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.

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  1. 91

    For me, Kohellet (Ecclesiastes 9:9) said it best when he commented Enjoy your time with the woman you love all the days of your fleeting life…this is your only reward for your toil and labor beneath the sun.

    Might I note he had 1000 wives and concubines, though? I’ve wondered, does that make him an expert or a hypocrite? 🙂 LOL

    I assert, “an expert”.

    So it’s out of respect that I write what I’m about to.

    For me, the words of Kohellat mean that even a thousand sexual relationships do not equal a single quality relationship with a very special woman. I love this blog because I think that while on the whole it advocates for that position, I learn so much from all those who disagree, too. Your opinions fascinate me because I literally come from a different world – an orthodox religious world that I am already no longer a part of, but whose values with regard to community and relationships I still retain.

    I am in the process of ending a 26 year marriage with the ONLY woman I’ve ever been with. I’m trying to figure out if in your world, the one I’ll soon enter, the values that cause me to retain my chastity or exclusivity is a fault or a strength. I have a very hard time getting my arms around the concept of “hookups”. I just cannot fathom (as much as I try) how people can “just have sex” unless it’s within a relationship of commitment. And, I’ve never tried 🙂

    I imagine hookups as being like chewing on gristle when you can have steak. I know you gotta eat, but can’t you eat something else in the meantime, rather than risk thinking that gristle is all there is? Or, is it like having steak all the time, and never then being able to appreciate it as something special? I’m not sure. I think the former.

    When I hear myself asking this question, I castigate myself for judging with no experience. So I try to learn from others, like here – on this blog. Many of you seem so confident in the worth of what you gain from relationships without commitment. I ask myself whether my values are useful in such a world.

    In a historical context of the sort Janet laid out, it seems my values are “wrong” for your world, if even ever they were right. I don’t think her historical perspective provides the full context though.

    For me, my relationship with a woman, and hers with me, creates the smallest and most potent form of “community” known to civilization. The “LTCR” (“C” is for “Committed”). True, it’s only a “community-of-two”, but it’s a community nevertheless. As Janet noted, “community” is a way we organize for survival, and it seems I’m fairly alone here because I’m not analyzing the question from the exclusive perspective of what we personally get from relationships. I’m asserting we have an obligation to more than ourselves in making our choices so that”survival” means not only physical survival, but also “spiritual” survival – the ways we cultivate the safety of relationships to grow as individuals and couples (I’m not defining “spiritual” religiously), but also how we channel that growth to strengthen the institutions that served as the framework that enabled those relationships so that future generations might benefit from it, too. To be explicit, I think we NEED relationships – and have an obligation to future generations to cultivate them as previous generations did for us.

    When my marriage ceased being a nurturing environment for me, it lost its value in this sense. Nobody has an obligation to stay in relationships that aren’t working. But I think people DO have an obligation to treat others with enough respect, that we have an obligation to demand respect, such that our relationships with others can have the environment needed to develop, and once developed never devolve to being merely “hookups” – even within the context of our own marriages.

    When “hookups” become as legitimate as a relationship choice as relationships of respect (rather than mere “mutual interest”), I think we undermine more than just ourselves – we undermine the whole institution of relationships as a context for individual growth, and make good relationships a rare find because fewer and fewer have the patience to cultivate them. With time, as we cease imparting the values and skills of relationship building, fewer of us have ever seen good relationships we can use as models.

    So, I vote against hookups – as exciting as they seem to be, I think they’re “snack food” when we need a “balanced diet”.

  2. 92

    Newbie, it’s not that your values are no longer useful in this world. It’s that everybody wants to make up their own. See we’re “evolved” now. We’ve all got a lot of head knowledge but not very much wisdom. I think you expressed wisdom in your post and I’m sorry that after 26 years you’ve had to call it quits. I’m sure that’s a painful thing.

  3. 93


    No dear. Those are all YOUR own inferences.

  4. 94

    Re:Starthrower #89 & 90

    I agree with you on both posts.

    I think sometimes people do not do enough deliberation when deciding to marry, rather choosing to marry based on primarily on Isabelle Archer’s observations #34.

