Is Hooking Up Dangerous or Liberating?

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.

Join our conversation (154 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.


  1. 31

    Maybe that’s the part I’m struggling with the most here, is the ‘need for each other’ that keeps coming up. I don’t need a man, I want one, or at least the one I’m with right now. And I don’t want to be with a man that needs me; I want him to want me far more than he needs me. Yes, we can all cook for ourselves (most of us), and get sex where-ever we want it essentially, but I do truly think, and I think most of the posts by men support this, men *want* to be with a woman on that deeper level, whether they have hookups or not. I think the same is true for women. Just because a man or woman is single does not mean they don’t want the relationship *ever*. It means single is what fits them at that time. Some people don’t want a relationship ever, but I really think that’s the minority, and I don’t think hooking up has any deterring effect on most men’s desire to commit. A long-term relationship and a hook up are two entirely different things. I would be kind of insulted if I were one of the men on this blog. It directly implies that you are all so shallow that you need nothing more than sex to be happy. I’m kind of insulted for you… 🙂 And just because a women has a child on her own doesn’t mean she has given up on finding a committed man to spend her life with, it means she realizes that she wants children, she is not getting any younger, and she doesn’t need a man to have a child.
    I think a lot of the sentiments being expressed here are based on old-fashioned values that just don’t really apply anymore. Fortunately, there are old-fashioned men out there that want the same things. You just have to want to find them, because they want to find you. 🙂

  2. 32

    “I think it’s clear that there’s something damaging about the frequency and availability of hookups.”

    I disagree with Evan’s comment, but I agree with Steve’s response. I find that the majority of men I meet — over age 45 usually — say they’re tired of dating & their goal is to meet someone for the long haul — someone they can develop a relationship and have as a lifetime companion — with or without marriage. Most of these men are sincere, but there are still some in this age group who are clearly what I call “Hit & Runners.” They usually tend to be the most charming ones, as well. Damn. I don’t try to analyze that anymore — everyone’s got their own reasons, and men tell me that the same is true for women.

    But damaging? There are obvious safety issues involved if you’re hooking up with a stranger, but I think it can work for some people and I don’t think it’s morally wrong. It’s another choice an adult can make when seeking intimacy with others. For many people, it just gets old after a while, and they find (maybe as they mature?) that they want something deeper and longer-lasting. Personally, if a guy can articulate right from the start that hooking up is all he wants, I see that as a valuable piece of honest information for me. Then I can choose whether that works for me. But I really don’t think the hooking up phenomena is new; it’s just been given a more defined label now, an identifier, spelling out an intention or preference. If a woman is interested only in meeting someone with whom to develop a long-term relationship, isn’t it better for her to know right up front that this potential date has a different preference. I also don’t think that the ability to state this preference makes men or women any less likely to seek a committed relationship. I see it as a form of evolution in the same way that woman are now more likely to choose to remain single or have children until well into their 30s and have no intention of limiting their careers or other interests any more than their man is willing to. The world is a different place than it was even 20 years ago. I think the ability to state that what you’re primarily interested in is a sexual partner, reduces mixed messages and can prevent disappointment (and lowered self-esteem) down the road.

  3. 33

    This really is a discouraging reality. Hookups are so easy and common. It seems the men I know have been too influenced by porn and have the misconception that women benefit/enjoy the encounter as much as the men do. I will say….in rare cases there are women who may have chemical imbalances that makes a non-commited no fuss hookup enjoyable or perhaps the woman is just hard as nails (emotionally). I just don’t know of too many women that enjoy being used for that purpose. In fact, I would be willing to wager that a woman who makes herself available for repeated hookups probably has some type of emotional investment in the relationship (in some fashion).

  4. 34
    Isabelle Archer

    False premise. There is no dichotomy between hookups and marriage. Young people these days are still falling in love and entering into exclusive relationships all the time. Hookups, whether or not they happen, are not preventing this. The NPR-Washinton Post-Laura Sessions Stepp obsession with hookups is nothing more than the old folks getting titillated about talking about the sex lives of the young folks. Twas ever thus.

