“What’s on your neck?” asked my suitemate on Saturday afternoon as I stumbled into my common room, displaying the fresh mark engraved in my skin.

“Do you want me to cover that with makeup?” she asked, keenly offering her suggestion at a volume vastly unappreciated by my hangover-plagued mind.

“No, I don’t care,” I briskly replied. I stayed in the room long enough to witness her eyes quickly widen in reaction.
I was being honest — I didn’t care. I don’t understand why having a hickey on your neck is something that needs to be disguised, a shameful spot that’s cause for embarrassment. The hickey culture at Binghamton University is plagued by taboo. While many of you are more than willing to give love bites, your next-day selves think that a simple mark on the neck is the equivalent of leprosy.

Don’t get me wrong — I think there are circumstances in which having a hickey decorating your neck isn’t great. Parents coming up to visit? I’m reaching for a scarf. Job interview tomorrow? Definitely wearing my hair down. I understand that shamelessly sporting a hickey may not always be practical … but most of the time? I’m totally down.

Now, hickeys carry different connotations depending on the gender of the person. If a girl is casually strolling around with an exposed hickey, she is immediately judged as a “whore.” The presence of a hickey certainly makes the process of slut-shaming much easier, so I understand why there is the hesitation among young women to strut their love bites. All I can say is this: you do you, girl. Other people’s judgmental hating stems from their complete jealously that you got some last night and they didn’t. Forget them.

But boys represent the alternative side of hickey culture. They are associated with the idea of “marking” – that is, when a girl gives a guy a hickey to prove that he is hers. Now, this is counterintuitive to the hookup culture that overwhelms college life, as no one really belongs to anyone too often around here. So guys, I gotta tell you: the stigma that a girl’s only motive for giving a hickey is their naturally controlling and overbearing nature is not only offensive, but highly inaccurate. If I’m hooking up with a guy who already has a hickey, I’m not going to be deterred and run away; it just proves that someone else is interested in you, too, and that might make me want you more.

I’m the kind of girl who owns her hickeys. I’m the one who walks around campus and doesn’t cringe when the wind blows her hair behind her neck, who doesn’t wear a ridiculous scarf in 80-degree weather simply to mask her marks, who doesn’t have a secret stash of never-should-be-worn turtlenecks in the back of her drawers for an emergency-hickey situation. I think hickeys should be points of pride, spots that say, “Hey, I got some last night and I’m proud of it.” I encourage each and every one of you to join me, to stop hiding the proof of your sexual experiences, to abandon the thought that hickeys need to be shamefully covered, and embrace the hickey culture.