    Nurturing is a better word than “work” when it comes to what good relationships require. I think of it as *tending* and willingness to compromise when needed. Neither concept I would describe as “work” .

    Haven’t seen the movie “Fireproof” yet. Looking forward to catching it.

  5. 95

    Starthrower68, communities (and couples) are basically people who gather around the same values, and that’s one of the reasons a “couple” is the most basic of communities. They are cooperative ventures to the core, based on the sense that we gain more from our association than we could apart from it.

    I admit I’m speaking from a very rarified place here – I never tried “hookups”, nor did I ever look for the opportunity to do so. I imagine myself as the studious kid who walks passed the smoking pit where all the cool kids are in High School on the way to my first class, knowing I’ve chosen to be apart from them – even as I’m very curious about how they see the world. What have they experienced of it that could make my life richer? Can I be so sure my choices are better ones. The truth is I don’t know. That’s why I “lurk” here – to learn more.

    Yes – “everybody wants to make up their own” values, but I think there is a nobility and dignity that we must ensure we do not violate in others when we make our choices. The consequences of our choices affect them. So, much as a society where nearly everybody lies throws into question the veracity of those who only tell the truth, treating all kinds of relationships as though they are of equal objective value undermines the “ideal” many of us seek in relationships. That I think is the underlying question about values that underlays Evan’s post.

    I dunno. For me, hookups are the “second hand smoke” of the world of relationships, I sense. But again – I am really curious about those kids at the smoking pit 🙂 I’ll probably just keep walking, though.

  6. 96

    In long post on the collective history of marriage in the West, I am not advocating anything. I am merely pointing out that not everyone throughout human history has viewed relationship and s*x the same way nor defince “valuable” in the same way. There has been a clear evolution in behaviors. And today we have ways to study physiology and behavior and history that lead to an understanding of where we come from, where we are, and where we might go. There have always been hookups, even in orthodox religious settings. Whether one partakes or not is an individual choice. Agreeing to abide by a particular group’s rules/agreements about behavior is as valid a choice as choosing not to. There are good reasons for both. I believe that what I was saying is that there is something for everybody–each needs to find his/her others to build a life with.

    But every choice for something is also a choice against something else. It is usual for us to hold our way as better (of course we believe that, or we’d choose something else, no?) and others’ way as of less value.

    So we can expect disagreement and offense. 🙂

  7. 97

    Janet, in 81 it seems to me that what you’re advocating is that “choice” is what makes our decisions “rich” ones. Without it, you concluded that we are “shoved” and “brainwashed” into decisions we wouldn’t otherwise make. I just don’t think most people live their lives so conscientiously – most people, even today, are led to behaviors that they mimic or comply with, without the thought that makes their behavior “choice” in the vaulted sense I think you meant it.

    I thought you advocated for a position opposed to mine because of the way you framed the history and the way you used your words to approve current mores, and deprecate those of the Victorians (not that they themselves found them sustainable, either, and not that I’m Victorian – I don’t see value in extremes). Mores, irrespective of the side of this debate one advocates, are “shoved” at us – it’s the price we pay for our association with others. It’s why I asked my question – I’m trying to get my arms around the rules of the game of the world I live in, which are different from the one I lived in.

    So, living on the edge of two worlds and being forced to choose, I see clearly that all that’s changed is that the side of the argument that predominates today is not the same one that predominated 50 years ago, and you wrote that what predominated 50 years ago did not predominate before it. But both views DO enforce themselves on their respective generations, and most of us comply, never actually choosing.

    I think probably where we believe alike is that we both agree people should choose wisely – where we disagree I think is regarding the scope of issues that define which choices are wise ones. My scope is very broad still – a throwback to my background. I’m not certain that’s a bad thing.

    Currently, I’m trying to figure out where the middle path is – the proper balance of nature (chemistry and attraction) and nurture (developed relationships). I’m here looking for common ground – trying to improve nature with nurture, and the reverse, rather than the obvious ways we disagree. Eventually, I hope I can just stop thinking about it 🙂

  8. 98

    Newbie: I’m not advocating choice, I’m pointing out what is obvious–we have many more socially acceptable choices in the forms that our relationships may take than we did a few decades ago. There have been other times in history where societies did approve of/tolerate many different domestic situations. These are not my ideas. They are the ideas of Stephanie Coontz in her book, “Marriage: A History,” that I am sure everyone is sick of hearing me plug on this site. 🙂

    But she’s a highly credentialed historian and author, specializing in family systems.