    The real question is — why does anyone (male or female) get married these days, when it is completely socially acceptable to have a long-term, live-in relationship without marriage, and when marriage has such a high failure rate?
    (And, despite what Evan says, marriage failure hurts women economically more than men, given women at least as many reasons as men to be wary — single motherhood being highly corrolated with poverty. Men are only “more” damaged financially by divorce if you do not place any economic value on women’s domestic labor. But I digress.)

    Indeed, in Europe young people have basically given up on marriage altogether, but not on commited relationships and parenthood.

    Ultimately, though, I do think the answer for what US-Americans are still getting married is gender related and largely being driven by women. First, there is still a stigma on having children out of wedlock, and most women generally want to have children. Men’s reluctance to marry in those circumstances is probably more related to their reluctance to parent, not to marry. Second, there is still a lot of social pressure on women to have a wedding (as opposed to getting married) which is related to old fashioned gender norms. Many women are motivated chiefly by the fantasy of the princess wedding and the status of being “a bride,” with little incentive to think about what happens next. In fact, from a certain perspective, even if they get divorced they have been “a bride,” so…mission accomplished. Men, obviously, don’t get the same utility out of the wedding.

  5. 35

    I don’t like the old school of thought either about “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free”. There is something in that line of thinking that seems pretty disparaging towards women AND men and how far we have come.

    I think the standard ideologies people think of when they hear “hook-up” is: hook-up = good for men and hook-up = bad for women. On one hand, I like that I live in a world where I can be more sexually liberated then my mother. I don’t always want a long-term relatoinship from every guy I date. Many have wanted that with me and *I* have been the one that backed out. On the other hand, I do think it limits the way men and women interact with each other. Girls that turn into women don’t learn how to relate to men and boys that turn into men don’t learn how to relate to women.

    While sex feels good for all parties invovled, and men are more likely to be statisfed with that, I don’t think the hook up culture allows women or men to meet their potential. I think both genders are *better* for having learned to respect and relate to the other gender. And hooking up with random people doesn’t allow for that. Couple that with the amount of internet porn out there that is also an easy way to have some kind of needs met, it sadly makes men more passive and lazy. So while we think of the hook-up culture as only being bad for women, it clearly isn’t so great for men either.

  6. 36

    @ Starthrower68 #29- In my view it’s not the sole reason to commit, but it is the first, most basic, and most necessary one. I believe that part of loving someone is liking it better when they are around than when they are not, so that’s how I see it fitting in…. it is a part of the foundation of the ‘deeper’ feelings that come with loving someone. My response sort of distilled it to what I believe is it’s most basic essence. I hope that’s more clear!

  7. 37

    @metsgirl#33- I don’t know if you are purposely being incendiary, but I’m going to try to assume positive intent on your part.

    As a general statement, if other people are doing something that you don’t feel comfortable with…don’t do it. It’s the easiest way to stay happy.

    A hookup, as it’s defined in my peer group, can be anything from making out to sex. Does a women feel ‘used’ after a kiss? Dry-humping? What about having oral sex performed on her? A hook-up can be as involved or not as the parties wish.

    Just like people have expectations in their daily interactions (I expect when I am walking on the sidewalk that I will not be hit by a car. I expect that when I’m driving through a green light the other drivers will obey their red light) people have expectations in their hookups. The difference is the depth of those expectations.

    If you hook-up with someone with relationship-type expectations (calls, eating out, spending lots of time together) yep, you’ll feel disappointed and likely used. If you go in simply expecting to have your sexual boundaries respected, physical needs met, and for the person to be as cordial/friendly after the encounter as they were before, you have a better shot of having those needs met and not feeling used.

    Of course there are people that behavely rudely or otherwise inappropriately towards their hook-up partners- just as there are spouses that behave inappropriately towards each other as well. Neither one is good, but bad behavior is not reserved for the hook-up set.

    Now there are some people that are uncomfortable being physically intimate with anyone they are not also emotionally intimate with- that’s fine and understandable; hooking up is not for them. But then, it’s also not for them to pathologize everyone who doesn’t feel the way they do.
    I know that I don’t need every kiss or sexual encounter to lead to a LTR or marriage in order for me not to feel ‘used’, and I have no chemical imbalances that I’m aware of!

