Is Hooking Up Dangerous or Liberating?

Just came back from the gym and heard an interesting piece on NPR – The Hookup: Dangerous or Liberating?

Like any reasonable debate, both sides have merit. I don’t think we’d want to go back to the repressed ’50s, however, I think it’s clear that there’s something damaging about the frequency and availability of hookups. Some combination of post-feminism, technology, and societal mores has taken its toll. Witness all the letters from women who can’t find a guy to commit.

Yet let’s think about it from the male point of view – if there’s always an available hookup out there, and most men don’t have the desire to settle down until their mid-30′s, and most men lose big-time in divorce, why SHOULD they commit?

I’d like to challenge the women reading this to put yourself in the shoes of a man and ask yourself why HE’d make a commitment – not why YOU want a commitment or why you want HIM to make a commitment. You may be surprised to find that it’s more desirable for men to stay single…which is exactly why they so often do.

Your thoughts are appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Steve

    Yet let’s think about it from the male point of view – if there’s always an available hookup out there, and most men don’t have the desire to settle down until their mid-30′s, and most men lose big-time in divorce, why SHOULD they commit?

    Evan, speaking for myself, I am looking for a steady girlfriend.

    I know I am just one counter example, but you are also generalizing. No offense intended, just making a point.

    I am not interested in becoming a parent so I am neutral about marriage. If the future steady girlfriend REALLY wants it, I’m there.

    However, without children being involved I don’t see any benefit in marriage for men. The divorce laws are seriously out of date. The way I see it the only reason for alimony is to support children or to *temporarily* support an ex-spouse who became incapable of supporting her/himself as a result of the marriage until that spouse can support her/himself again.

  2. 2
    Janet

    It’s also just as appealing for a woman to stay single–for the same reasons. :)

  3. 3
    Lance

    I’m with Steve on a couple of points, don’t want children, ambivalent about marriage, would love a great girlfriend. I like “hooking up” but it’s honestly not something I go out looking for. If it happens it happens. My thing is meeting new people and spreading value.

    I do think hooking up can be fun if done safely and healthfully. Don’t make the assumption that hooking up is always a negative for the ladies and a positive for the guys. Often times it’s a positive for both.

    Lance´s last blog post…Now I’m Cookin

  4. 4
    starthrower68

    I guess looking at it from the male point of view, there really isn’t much incentive for them to commit. Men are better able to compartmentalize than women when it comes to sex and emotions. I guess that this is just a sad turn that the world has taken. I will probably catch some flack on this, but I think women have played their hand a little too well and have tried to have things both ways, i.e. “I don’t need a man, but when I want one, he’d better be there to commit”. I’m not sure that’s the view of the majority of women, but the Gloria Steinems and Betty Friedans didn’t do either gender any favors.

  5. 5
    Ruby

    I thought the NPR piece was geared towards college kids and 20-somethings, who aren’t necessarily ready for marriage, but want sex. I know few people over the age of 30-35 who would be satisfied with that. However, given the high divorce rate, it’s perhaps not such a bad idea that younger people are delaying marriage. But at some point, most people, male and female, want marriage, family, or at least a steady relationship. What’s fun and exciting when you’re 25 can be awfully lonely at 35…or 55. There’s a big difference between a superficial hook-up and the deeper sense of intimacy, caring, and growth that comes from a relationship that has the chance to evolve over time.

  6. 6
    Melissa

    hmm…. most of your Blogs are uplifting and make me feel that the “right guy” is out there… so I’m kind of wondering the point of this one?

    Because in a world where I try to stay positive, try to believe in abundance and how you’ve taught me to hold out for the guy who tries hardest to be my boyfriend (your words in our coaching session)…. this almost negates that… unless I’ve missed the point of the blog entirely.

    What purpose does it serve me in my dating world to know that more men than I previously thought don’t want to make a commitment. I’m trying to see the message here.

  7. 7
    Evan Marc Katz

    It may not be entirely clear, Melissa, but as much as I write, I try not to go too heavily on my own opinions. I try to report on the world as it exists, and figure out how to best navigate it. Thus, I don’t post blogs because they support my point of view or negate it – I post things that, as a dating coach, I think are relevant to my readers. We could ignore all evidence that doesn’t support our view of the world, but that would be irresponsible. As you firmly know, Melissa, I’m a short-term pessimist and a long-term optimist. You WILL find the guy who wants to be your special man – you just might have to sift through a lot of players first. That’s not my opinion. That’s reality.

  8. 8
    Cilla

    I think Evan’s point is that it’s more difficult than ever for a woman to find a good match who wants to commit. You’re right, Melissa, this is not very motivating, but Evan is not one to sugar coat the realities of the dating world.