    So you believe that you have higher moral standards than most re: relationships and sex because of your religious background. I hear ya. I’m fine with you believing that.

  9. 99
    Curly Girl

    You know, I used to read this blog and get all mad and I really didn’t like a lot of the people on here. But now I’ve melllowed, and I’m really starting to appreciate everyone. Except I still have a small problem with Vino. I think it would be fun to drink wine with him b/c he says he knows a lot about it, which is really fun, but you’d have to be all pretty and girly and perfect with him, which is hard when you have curly hair. Still, I’m sure the wine-drinking would be fun and informative.

    Stop being so smart and bookwormy!

    Janet, I like ya, sister, but I think you’re being too hard on our Newbie. He’s been married for 26 years in a wedding-night-virgin-faithful-guy kinda way. He can hardly be expected to understand hookups and historical marriages of convenience and so forth. We need to be nice to him.

  10. 100
    Curly Girl

    I don’t know what happened there, but the “smart and bookwormy” comment was for Janet and was supposed to come AFTER my sisterly advice to her.

    I do not think that Vino is being too smart and bookwormy. But Janet is. Definitely.

  11. 101
    Curly Girl

    Janet: No offense.

  12. 102


    Sure, though it’s more like an axe I like to grind on others’ behalf.


    Well, y’know. Yes and no. Of course the hypothetical individual is at least 50% “responsible” in a technical sense, but it’s hard to feel like a bad drunken decision to stick your dick in someone which results in life-of-misery-with-vampire-hellbitch, say-goodbye-to-your-financial-future-and-personal-development-plans, or universally-loathed-poster-boy-for-deadbeat-dads-the-world-over as double thumbs up possibilities of consequence is a case of the punishment fitting the crime. Even though it does.

    tl;dr: I’ve seen friends’ lives ruined by minor failures with major consequences.

    *shrug*´s last blog post… review

  13. 103

    None taken. 🙂

  14. 104

    Janet, that you concluded with being fine with my believing what I believe is emblematic of the point I was making – choices about how we enter relationships echo beyond us and our partner, and return to us – and eventually reflect on our own ability to access and retain deep, intimate, long term relationships. Karma? Maybe.

    And it’s not really relevant whether my view is right for me, if at the same time it cannot also make the world more right for others. Yet our generation believes the rightness of those choices is created the moment we choose.

    I kinda get that. It makes things simpler for us. My life is complicated now – I’d like it more simple. I find that thinking alluring.

    But our view of relationships infect or have been infected by a generational world view that the quality of our choices can not be measured by the consequences we all know we suffer as the price for fragmenting relationships into a sexual part and a relationship part.

    My cultural views developed in religion – that’s true. Still, for those who’d dismiss them for that reason, try Kant’s 3 maxims on for size – maxims he developed to guide human ethical relationships in the absence of religious dogma. It is, actually, based on these maxims that I have had such difficulty understanding “hookups” – so similar are his maxims to the essence of what I think religion tries to do.

    1) Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law

    2) Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end.

    3) Therefore, every rational being must so act as if he were through his maxim always a legislating member in the universal kingdom of ends.

    So, as much as I appreciate historical analysis of what WAS, I’m also interested in the history that all of us create every day with our actions – what WILL BE. I’ve got 4 kids still – whom I care for deeply. What choices would I want them to make so that they could leave richer lives? Those are the choices I am seeking to model – and it’s in part why I’m using this forum to explore the choices in all their aspects.

    I recommend for those who haven’t to listen to the NPR recording – it presents a very well rounded view of all sides of the argument.

  15. 105

    But it’s OK for a woman’s life to be ruined and an unwanted child to be born b/c a drunken guy makes a “bad drunken decision” to stick his dick in somebody without one thought to the consequences? Oh, please. I guess it’s OK for the drunk guy to drive himself home. It’s everybody else’s fault for being in his drunken way, right?

