"Far more frequent, however, were pseudo-relationships, the mutant children of meaningless sex and loving partnerships. Two students consistently hook up with one another – and typically, only each other – for weeks, months, even years," Fessler wrote.
"Yet per unspoken social code, neither party is permitted emotional involvement, commitment, or vulnerability. To call them exclusive would be 'clingy,' or even 'crazy.'"
These pseudo-relationships would typically follow the same cycle, she notes. She'd meet a guy she was interested in, they'd start texting, meet up in their dorms late at night to discuss their mutual interests and hobbies and families, and have sex. This would happen off and on over the course of a few months with the same guy, then the relationship of sorts would just fizzle and die. Wash, rinse repeat with the next. Fessler wrote that she experienced this with at least five men by her senior year.
She felt used and desperate for emotional intimacy. At the same time, she felt bad for being unable to reconcile the fact that she couldn't achieve the carefree, empowering feeling that her feminists beliefs told her was possible.
Fessler decided to devote her senior thesis to this phenomenon that was taking its toll on herself and so many of her friends, who for all other intents and purposes were successful, involved, well-rounded students.
Fessler interviewed 75 male and female students and conducted more than 300 online surveys. She found that 100 percent of female interviewees and three-quarters of female survey respondents stated a clear preference for committed relationships. Only 8 percent of about 25 female respondents, who said they were in pseudo-relationships, reported being "happy" with their situation.