    I guess it just means that we really need to be examining what we want in our relationships and if that’s a commitment, we need to be ready to work hard to find someone who is cut from the same cloth, i.e. not willing to settle for a hookup, desirous of real intimacy, wanting to start a family, etc. It’s a great reminder that finding a good mate is like finding a good job.

    My questions to the guys out there: I’ve had hookups, and they can be fun, but they also get exhausting after a while, in my opinion. I’ve recently heard lots of women say the same thing. Do you ever feel the same way?

  9. 9
    Karl R

    I’ve noticed two general patterns in marriages among my friends and acquaintances. There are the ones who married their high school or college sweetheart, and did so in their early to mid 20s. For those of us who weren’t seriously involved by the time we left college, there was practically a moratorium on serious relationships at least until we hit our 30s.

    I think that’s partly due to accessibility. In high school and college we’re surrounded by a large pool of our peers. It’s easy to get to know potential dates as people as we go about our daily lives.

    Once we leave college, we’re surrounded by people of all ages, most of whom aren’t like us at all. We meet people at bars, clubs and parties … which works well if all you’re seeking is a hookup, but not so good if you’re trying to get to know someone on a more personal level.

    So relationships suddenly require a lot of time and effort. In our 20s we’re trying to start our careers and support ourselves. That doesn’t always leave lots of time for relationships.

    It’s when our life stabilizes and we achieve some level of success that we start looking to settle down. I started getting serious about dating right around the same time my income doubled. And since I don’t want kids, I don’t feel like I need to hurry.

  10. 10
    andie

    Wow, Evan…I think that being in a steady long term relationship is more about wanting to build a life with someone, whether that life includes children or not, than it is about being assured a steady supply of sex. If all a guy is looking for is the latter, you’re right…why commit? But, if he wants the opportunity to build something with someone else, than hook ups aren’t the answer.

  11. 12
    Honey

    Okay, so my boyfriend is an attorney who makes more than twice as much money than me, and we ABSOLUTELY plan on getting married (he’s more pro marriage than I am) and there will not be a pre-nup, though we have decided we will not get married until we are both 100% free of consumer debt. The benefits as he sees them:

    1) companionship with someone who shares his values (atheist, vegetarian, liberal, cat lover, no desire for kids, relatively similar interests in books, tv, movies)
    2) higher standard of living (2 incomes),
    3) advice on major life decisions from someone as intelligent (he often says more so!) as he is,
    4) the best sex either of us has ever had (guaranteed quality), as often as both of us would like it (guaranteed quantity).

    There’s more that’s specific to us (I am a compulsive housecleaner and cook meals from scratch almost daily as a hobby), but those are the most generalizable.

    Though I am sure he’s had random hookups in the past, I don’t think he’s ever been single (i.e., not in a committed, exclusive, monogamous relationship) for more than a month or two at a time, and most of his relationships have been two years or longer. He is VERY uncomfortable with casual sex, mostly from a safety standpoint, although it is very clear that personality-wise, he is more comfortable in a committed relationship.

    Honey´s last blog post…Now I’m Cookin

  12. 13
    Donna

    I was talking with a good male friend the other day, who is a nice, upstanding 52 year old, twice divorced, with children from both marriages. His take on future marriage was “why should I?” He firmly stated that he wants a longterm relationship with one good woman which would hopefully last for many years, if not for the rest of his life. But marriage again, NO. But he said it was hard to find a good woman who was happy with that, as they all seem to want “the ring and a piece of paper”. This man gets approached by much younger women all the time, but he declines, as it isn’t real and what would they have to talk about? He also stated the statistic that 70% of 2nd marriages end in divorce, and the piece of paper doesn’t keep people from cheating or breaking up. These are all valid points from any perspective, especially a man’s, but I do find it depressing. As for myself, I will not date a man unless he is open to future marriage, and I have learned thru trial and error to find out that information very early on, before it gets personal !

  13. 14
    JM

    I always enjoy hearing both the male and female points of view re: the hook up or “friends with benefits” scenario. I tend to be on the same page with Steve and Lance – will probably not have children, and am a little ambivalent about marriage, but am definitely looking for a monogamous relationship with a great guy. Why else would I torture myself with all these blind dates? ;)

    But the bottom line is, we all have “basic needs”. So if you can handle the occasional “hook up” on your quest for a satisfying relationship, then I don’t think there is a problem with that choice.

    But Starthrower really hit the nail on the head when she wrote that men are just wired better to compartmentalize sex and keep the emotional component out. I also can’t help but think that sometimes a double standard still exists when it comes to casual sex (Although Lance might beg to differ!)