  16. 106

    @casualencounters #102

    Perhaps bottles of alcohol should come with warning labels for men. Something along the lines of: “Warning: Consumption of this Product could result in a bad drunken decision to stick your dick in someone which results in life-of-misery-with-vampire-hellbitch, say-goodbye-to-your-financial-future-and-personal-development-plans, or becoming a universally-loathed-poster-boy-for-deadbeat-dads-the-world-over . Drink responsibly.”

  17. 107

    First of all, I’m 48. Raised in a very strict religious home myself. Have moved beyond Kant and categorical imperatives and into Bertrand Russell and, ultimately, Sartre and the subjectivity of experience. Thus, I don’t know how anyone can have the hubris, or “bad faith,” to assume s/he knows what kind of world is “right” for others. And now we’re back to the patriarchy discussion.

  18. 108

    @casualencounters #102

    I would love to tell you that the only person you can control is yourself and that ending up in a bad marriage is 100% your problem as it is fallout from your judgment at the time as well as your decision.

    I would be right, but it wouldn’t feel right to tell you that. People make mistakes. It *hurts* to lose most everything you’ve worked for. There isn’t much you can do if a spouse changes and has no interest in working on themselves. Your anger is real and it is common.

    Post #102 sounds very similar to the things my mother and father used to say about each other for years after their divorce. They said those things around me forgetting that the *&^%$ mentioned is *my* [mother|father].

    If you don’t want your kids to hate you, don’t talk like that around them. Otherwise you will be injecting cynicism and other emotional issues that will likely stay with them, to some degree for life.

    You might want to stop it for yourself too. It comes as ugly and is a fairly good anti-person repellent.

    No offense, we all have problems.

  19. 109

    Janet Jun 10th 2009 at 05:43 am 107
    Have moved beyond Kant and categorical imperatives and into Bertrand Russell and, ultimately, Sartre and the subjectivity of experience.

    God, I love when women talk philosophy! :). Its almost as much of a turn on as fishnets and high heels :).

    Okay, so I am perv…….

  20. 110

    @Selena post #106

    Thank you for the Wednesday morning LOL! 🙂

  21. 111

    Wow, has this question taken some twists and turns….

  22. 112

    Curly Girl Jun 9th 2009 at 05:09 pm 99

    Pretty & girly with curly hair – not mutually exclusive items & great in combination. Keep the ‘perfect.’ I hate perfect, as it’s a sham. One of the best, maybe the best, woman I dated had long curly hair.

    And you would have tons of fun drinking wine with me. I’m a friggin’ blast. Of course, you’d probably disagree with me on dating matters.

    Selena Jun 10th 2009 at 03:52 am 106
    responding to
    @casualencounters #102

    The exchange reminds me of the debate in another thread regarding sex & responsibilities for birth control. As a guy, even if you are ‘hooking up’ (as ill-defined as that is), you should never, ever, have sex with someone unless you can verify that she is also on birth control. Live by that rule & you avoid much trouble, though you may forgo a few romps.

    Basic premise is that neither wants to have a child from the sex, so therefore each person is responsible for using some birth control. Him – condom. Her – pill or one of the other ten or so forms available to women. If she ain’t using or going to use one, then you ain’t gonna bump uglies. Simple as that.

    This is some of the downside to hooking up. That said, it’s far better than the legal entanglement of marriage.

  23. 113

    Janet Jun 10th 2009 at 02:50 am 105

    “But it’s OK for a woman’s life to be ruined and an unwanted child to be born b/c a drunken guy makes a bad drunken decision to stick his dick in somebody without one thought to the consequences? Oh, please. I guess it’s OK for the drunk guy to drive himself home. It’s everybody else’s fault for being in his drunken way, right?”

    Taking rape out if the equation, the woman in this scenario sounds like a mannequin that can happen to bear children. Apparently, she didn’t choose to not take birth control. She didn’t choose to have sex with the guy. She didn’t choose to think about the consequences. She didn’t choose to have an abortion.

    I guess she made no choices in this whatsoever.

    Give us a break. Stop the one sided demonization.

  24. 114

    Vino #112

    Agreed on the birth control.

    Gotta wonder how many of these drunken guys sticking it in vampire-bitches are conscientious about wearing condoms though. Maybe condoms should be supplied with each alcoholic beverage sold?

