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. 61
    Steve

    Gadzooks. I thought some of the people who complained at the beginning of this thread about it being depressing were wuses(sp?).

    I think I am going to buy a pineapple farm on a tropical island and just casually shack up with a woman who resembles Evangaline Lily’s character on Lost.

  2. 62
    Diana

    To Michael #53: When she hooks up with you at the drop of a hat, that doesn’t show that’s she’s very discerning, and you kind of take your chances that no one else has an interest in the merchandise.

  3. 63
    metsgirl

    #51
    I think you’re right Kenley about the lack of positive role models for a lot of people.

    I’m not quite clear why society is so ready to scrap marriage altogether. If it’s for financial reasons, which I can clearly understand, then why not go with a pre-nuptial agreement. It can’t be anymore offensive then living with someone for years and never investing in anything together (for fear that you’ll lose out). And does anyone really walk away from a committed relationship after 5 or 10 years and say “Whew, I’m glad we never married” simply because they could have lost financially? I think the emotional investment comes into play as well not just money.

    I personally believe marriage is important because it indicates that you are willing to make the ultimate commitment to the other person. Let’s face it, sex doesn’t bring much to the relationship because apparently anyone can do that and with as many people as they want. If a man’s not married then he technically considers himself single…..which translates his freedom to do whatever he wants, even in a committed relationship. DISCLAIMER: This does not mean all men. The same can happen if your married but you have more to lose. I think marriage (like sex) needs to mean more.

  4. 64
    Steve

    @metsgirl, post #63

    I’m not an expert and I don’t play one on TV. In the U.S. prior to the late 70s I don’t think more marriages worked. I think people just stayed married, happy or not, because divorces were hard to come by and had an onus on it.

    I thought the “ultimate commitment” was death, but maybe I have been watching too many action movies lately :).

  5. 65
    Selena

    metsgirl #63

    A pre-nup is essentially an insurance policy “just in case” the marriage doesn’t last a lifetime. If one feels the need for such an insurance policy why bother to marry in the first place? Why not just live together as long as it lasts?

    You are not quite clear why society is so ready to scrap marriage altogether? Seems clear to me: 50% of all marriages do not last a lifetime despite the best intentions of the individuals involved. Subsequent marriages fare no better. You see marriage as ” the ultimate commitment to the other person”. Yes, so did the other multi millions of people who made the same commitment. And were proved wrong.

    If something does not work for half of all people who try it, maybe scrapping it, as a symbol of “the ultimate commitment” isn’t such a terrible idea.

  6. 66
    metsgirl

    Steve #64
    =) I’m not sure anyone has to commit to anything in order to die….it’s more like the ultimate “given”

    So I wonder how much research is devoted to the success rates of hookups or short term live-ins….or maybe it’s too difficult to keep up. (It still doesn’t make marriage a bad thing).

  7. 67
    Lance

    Going way back to Cilla in #8, yes, hookups are exhausting. The sex part isn’t that bad, it’s all the work that goes into making the hookup happen and sometimes the fallout. I’d say this affects me at least as much as it affects her, and in fact, the exhaustive nature of hookups (I just call it dating) causes me to go through lulls.

    Marc in #15 dropped a very interesting comment about men choosing the girlfriend experience from high priced call girls. I think it’s totally true…guys PREFER to have the gf experience prior to having sex. I know I do, and I’ve imagined what it would be like having sex with a professional. I think it would totally suck if it was just the sex, but if she acted like an awesome gf and made me feel great, that would be worth paying for.

    My conclusion from that is most men and women suck at being good girlfriends and boyfriends. I broke up with my last girlfriend because she wasn’t skilled or mature enough to act like a cool girlfriend. In the end, she made me feel like crap more often than she made me feel good.

    Lance´s last blog post…New Car!

  8. 68
    Janet

    Fidelity has not traditionally been part of marriage. Shocking, true. For 5,000 years people married for economic reasons and sex was not a sentimental, loving act. Of course, people did fall in love and have passions for each other, but these passions were usually not for one’s spouse, and in many Western cultures too strong an emotional attachment to one’s spouse was seen as unseemly and in some cases dangerous.

    Marriage did not become sexualized until the Victorian era, which attended an exultation of motherhood and female “purity” (Victorians were the first to promote the idea the women did not enoy sex, and this idea has made it into our modern definition of what is a “good” female–self-effacing, nurturing, defenseless, docile, etc.) This time period — the dawn of the Industrial Revolution–is also where we first see men and women occupying different spheres of endeavor. Prior to that time, these non-erotic marriage partners were team mates in commerce, governance, or whatever the economic field of endeavor was. Work was determined more by class than by gender: the lower classes were servants for the upper classes, the merchant class was made up of family businesses where all family members worked, rulers received their power from their family name, and so on. Families and marriages were not private affairs but social agreements.