  8. 38

    I dont think that there is anything inherently bad about women having the occasional hook-up along with regular dates, relationships, etc. If you adopt it as a lifestyle and deep down (or even on the surface) you aren’t satisfied with it, but that’s the only form of interaction you have/know how to have with men, that’s where I think problems come in.

  9. 39

    @casualencounters, # 42 –

    If those are the kind of women that these men choose, then aren’t they responsible for the state of their lives?

    That is precisely why I chose my partner very, very carefully.

    Honey´s last blog post…New Car!

  10. 40

    Why would men desire a committed relationship? Maybe because they have a penis, and they have a heart? How satisfying is it really to devote the entirety of one human life to the pursuit of pleasure, your own mainly, and to discard the other person when they cease to thrill or titillate you? Men are a little deeper than that aren’t they? Yes, they have strong sex drives, so up til their 30s, that kind of lifestyle might be more appropriate to their needs. But I think if I were a man and I wake up in my mid-thirties, and I still see relationships that way, I’d feel like dying of shame and self-hatred. Part of the masculine soul is about self-sacrifice, devotion, and service as well, no? How fun is it to wake up in your mid-30s and realize you’ve never shared anything with anyone worth protecting?

    Well, from where I sit, I don’t see it as that difficult of a task in getting men age 30 and up to commit. To find women worth committing to….well, that’s totally another topic. That’s where the *real* problem is, if I may be so blunt as to point out.

  11. 41

    A lot of people must read this blog at work. 🙂

  12. 42

    I appreciate your insight Jennifer. I’m not sure I see where my comment was provocative for you. I didn’t insinuate that all women who hookup are chemically imbalanced or even hard as nails…..but they both exist. And both champion “bold declarations” of how much they love sex and don’t need men. (which makes hooking-up all the easier)

    Is “making-out” dangerous? Not too often. I don’t think the hookup this article is referring to pertains to casual knecking or dry humping. I appreciate your viewpoint though and I’m not disputing that you feel the way you do….so good for you.

  13. 44

    @ casual #41

    Wow, and they thought Ann had an axe to grind…

  14. 45

    “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?”

    Indeed. WHY?

    Why? My thought is men are trained like labradors that ‘settling down’ and ‘committing’ are the so-called right way to do things. However, when you look at what really happens AFTER committing, the guys are the ones who should be committed – to an asylum for doing it. Marriage is a losing proposition for men (not going to get into divorce stat war). So guys are shamed into wanting (against their better instincts) to settle down.

    Look at this blog, how derisively guys are characterized as immature, or selfish, for not committing. I don’t see that as great salesmanship. Of course, every guy has at more than one close friend or relative (maybe himself), who got dismembered in divorce court. After seeing that in enough people, many are finally starting to see that committing is more likely than not to end up badly for them, and are choosing accordingly. Read – they are choosing freedom.

    This isn’t an indictment of women as a whole. Not at all. It is one of the “family” laws. This is the losing endgame to committing, which is why it merits mention. Yet another area area that more government meddling produces horrible results, but I digress…

    Hookups, when presented, are a nice diversion but not a primary pursuit.

    Sure, it’d be nice to have a committed relationship. But to most, that means marriage, which rules me out for the vast number of women. From what I gather, increasing numbers of guys feel the same way also.

    So keep on hooking up!

  15. 46
    Hadley Paige

    Robyn @ 18 says 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.

    I ask why is that? I have concluded that over the last 35 years the laws of marriage and fathering have changed dramatically to the financial detriment of men. (note: I am not saying its good or bad, but just is) Therefore I infer that the increased financial risk to men mirrors the increased reluctance of men to marry. (after all are we not rational optimizers?)

    Men don’t want to marry? Women, I challenge you to try the following thought experiment.

    Imagine that when couples got divorced both men and women perceived that the men got the better financial deal in the divorce; or even that men got whatever they wanted financially. Now– Do you think men would be reluctant to marry then? Do you think women would be reluctant to marry then?

    So then for men, marriage is not about men unwilling to commit. It is about the damage to their finances that happen when they commit & the women they commit to leave to go find themselves; or a more emotionally fulfilling relationship; or more space; or, or or.

    I deeply desire a committed relationship and tend to be in LTRs. BUT if the committed relationship requires marriage>> NO THANKS!. Or at least no thanks as long as the way that divorce currently will affect me financially stays that way.