    Unplanned pregnancy is indeed one of the possible downsides of “hook-ups”. Doesn’t seem to deter the determined however.

  25. 115

    @ Vino #112

    What is your definition of “verify” regarding a woman’s birth control? Do you need to see a medical chart that an IUD was inserted? Do you ask a woman you are thinking of sleeping with for the first time to bring her birth control pills to the date? I would hope verbal verification is sufficient…

  26. 116

    Vino: Just responding to casualencounters’ one-sided demonization by presenting the other. I personally don’t participate in these kind of situations. But I do understand the law and the reasons for it.

  27. 117
    Curly Girl

    At least Vino isn’t saying we all have to be on the Pill, like he used to.

  28. 118

    On the birth control thing, particularly in a hook-up type situation, guys have to wear condoms all of the time if they don’t want to father children, or get vasectomies. Not that either one of these is even fool-proof though.

    I don’t think verbal verification of woman’s birth control status is enough, particularly in a hook-up type situation, as pills can always be forgotten, she could be on antibiotics or some herbal medications (St. John’s Wort) and not know that they may render the pill ineffective, she could get food poisioning and throw up a pill, etc. Because once the sperm leaves the guy’s body, he is *completely* out of choices. Women have more options (as unpleasant as some of those may be). If there is anything that guys should be particularly paranoid/careful about, it’s unwanted pregnancies.

    But I’m glad this thread is slowing down. All of the contentiousness annoys the hell out of me and makes me tired.

  29. 119

    Selena Jun 10th 2009 at 10:05 am 114
    Vino #112

    “Unplanned pregnancy is indeed one of the possible downsides of hook-ups. Doesn’t seem to deter the determined however.”

    Reminds me of something I heard once, though I don’t recall the source. – The poor & the stupid will always procreate.

    Take out the ‘poor’ & I think that statement may be an absolute (typo intended) truth…

    Cilla Jun 10th 2009 at 10:10 am 115
    @ Vino #112

    Verbal assurances mean nothing. Sorry. I don’t want to be a daddy and I’m not taking someone’s word for it they are also using contraception. Otherwise, the guy makes the case for his detractors that he ‘should a known better.’ Lady has to be using it also, or no sex. Not the most romantic POV, but the most responsible course for someone who doesn’t want kids. I can’t wait for the male pill.

    Janet Jun 10th 2009 at 11:27 am 116
    “Vino: Just responding to casual encounters one-sided demonization by presenting the other. I personally don’t participate in these kind of situations. But I do understand the law and the reasons for it.”

    Cool. Good on ya.

    Curly Girl Jun 10th 2009 at 11:52 am 117
    “At least Vino isn’t saying we all have to be on the Pill, like he used to.”

    Where did you ever read that? That’s a lie, and I’ll call it as such till you prove otherwise.

    What I’ve said is as above – women who truly don’t want kids WILL take one of the 11 or so available methods of birth control. Anything else is equivocating nonsense.

  30. 120

    @ Vino

    You didn’t answer my question. If verbal verification is not sufficient for you, how do you go about proving a woman is on birth control?

    If a woman tells you she is unable to bear children, do you demand to see copies of her medical records and then call the doctor to verify they haven’t been falsified?

    For your dates on birth control pills, you will need access to her complete records, as well, including prescriptions and over the counter supplements. You could ask a woman to bring her birth control pills to your date, but you still have no verification that she is actually taking them or, as a PP pointed out, that she’s not taking something else that competes for CYP 450 metabolism. Do you perform directly observed therapy every day for at least 30 days to make sure your date is actually taking the pills (and at exactly 24-hour intervals)?

    Do you perform a pelvic exam to ascertain that your date’s IUD is in place?

    Do you inspect your date’s diaphragm to ensure that it is intact, and do you then check your date’s weight to make sure she has not gained or lost enough since being given the diaphragm to possibly render it ill fitting?

    If verbal verification of female contraception, in addition to the use of a condom, is not enough, then perhaps you shouldn’t be having sex, hook up or no. I can’t imagine you get anyone to sleep with you if you demand actual physical proof that she is on birth control (and of course, that it’s working).

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