    In the 20th century, the notions introduced in Victorian England expanded, along with the acceptaance of individual freedoms and more openness about sexuality (relative to the Victorians), until you hit the apex of the marriage ideal: the post-WW2 nuclear family, neatly enconsed in a private home with segregated worlds for men and women; a warm love nest of sexual union; the well-cared-for offspring of that union; and severe prohibitions against anything that threatened that precariously balanced little unit. Like divorce, extramarital sex, homosexuality, female empowerment, male sensitivity.

    And then the 70s arrived and this model blew up in everyone’s face. The divorce rate skyrocketed, people began experimenting with other types of family setups and sexual agreements, and hooking up became a tolerated-to-accepted norm.

    Men didn’t do this, women didn’t do this, and these new ways of relating (or not relating) do not serve one gender over the other.

    But yes, the genie is out of the bottle and we are not going back to the days of segregated work and male-breadwinner families. This is always an option that people can choose if it suits them. And if people want hookups and non-married living, or exclusivity and non-married living, they can choose that. And that’s the best news: We as responsible adults get to determine what is the best way for us to live and love, and we are free to share these ideas with each other and bond with those who are in agreement and support our happiness.

  9. 69
    Michael

    When you decide to suddenly have a meaningful relationship, do you meet someone and discard all of your previous sexual hobbies as though they never occured and have a warm and loving relationship with the person you’re currently interested in?
    Yes, that is the general idea.
    When she hooks up with you at the drop of a hat, that doesn’t show that’s she’s very discerning, and you kind of take your chances that no one else has an interest in the merchandise.
    I take that same chance just talking to women.

    At least by having sex with them, you take a piece of them with you.

  10. 70
    metsgirl

    #65 Selena

    There’s all kinds of insurance policies (as you call it)….there’s nothing wrong with having one if losses are you’re main concern (whether marriage, life or auto). That doesn’t mean that it devalues the commitment….in some cases it could be smart.

    Living with someone for “as long as it lasts” doesn’t sound like it’s oozing in commitment either….so why get in a relationship at all?

    I believe 50% of the marriages that do fail could be blamed on peoples’ ideals of perfection and bliss….mismatched values and beliefs….insecurities and unreasonable demands. Some of them probably needed to end because of some form of abuse. The world’s an imperfect place. (There’s no way to know if those that failed in marriage the first or second time would have fared any better or lasted longer if it was a live-in situation).

    Since we know that, 100% of the time, the euphoric feelings you had in the beginning of a relationship will fade (to some degree or another) if we use your example, then we wouldn’t have much hope of ever being in a satisfying relationship. That’s not reason enough to not try to build something solid….but it’s a free country.

  11. 71
    Casey

    My idea of what goes on in a man’s head about commitment vs. just hooking up:

    “Hmmmm….do I want to commit…probably not…that’s a lot of work, women are crazy and just want to control you. Why not just hook-up and move on? There are plenty of fish in the sea. I don’t just limit myself to one kind of fish when I’m out to dinner…night after night…the same fish. Sometimes I like salmon, others I like cod…or hey hey…a little chilean sea bass can sure hit the spot sometimes! And look…an ocean of possibilities are available to troll right in my own home. I don’t even have to put any real work into it, like taking a shower, shaving, dressing nicely. So why bother committing and getting to know someone? She will expect so much…the endless talking about feelings, blah, blah, blah. And what if she doesn’t like the real me? I can’t go through the pain of break-up again. Just easier to have sex with her and never call again…any woman who has sex right away is a tramp anyone. No need to treat her with courtesy and respect…not like someone you’ve committed to would expect. Besides, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I’ll just go on-line and find someone I have more chemistry with or who blah, blah, blah. I’m sure there is someone perfect for me just around the corner or on the next page of my web search who will be perfect and I won’t have to do anything in the relationship and it be perfect.

  12. 72
    Selena

    metsgirl #70

    If marrying someone is the “ultimate commitment” then what does a pre-nup say? “I’m committing my life to you, but not my assets”? That’s not really committing your life now is it? It’s not really *believing* the marriage will last a lifetime, so if you don’t really believe that, why marry at all? Certainly it’s pragmatic, but if one feels the need to be so pragmatic, why bother with a license from the state and paperwork from attorneys?

    For the record, I don’t believe marriage should be scrapped because it is about love, and HOPE. I think it’s wonderful when people can stand up and promise each other they will be there for each other until death do they part. As long as they BELIEVE it at the time. If they don’t, it’s a mockery.

    I didn’t give you an example of any kind to infer there was no hope for ever having a satisfying relationship. Perhaps you are projecting. Thanks for informing me it’s a free country – that’s new.