    I’m hoping that in the end, there is a lid for every pot and that those seeking long-term monogamous relationships will find each other. Is that too much to ask? :)

  14. 15
    Marc

    I think some insight into this subject can be gained by the fact that an overwhelming majority of men who use high priced call girls opt for the “girlfriend experience” when it’s on the menu. (At least that’s true according to a recent report on CNBC).

    So even when they’re paying big bucks, guys aren’t necessarily looking for the quick hookup. They want the cool, attentive, sweet chick with a sense of humor who’ll listen to their problems and tell them everything’s gonna be okay. I don’t think it’s an issue of guys not wanting to commit because they don’t have to. They don’t want to commit to women they feel wont satisfy their needs…and those needs aren’t always sexual in nature.

    Marc´s last blog post…Polish Girls Really Do Love Sausage

  15. 16
    Cilla

    I remember seeing an interview on “Oprah” with Jerry Seinfeld. He’s obviously very wealthy, attractive, and was for a long time considered a very eligible bachelor. I’m sure he could have had any number of hookups or endless going-nowhere relationships like George Clooney. Oprah Winfrey asked him about his wife and why he decided to settle down and get married. His answer was so simple and wonderful: “I like her aroundness.” By that, he explained, he just liked the feeling of having her around all the time and felt better when they were together than when they were apart.

  16. 17
    Leah

    My answer to the question is neither.
    I’ll base my opinion on the 3 single men I know and have dated. They may hook up once in a while but they desire a girlfriend. One lives with his, one has a girlfriend, one is too busy to date (has 2 jobs). Their ages: 46 – 54
    I tried a hook up once…wasn’t what I wanted or needed.

  17. 18
    Robyn

    Everyone – both men and women – needs to read Laura Sessions Stepp’s book “Unhooked – How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both”.

    The problem with widespread hooking up (as a defacto standard) by the younger generations is that they (both guys and girls) do not learn how to be in a real relationship (the old-fashioned “going steady” “one guy with one girl” “boyfriend-girlfriend” type of deal that we used to do as teens and college students 15-20 years ago).

    So 10+ years down the line when they start to think about “settling down” and “having a family” they are hopelessly ill-equipped to do so (since they have not had any practice in being in a longer-term / committed exclusive relationship) and are a lot less likely to be successful at it. Their chances of success are further hampered if they grew up in a divorced houshold themselves and don’t have their parents’ successful marriage to use an example either.

    If you think the divorce rate is high now, just wait 5-10-15 years and see how today’s teenagers and college students are faring in the marriage arena. The divorce rate is going to be even higher than it is today. Alas.

    And by the way, it is absolutely 100% true that unless a single man wants a family or a divorced man wants to add to his existing family, the incentive for him to marry these days is very, very, very small.
    “Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free” says it all!!

    Thank God I am past the (st)age of wanting to have children and being under the time-crunch of needing to find “the right guy” & succeed in getting to an exclusive commitment and marriage before the biological clock strikes midnight.

    I really feel for the women that want marriage and a family and are struggling to find the men that have the same inclination.

  18. 19
    M

    I wish I had heard that NPR piece. I was just having this internal conversation with myself the other day. I have a boyfriend who felt when we first started dating that he just wanted to play the field and keep casually dating and hooking up with people, which was fine with me because that’s all I was really looking for too. That’s not what ended up happening, though :) I think that there are a lot of men out there that hook up bc they haven’t found that one girl. I’m starting to consider lately that men want that same kind of deep connection that women do, and it seems they may want it as much as women do as well. That wasn’t what I was reflecting on, I just wanted to stand up for the men here, bc it seems like EMK is saying men would rather hook up, and I just don’t thinks that’s a safe stereo type to make. I’m looking back on my days of hooking up thinking, man that was fun…if I’m going to be perfectly honest. It can be dangerous, but if you’re smart, it’s just a good time. I think the only concern I would have with it now is in considering the amount of risk I exposed myself to (not just std’s but personal safety as well), not whether it would impact my desire, or mens desire, to commit in the future. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive, and I don’t really think it’s a fair association to make to say hooking up, and having the desire to be single forever, have a causal relationship on each other. For men or women, bc I had just as mch fun hooking up as he did, maybe more :P

  19. 20
    Honey

    @ Cilla, #8 – unlike the BF, I was essentially single for 5 years and had PLENTY of hookups during that time…I agree, it IS exhausting:

    From an emotional standpoint – no real connection with another person – like a caffeine high, the thrill of the hunt will keep you awake, but it’s also going to make you jittery and give you a headache

    From an intellectual standpoint – there is not much that is worse than spending a whole evening with someone who doesn’t share ANY of your interests or, even worse, with someone who can’t even talk about his own interests passionately and intelligently

