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College-Aged Men Are Obsessed With Sharing Hickeys on Instagram

Oh my God, why

At the risk of coming across as some tragically out-of-touch, alarmist old-timer, there’s a troubling sex trend afoot on our nation’s campuses, and I feel compelled to bring attention to it.

College students (most of them men) are sharing photos of themselves absolutely covered in hickeys, and it’s profoundly bizarre.

I first became aware of this trend after following @5thYear on Instagram, a shamelessly bro-y account dedicated to the booze-fueled exploits of college students across the country. The account is filled with the kind of content you’d expect of unsupervised manchildren — sex, tailgate fights, acts of unbelievable stupidity — but occasionally it will feature a photo of a student proudly showing off an upper body spotted with love bites.

College seems like a strange venue for this kind of behavior, as the common perception is that your first four years away from home are a time for engaging in actual sex — not the childish act of giving, receiving and showing off hickeys.

Hickeys have long been a rite of passage for horny young teenagers, a milestone on their journeys toward becoming even hornier young adults. Hickeys offer visible proof that you totally made out last night and function as a way for young couples to brand their boyfriends and girlfriends as their own. They’re a conspicuous way of letting the world know you’ve engaged in sexual activity, without actually having sex.

This is all wildly immature, of course, and that’s why the behavior typically comes to an abrupt (and welcomed) halt around age 18, which, not coincidentally, is the same age most high school students matriculate to college.

“[A hickey] is a signal sent to other high school classmates about your sexual and social success,” says popular sex advice columnist Dan Savage on the latest episode of his podcast, Savage Love. “People don’t need to do that in college because everybody, in theory, at least, is presumed to be getting [sex] there.”

Following Savage’s logic, it would appear as though male college students flaunting their hickeys suggests they’re still immature and feel compelled to let others know that they indeed are the object of sexual attention.

Or the answer could be much simpler: Many of these men don’t send these photos to 5th Year themselves. Rather, it seems that the hickey recipients’ friends receive photographic proof of a friend’s kiss-bruises, and then send them into 5th Year to shame the friend for being such a tryhard dingus.

5th Year then calls the college men “Brad,” a catchall name for any insufferable, self-aggrandizing, jersey-wearing douche who constantly reminds you of his natural superiority.

Because there’s nothing wrong with a hickey in of and itself — a perfectly natural byproduct of sucking face (and neck). But they’re annoying and lame when adults actively try to give and/or receive them, and even more so when they subsequently show them off.