  13. 73
    JerseyGirl

    A lot of men don’t even want to end up settled in their mid-30s. More often than not they’re trapped into settlement by children, other responsibilities, or some harping self-esteem-ravaging douchette wife-unit.

    ——————————————————–
    Men aren’t “trapped” into anything, children or not. Men are adults who are capable of making their own choices. If a man ends up having childen he didn’t plan for or want, it is just as much at fault.

    And I do think men’s lack of wanting to commitment is immature. But society as a whole has become immature and has given the message that self gratification should be our number one pursuit.

  14. 74
    Curly Girl

    Thanks for the history lesson, Janet@68. :)

    You touch on what I mean–we have this “traditional love & marriage” message shoved down our throats from the day we’re born, only males get one message, females an opposed message, and none of it’s even based on anything traditional, and rarely on anything that is workable, and never on anything sustainable. What’s up with that?

    And if you don’t follow the party line and if you question any of it, you get accused of being man-hating/misogynistic or pathological or something else negative. Any normally observant kind of person can look around and see that “love & marriage” doesn’t work very often, and as Steve@64 said, maybe they weren’t even working so well in the pre-1970s golden age of coupledom. And still everybody is chasing it.

    I don’t know about you all, but I’m really not caring so much about relationships as an entity anymore. I don’t care about hookups one way or the other. I don’t care about gold-digging/trophy chasing. I don’t about anybody’s hardwiring. I don’t care why people get married or why they don’t.

    (Even though I did find the history of marriage lecture interesting and helpful.)

    I am starting to feel such peace.

  15. 75
    Janet

    Thanks, C.G. It is astounding that all of our contemporary ideas about dating and marriage stem from a teeny, tiny window in human history–the 20 to 25 years after World War 2. That these ideas (males as exclusive providers, women as exclusive nurturers, couples as separate and private from the rest of society) still drive our beliefs about who we are as men and women and in relationship is quite mind-blowing, when you think about it. Even though these beliefs have shown to be myths, people are still chasing the perfect relationship dream, as you suggest. Atheists and agnostics, who toss off other forms of idealization, still worship at the altar of The Perfect Relationship. Very curious.

  16. 76
    LK

    “society as a whole has become immature and has given the message that self gratification should be our number one pursuit.”

    This is, I believe, the crux of the problem. And as a single woman who wants to have a family, it depresses me.

  17. 77
    Janet

    Hmm. Did something get dropped there?

  18. 78
    starthrower68

    I must agree with you, Jersey Girl. This person isn’t making me happy so I’ll go get another one, women and men both. I don’t think either side has the market cornered on lack of maturity. Lord knows I’ve had plenty of my own growth to do. While I do find this site fascinating and insightful and I like to particpate as much as the next person, we live in troubled times and I think the day is soon coming when the stuff we talk about here won’t mean a whole lot to us anymore.

  19. 79
    Selena

    Starthrower #78:
    ” This person isn’t making me happy so I’ll go get another one, women and men both.”

    You say this like it’s a bad thing lol!

    I’d rather have it that way then the way it used to be: being expected to live out your life with someone who made you unhappy because of the stigma attached to divorce. A lifetime can be a very long time to be unhappy with someone you yolked yourself to when you were young. But staying unhappy for years, decades is somehow a virtue? Why?

  20. 80
    Selena

    Lance #67
    “In the end, she made me feel like crap more often than she made me feel good.”

    That would seem to be the heart of it. We choose one person over another because they make us feel good. We feel more fulfilled as a person when we are with them. And return that in kind.

    What is the mechanism that makes this change? When the person we chose makes us feel “less than”, when respect, the sense of being united, even the commradarie we had with them are lost?

    I’ve read a significant factor in infidelity is because the “new person” made the other person feel good about themselves when their SO did not. Restored a measure of self-esteem that had been lost along the way in the existing relationship. So what is it that makes us slowly erode the specialness we started with? To stop caring about making our partner feel good? To not caring if we are making them feel like crap? Even taking satisfaction in doing so sometimes?

  21. 81
    Janet

    I don’t find it so depressing. How about this: We, all of us, men and women both, are hard-wired for hookups. But we are not at the mercy of our so-called wiring. Marriage/LTRs arose as a way of organizing society and addressing needs that all humans have–survival, being the main one. There is no “natural” order to marriage–it changes as societal needs change. To help us along, our brains change, our sexual reactions change, in response to our environments.

    Today we have a great deal of choice in what kind of environment we want to live in–unlike our parents in the 50s and the 60s and, to an extent, the 70s, who were shoved into very rigid sexual and family roles, which was accomplished through a great deal of societal brainwashing, which is how most societal standards are set (watch “Mad Men”).

    But what we have to give up today is the Disney fairy tale belief that there is one person out there who is going to make your life meaningful and purposeful. That person doesn’t exist, and that relationship structure does not exist, even though every movie, every TV show, every dating/mating advice book/column/blog in the U.S. is pushing this idea (as C.G. alludes to).