    So in summary (sorry but I am a lawyer) I believe that men are not adverse to marriage per se but rather they are unwilling to expose themselves (at least those who have something to lose) to the risk of divorce as currently structured to disproportionately negatively impact men (as they perceive it).

  16. 47

    @metsgirl #41
    Your comment was provocative to me becuase you stated flat out that only the rare woman with a ‘chemical imbalance’/or that is ‘hard as nails’ enjoys a casual hook-up and you insinuated that any hook-up involves a woman being used. I felt those statements were too general, judgemental and inaccurate which is what inspired my repsonse to you. But I see more of where you are coming from with your second comment, so thank you for the clarification 🙂 (inserting smiley face to show that I’m not trying to be a smart-ass here)

  17. 48

    Why should they commit? I think the question is, “What would make them want to commit?” I guess I’m splitting hairs. 😉 I believe that deep down inside, most men, like most women, crave and yearn for something more.Hookups, as I understand them, cannot possibly compare.

    This doesn’t mean they necessarily want marriage. There are a lot of people on both sides who do not want marriage. You can have a fulfilling, lifetime commitment without legal representation.

    I don’t think of myself as old-fashioned, yet the thought of women doing hookups because their lives are too busy to invest time in dating (based on an article I read a while back on this subject and college girls), is disheartening. I think that a lot of women nowadays give their bodies away far too easily and truthfully, I think guys often think this, too. But hey, they also like the perks.

    Do guys really respect women who will so casually put out, even when she’s not on the corner? I know it can be mutually satisfying for both parties and all. Somehow it still feels degrading of femininity. If a guy reaches that point where he really does want something significantly more, is he inclined to go with the hookup of the day? My feeling tells me no, but what do I know?

  18. 49

    Vino, I admit being female makes it difficult to see it from the other perspective, but I am really giving it my best try. I admit that the thought of getting married again is a much more serious thing to contemplate now than it was when I was a naieve 21-year-old. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it again, but I would have to give it a great deal of thought, but I’d have to take that slow.

  19. 50

    The primary reason I want to be married is because so many people I went to college with are married, and I want to measure up to them.

    I want to prove to them that I am just as good as they are.

  20. 51

    The point of the NPR piece wasn’t that young men don’t want to commit it was that both young men and young women don’t want to commit….and not simply because they want to pursue careers. One major reason that are rethinking marriage is that they don’t have any positive role models…bitter, ugly divorces have loomed large in their lives. Another reason, as someone pointed out, is the extreme emphasis on looking out for #1 makes these young men and women less likely to want to be concerned about the needs, desires, and wants of someone else.

    I think another interesting question is will marriage survive these trends? If yes, how will these trends force it to change? If marriage doesn’t survive, what would be the advantages and disadvantages for both men AND women of a society without marriage?

  21. 52

    Also, I was married for a very long time and if I decide to ever marry again (which is debatable 😉 and assuming someone asks), there is one thing I will most definitely do differently the next go round; to keep what is mine, and he can keep what is his. I do not want anything of his, i.e. money, property, etc., and I like the idea of keeping that part of our lives separate. I am independent. Having names on nearly everything together was incredibly stressful to untangle. Of course, I’m not selling my house, and he’d likely not sell his, so we’ll be at a stand-off. [LOL]

  22. 53

    Do guys really respect women who will so casually put out, even when she’s not on the corner?

    I would.

    Generosity is a virtue, you know, as long as you are not giving away something that someone else has a legitimate interest in.

  23. 54

    FYI, there is more agony in a failed marriage then just getting taken to the cleaners.

    I know it doesn’t work like this ( usually ), but there is no reason why casual sex can’t grow into something more. Two people, with similar interests who enjoy each others company? Do the math.

    I guess it comes down to what your deep down attitudes about sex are. People can hold conflicting beliefs and not be aware of it.

    I think a lot of people who think of themselves as progressive, modern, liberated etc still think of sex as something dirty at some level. So that leads to looking at casual sex as a “woman giving it up”, the “it” being her respect since she didn’t put up a fight or stall first.

    If you don’t look at it that way then casual sex is just an activity two people enjoy that shouldn’t preclude people who have important things in common from hooking up if they enjoy it “too soon” anymore than taking a paddle boat ride.