    From a physical standpoint – did the condom break? is the pill working? does he have any diseases? not to mention things that condoms don’t protect against, like HPV, and non-STD issues like yeast infections, which are more common when you switch partners frequently – and then there’s the fact that sex is not nearly as good when you don’t know what each other prefers

    Honey´s last blog post…Now I’m Cookin

  20. 21
    Carol

    The only way I think a guy wants a permanent relationship is if he is just so “gone” on a woman he can’t imagine his life without her. There are men who want this. Our culture has taken so much away why a man would “need” a woman. It used to be home was where you got your meals, now there is food available everywhere. It used to be regular sex was hard to be found outside of marriage, not today. Maybe I am just old fashioned (and I was part of the sexual revolution after all), but the number of women willing to easily jump into bed continues to astound me. Is that old saying our mothers told us really true after all? “Why buy the cow if the milk is free?”

  21. 22
    Steve

    Am I alone in really not liking the saying “Free milk from a cow”? I don’t like framing all of the women I have known/know like that. As several people wrote better than I could, what people want from the opposite sex depends on where they are at in their lives.

    If you have to have milk, make it soy. Cows milk promotes sex related cancers. Google on the author Dr. Jane Plant :).

  22. 23
    starthrower68

    At the risk of sounding like I’m pontificating, since dating and hooking up seem to be about “I think I want I feel” it will be more difficult for people to connect for the long term. There has to come a point when it’s not just about what we think, what we want, and what we feel. I don’t mean to be preachy but people really can be very self-absorbed creatures, and I’m saying that about myself just as much as anyone. I know my attitude needs to keep changing.

  23. 24
    Jennifer

    **Yet let’s think about it from the male point of view – if there’s always an available hookup out there, and most men don’t have the desire to settle down until their mid-30′s, and most men lose big-time in divorce, why SHOULD they commit?**
    Based on these assumptions, Evan, they shouldn’t and most won’t unless they get caught up in a rare emotional moment, a failure of the system if you will. But I don’t believe the second assumption (men don’t have the desire to settle down until their mid-30′s) is entirely sound. The things I’ve read push that age limit a little sooner- late 20′s to early 30′s for college educated men, and even earlier for high-school educated men.

    What I’ve observed usually happens, is a man runs across a ‘special ‘woman, one that meets all of his needs, and feels that losing her would be more painful than the pleasure he gets from hooking up and being ‘free’, so he does what he has to do to keep her around, which is, in most cases, committing.

    So I think men commit to relationships for the same reasons that they do anything- to maximize their perceived pleasure and decrease their perceived pain.

  24. 25
    Evan Marc Katz

    You nailed it, Jennifer. That’s why I got married. But a lot of the guys I know are in their mid-late 30′s and still enjoying hookup culture. Maybe it’s an East Coast/West Coast thing.

  25. 26
    Steve

    @Carol, post #21

    Um, I know how to cook for myself, is that why I am single? :)

  26. 27
    Jennifer

    Good point Evan, I didn’t consider geography. I am on the East Coast, mid-atlantic area.

  27. 28
    Kenley

    M,

    The poster of #11 provides a link to the NPR piece so you can listen to it. What I found interesting is that the piece focuses slightly more on women preferring the hook up over relationships not just men. And, one social scientist was lamenting the fact that women have taken on the male model of just wanting sex without intimacy while men have not taken on the more feminine model. So, for the younger generation, there are a lot of males AND females who want to be free and single.

    Carol, I would argue that our culture has taken away both gender’s need for the other. Women can provide for themselves just as well as men. And, men will often reject women who they feel don’t need them. Moreover, when women reach a certain age and can’t find a man willing to commit, they just have children on their own.

  28. 29
    starthrower68

    Jennifer, I understand what you are saying in your comments. But in a way, it almost sounds like the only reason to commit to a woman is because he feels better when she’s around than when she’s not. That doesn’t sound like love really enters the equation. I don’t think that’s quite what you meant, but it almost makes one want to say if that’s the only reason anyone’s with me, then they’re free to go. But I’m trying to stop being so prideful….

  29. 30
    Ruby

    “For many of us, the requisite vulnerability and exposure that comes from being really intimate with someone in a committed sense is kind of threatening.”

    And the thought of being in love with someone, Wilkerson says, “is the most terrifying thing.”

    The above is from the NPR interview, from a 25-year-old woman. It’s kind of sad. In my college days 25 years ago, we hooked up too. But the girls were always hoping it would turn into a relationship.

    Interestingly, in the NPR poll, 22% say hookups are fun, while 38% are split between calling them “dangerous” and “degrading”.

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