    But today we get to be individuals with rich lives, whether we choose to be in partnership or fly solo.

    It would be nice to see our lives celebrated in their fullness instead of always measured against the relationship yardstick.

  22. 82
    Sylvia

    Everyone is just so confused about dating now a day, esp. me. We put titles on emotions. Something that is a subjective thought experienced differently by everyone. No one knows what to do because both sides are playing stupid mind games. Does he/she like me, will he/she call, he/she calls too much, he/she doesn’t call me enough, what does it all mean!? Too many questions… it gets confusing. The right one is out there and personally believe (and hope) that they aren’t so confusing…. it will take work (relationships require work….get over it) but both sides are willing to give and take….

  23. 83
    Jenn

    I’ve been pondering the power of habit. I’ve dated lots of men in their mid-40s to early 50s, and the divorced or widowed guys seem most interested in finding another relationship. A bit of a surprise, given some of the divorce stories.

    But it’s the ones who’ve never been married (or had a live-in relationship) who talk a good game (I’m ready to settle down, want to find “the one” and maybe have some kids) but seem to go from hook-up to hook-up…or 2-month “relationship” to 2-month “relationship.” Some are up-front about it (let’s just have sex), and I move along. Most of the time. :-) But I wonder, at some point, if it’s just what they DO, and they’re not interested in (capable of?) sticking with one woman. I know that I’m generalizing, but here’s my question: Should we not count on guys in their 40s/50s who’ve never been married to break their habit and be with just one woman?

  24. 84
    Selena

    @Sylvia # 82

    “it will take work (relationships require work. get over it) but both sides are willing to give and take.”

    The old gem “Relationships take work” has been around for God knows how long, but what does it really mean?

    Keeping a bad relationship going certainly feels like hard work to the person in it. So what is the “work” required of a good relationship?

    Anyone care to define what the “Work” actually is?

  25. 85
    metsgirl

    You did give me something to infer from….If your logic is to scrap something that has a 50% success rate then we should be scrapping relationships as a whole because 100% of the time you don’t feel the same a few years down the road. And according to some on here, we’re not even hardwired to be in relationships in the first place.

    Why would someone need to marry their spouse’s assets. Divorce is about assets. You simply get to enjoy them the same way as a live-in situation. People don’t generally get a prenup in a live-in situation so how is this less favorable? If you’re going to be with the person forever anyway then a prenup (a piece of paper, if you will) won’t give you anything to worry about.

    Your welcome about the free country thing….

  26. 86
    Selena

    @ Jenn #83

    I’ve only known one man in his 50’s who had never been married. He had had serious lengthy relationships however, including one that lasted 9 yrs. and produced a child. Once he told me marriage scared him, but he couldn’t say why.

    An acquaintence of mine married at almost 51, a woman who caught his glance across a crowded room and ignited him. He said by age 50, he had given up on ever finding someone to marry – that it just wasn’t in the cards for him. He was happy that turned out not to be true.

    I can’t think of anyone I’ve known over the age of 40 who hasn’t had at least one serious relationship in their life married or not. If someone does reach 50 with only a history of 2 month “relationships” I’d have to wonder if that really was by choice. And I’d think it different from someone who had had years long relationships yet never married.

  27. 87
    Michael

    But staying unhappy for years, decades is somehow a virtue?
    It is called commitment.

    Make a promise, keep it.

  28. 88
    Eli Grubman

    People who are married find it better than just hooking up (most of the time).

    Hooking up is better than being a virgin, that is for sure!

  29. 89
    starthrower68

    Selena, perhaps I should have been more clear on #78; I would not advice anyone to stay in a bad relationship otherwise I would not have gotten divorced. However, I think we go into these things without giving them a lot of thought and oh well if it doesn’t work, I’ll just walk away, as more of a lackadaisical approach. We require others to do their part without thinking about the role we play. Let’s face it, even couples who’ve been happily married for 50 years have some “irreconcilable” differences. There is a “grass is always greener” mentality out there in this day and age; we want what we want and we want it now and we don’t want to do the heavy lifting to get it. All I’m saying is that we should be more deliberate about these things.

  30. 90
    starthrower68

    @ Selena #84

    I’ll tackle your question regarding #82. I think a better word than “work” would be “nurturing”. We reach a point where we stop “courting” or “wooing” the other person, especially after a few years of marriage. I’m willing to be that Evan and his wife understand the importance of maintaining that connection by having “date” nights, being mentally and emotionally present for each other, and having plenty of time for intimacy. I know there’s not a lot of fans of anything Christian on this site, but I think the movie “Fireproof” is just a fabulous example of where society is missing the mark. Even if you don’t embrace the Christian faith, there are still a lot of good relationship things to take away from it.

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