  24. 55

    Hadley Paige @ 46:
    You are spot-on re: the potential effects of divorce being a major disincentive for marriage. Especially in the state where I live (Massachusetts).
    But it’s not only men that have these concerns.
    If I ever consider getting married, a pre-nup will absolutely be part of the deal!

  25. 56

    “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”

    Feminist version:
    “Why buy the whole pig when all you want is some sausage once in awhile?”

  26. 57
    Curly Girl

    On May 10 I responded to a post about a woman who was opting out of passion for the stable guy and was slammed for my view that some people are into dating for passion and hookups, and not nec. to get married. Even EMK dissed me with the comment that most everyone on the site is looking for an LTR. One woman even questioned why I was posting to a dating site if I was against the Ltr (which I am not). I responded:

    “I said that not everyone is dating to get married, and dating for passion is as good a reason as any. Being married is not the only type of viable relationship nor the only reason for dating, and being involved in other forms of relationship does not mean that you are not taking your love life seriously or that you don’t understand the opposite sex. But that that is how you understand what I am saying just goes to prove my point that this view of dating & relationship is pushed at as from all angles all the time, along with the subtle message that if you don’t go along that there is something wrong with you. There are people who are happily single and dating. There are people for whom a passionate fling that does not lead to marriage is neither destructive nor pathological. That is why the message of this post that passion and love are opposed is strange to me. So what if passion fizzles or doesn’t lead to marriage? Why is one wrong and the other right?”

    Vino and Steve express the dangers of marriage and the desire to avoid it and they are not slammed. Why the different treatment? Is it because I am a GIRL???

    Not getting on your case, EMK. I’m really happy to see you addressing the broad range of topics that you do and I really enjoy reading the variety of responses from all sorts of guys and gals.

    Wishing you all happiness on your journey. Or barring that, something that makes it all worthwhile. 🙂

  27. 58

    Re: Isabelle Archer #34
    “The NPR-Washinton Post-Laura Sessions Stepp obsession with hookups is nothing more than the old folks getting titillated about talking about the sex lives of the young folks. Twas ever thus. ”


    I agree with that as well as everything else you wrote Isabelle. Great job!

    People of both genders date primarily to find someone to connect with. At some point in a person’s life that may mean “just a hook-up”. Or it may turn out to be just a hook-up, or a brief fling, or a relationship that lasts only a few weeks/months because either or both parties find they don’t have the connection they’d like to have with the other. JNTIY.

    People do still fall in love though. All the time. Men, being people, do too! Committment: what’s in it for men? Simple: so he won’t lose that woman who is special to him to another man. We form attachments to fulfill our need of belonging. Marriage or not, we all sometimes crave that sense of belonging to someone, and they to us. Men and women are not different in that way.

  28. 59

    For me, I can’t hide the fact that it ticks me off that sex has come to mean so little. I care about the standards in society because (for instance) if a woman feels there’s nothing wrong with getting her physical needs met and has no emotional ties to the man she’s hooking up with….at what point does she know (or care) whether she’s hooking up with someone elses husband or so called “committed” boyfriend? (Yes, it’s easy for men to cheat when they have such an abundance of willing participants)

    I happen to believe in marriage and commitment. So how does having sex and walking away really work? 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? Or do you never invest in the person you’re interested in (because one or both of you are unable to emotionally connect) because your still hooking up with others? Do you just enjoy it while it lasts with no residual effects? My guess is…..there’s absolutely no need for commitment or any reason to be vulnerable to another human being…..because it is far too easy to “get off” on the here and now. If hookups are so cool and liberating and no one gets emotionally involved (because after all, it’s just a hookup)….then why are we even debating whether hookups are dangerous?

  29. 60

    To Steven #54: Most definitely! There can be far more agony and profound grief in a failed marriage than the cleaners aspect of it, speaking only from my own experience. I think that my interpretation of “hooking up” may be different from some of our other posters. To me, it’s not about two people who have things in common going for casual sex without commitment. They never even get to what they have in common. They meet, have their fun, end of story.

    As Evan himself has repeated, make sure he’s into YOU first before you go to that next level, if that’s what you’re seeking of course.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *