Friend or Foe

In an era of hooking up, when does a date become rape?

After learning that his father had played a year in the pros, Mike was drawn to football. "But if he had played in the pros for one year," Mike says, "I'd play for five. That was always on my mind whenever I lifted weights or practiced."

Early on, Mike also swore that he wouldn't make the same mistakes his father had. Where his father had been irresponsible, Mike would be the opposite. "So I didn't go out partying in high school," he says. "If a dance got out at 12:30, I'd be home at one.

"And I had heard from my mom how he had treated her," Mike continues. "And I vowed never to treat a girl like that."

Mike Kochevar's dorm was separated from Sarah's by one building.
Anthony Camera
Mike Kochevar's dorm was separated from Sarah's by one building.
After three decades on the job, Lieutenant Karl Swenson says he's seen a lot of date-rape cases.
Anthony Camera
After three decades on the job, Lieutenant Karl Swenson says he's seen a lot of date-rape cases.

Mike met Sarah on the first day of school. They lived a building away from each other in a series of three-story, modern-looking dormitories to the south of the CSU football practice field. Sarah's roommate and Mike's roommate had gone to high school together; early in the semester, the four became acquaintances. Mike and Sarah took an instant liking to each other. "He seemed like a nice guy -- carefree and kind of fun," Sarah says. "When I came here, I didn't know anybody." Within a week, they'd slept together in Sarah's room. (Sarah's name has been changed for this story. The following account is derived from interviews with Mike, Sarah and other students and signed statements and recollections from witnesses and acquaintances of Mike and Sarah's, as well as police and CSU administrative reports.)

Looking back, as they have been forced to do in detail, both Sarah and Mike agree that Sarah invited Mike to sleep in her dorm room. Yet what constituted "sleeping over" was confusing from the start. In their separate accounts of that first encounter, both say that they kissed. Mike also remembers performing oral sex on Sarah and that she manually stimulated him. Two months later, however, Sarah cannot recall anything other than the kissing. "I never did anything to him," she says. She remembers feeling uncomfortable, but she didn't say anything that would lead Mike to stop. According to her, "The whole thing just kind of happened."

The next day, Sarah says, she told Mike that she had no interest in him sexually, that she just wanted to be friends. And indeed, they seemed to think of each other as friends. Mike's dorm mates remember Sarah coming over to his room several times a week. "Mike and Sarah always hung out together," one of them recalls. "They seemed to enjoy each other's company. She was always following him around."

Over the next couple of weeks, Mike and Sarah spent several more nights together. Usually, there was some type of sexual contact. After one sleepover, Sarah woke up and found that Mike had started to fondle her. She never told Mike to stop, she says -- although he did when she turned away.

"I'm a very passive person when it comes to sex," Sarah says. "I just try to stay there and be quiet and hope it will stop."

In the title piece of Hooking Up, his 2000 collection of essays, Tom Wolfe works hard to explain how teenage sexuality has changed, moving beyond even the loose moral standards of the 1960s and 1970s. "If anything," he writes, "'sexual revolution' was rather a prim term for the lurid carnival actually taking place."

Later, he explains the title phrase: "Dating -- referring to a practice in which a boy asked a girl out for the evening and took her to the movies or dinner -- was now deader than 'proletariat' or 'pornography' or 'perversion.' In junior high school, high school, and college, girls headed out in packs in the evening, and boys headed out in packs, hoping to meet each other fortuitously. If they met and some girl liked the looks of some boy, she would give him the nod, or he would give her the nod, and the two of them would retire to a halfway-private room and 'hook up.'"

Trends age quickly, though, and now even "hooking up" sounds dated. More contemporary is the phrase "friends with benefits." Loosely put, "it means that friends allegedly get to have sex with each other with no other meaning attached to it," explains Dr. Mark Benn, a staff psychologist at Colorado State University's student counseling center. "It's like a booty call. One friend might call up the other and say, 'What are you doing tonight?' and they agree to have sex." While convenient for the pair of friends, Benn says, the arrangement can also be confusing.

"It's also called 'friends in higher places,'" says one freshman on Mike's dorm floor. "People are still looking for the right person, but in the meantime, just for the night, they decide to hook up. It's real common. Everyone does it." It's also become common for young men and women to sleep in the same bed fully prepared for uncommitted sex -- or not. "It happens all the time," Sarah says. "Sex doesn't always occur." For example, Sarah's roommate once spent the night in Mike's room simply because Sarah had another man in their room.

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