matter if the other side doesn’t. If you don’t like their definition, then you probably shouldn’t be in a casual relationship with them. And while I understand that no one wants to be called a cheater — and when calling someone a cheater, you should define what cheating is — it is both sides’ responsibility to be vocal on this point. Even if you aren’t in a relationship, are you monogamous?

There have been times in which I’ve been in open relationships when I should have picked up on the fact that my partner wasn’t entirely comfortable with our non-exclusive arrangement. But then, that was high school. At the time, we were 15 or 16. It was one of our first real relationships of any kind. I should have been more careful.

But this is college. We’re adults. It’s not every person’s responsibility to infer your stance on the issue: you need to clearly communicate that. There’s enough unhappiness about miscommunication that this point bears repeating: if one side says it’s cheating, it’s cheating. Find out where they stand first.

Derek Dashiell ’16 is a prospective English major. He’s messed up relationships before, for your future benefit. His email is

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