Is There Anything Wrong With Hooking Up?

Have Hookups Replaced Dating?

Hanna Rosin is the author of the new book, “The End of Men” which discusses the changing gender roles in 21st century America. She’s also a noted feminist blogger who created XX for Slate magazine and published an interesting new article in this month’s Atlantic Magazine about the hook-up culture.

Now first off, let me say that the hook-up culture is nothing new. We may have more girls texting naked pictures than they did in 1991, when I was in college, but I don’t think that binge drinking and the walk of shame started with the Millenials. If anything, we’re just now seeing the effects of women who were brought up believing in full equality, which includes hooking up with men for pleasure, instead of using college to go on a husband hunt.

We can debate whether something dreamy and idealistic is lost in all of this inebriated collegiate bed-hopping.

Says Rosin, “What emerged from four years of research was the sense that hooking up was part of a larger romantic strategy…For an upwardly mobile, ambitious young woman, hookups were a way to dip into relationships without disrupting her self-development or schoolwork. Hookups functioned as a “delay tactic…because the immediate priority, for the privileged women at least, was setting themselves up for a career. “If I want to maintain the lifestyle that I’ve grown up with,” one woman said, “I have to work. I just don’t see myself being someone who marries young and lives off of some boy’s money.”

We can debate whether something dreamy and idealistic is lost in all of this inebriated collegiate bed-hopping. I’d probably say it is. But there’s no putting that genie back in the bottle. Women and men are equal and they’re absolutely dating that way – hoping to find love eventually, but content with some fun sexual experience for now.

“About 66 percent of women say they wanted their most recent hookup to turn into something more, but 58 percent of men say the same – not a vast difference, considering the cultural panic about the demise of chivalry and its consequences for women. And in fact, the broad inference that young people are having more sex–and not just coarser sex–is just wrong; teenagers today, for instance, are far less likely than their parents were to have sex or get pregnant. Between 1988 and 2010, the percentage of teenage girls having sex dropped from 37 to 27, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By many measures, the behavior of young people can even look like a return to a more innocent age.”

I’m decidedly nonjudgmental about people’s sex lives. Do what you want, try not to hurt anyone else and be conscious of what you can handle emotionally. If you can’t handle hooking up, opt out of it, like 25% of students do. Personally, I think the college years are the perfect time to experiment and feel out your limits for alcohol, drugs, and sex, not to mention making sound financial decisions, studying without being coerced, and taking responsibility for the results in your life. Since I didn’t lose my virginity until sophomore year, I had a lot of catching up to do, and far be it from me to condemn a young woman who is having the same experience. I remember it as one of the best times of my life.

What do you think? Is hooking up wrong? How has it worked for you?

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  1. 1

    I would say I used hooking up as a form of dating in my mid-late twenties when I was too focused on my career to seriously date but still craved some sort of relationship with a man. Now that I am 31 and want a husband I don’t hook up. I don’t regret it at all.

  2. 2

    Interestingly Helen Fisher Anthropologist and author of “love” science research said 30% of hook ups in one of her studies went on to form relationships. I thought that was pretty encouraging. In fact my marriage of 20 years evolved from what I thought was going to be a one night hook up ….  

  3. 3

    Hookups are wrong, but people still give into it:having sex with someone they don’t know, or even care to know.   Occasionally one of these illicit relationships grows into something more, but not often.   Becoming friends with someone and moving into something more meaningful has long term benefits for people seeking to become a couple basing their relationship on something more than a physical relationship with sexual benefits.   Though I have partaken of hookups, it never ever works.   Never leads to something more meaningful and when the physical attraction wanes, the relationship flickers out like a candle in the wind.   I want a ltr that is based on common values, common interests and with a mutual respect and admiration for one another:offering us more than the bedroom in common.  

  4. 4

    I think that hooking up is fine – as long as you see it for what it is. I think the mistake a lot of people make is to see hook ups as a way into a potential relationship, when generally they aren’t.
    For people (of both sexes)   looking for a relationship,there can be  times when that option simply isn’t happening, and to have no sex as well as no boyfriend is just double misery! Many people – myself included – would not argue with the idea that sex with a committed partner who loves you is far preferable to random hook-ups, but unfortunately committed relationships are not something you can purchase at a department store. being alone can be tough, and hooking up with an attractive guy can be enjoyable and even comforting during periods when there is no committed man in your life. I do think, though, that you need to see hook ups as something entirely separate from dating or looking for a life partner. If you’re on a night out and meet someone you’re considering hooking up with, you need to ask yourself – “would I potentially be interested in dating this guy?” If the answer is “yes” then the last thing you should do is hook up with him. I think that in gerneral by hooking up you actually REDUCE the chances that you will end up in a relationship with that person.

    Having said all that, I am currently in a committed relationship (and likely heading for marriage! WOW!) with  a guy I hooked up with on holiday a few months ago – I can hardly believe it. I didn’t expect things to go this way,it was not on my agenda when I met him,  but that is what has happened so it can work out that way, but I still would say it is definately not the norm, and hooking up and searching for a life partner should be considered 2  entirely separate activities!  

  5. 5

    Having sex is the greatest gift we’ve been given as human beings.   Nothing comes close to it.   The way we treat sex today is disrespectful.   It’s no more than a sneeze or cough or hiccup.   You develop a high level of respect for sex once you’ve been in love and experience having sex with someone you truly care about and someone who cares about you.   Sad…..

  6. 6

    I think hooking-up is okay. I wouldn’t say it is particularly moral, but then I wouldn’t hugely condemn it either. What I do believe is that you must take responsibility for yourself and make sure you can trust and respect the person you get involved with. What you definitely shouldn’t do is to do it expecting something meaningful or a self-esteem boost. I know women who have and it hasn’t worked out for them often. The exceptions are there to prove the rule. I used to be quite conservative about sex due to my upbringing. But I have now engaged in some hook-ups. I feel quite liberated by it and don’t now feel so out of control. I doubt I will look for a relationship out of lust rather than a true emotional connection. I can now separate the two. I am in my early twenties and at a stage in my life where I suppose I am figuring out what love and sex really mean for me.

    When I first hooked-up, I stopped and thought “I have not changed as a person. I have not become a ‘slut'” (which is what people have said to me). I rejected everything I had learnt up to that point. People like to be black and white but simply because I enjoy casual sex, does not mean I have no capacity to feel and to show real love (I’d argue that I can even more so). I am not one-dimensional. Further I have treated every person I have been involved with, with kindness and respect. I would not try for a friends-with-benefits arrangement because I do not believe it could possibly be made equal. I would not hook-up if I was interested in a man relationship-wise. I would not do it if I had a longing in my heart for romance. I’d stop, take stock and figure out where I’m heading and what I want out of life. Well I know what I want and these experiences have taught me a lot. I do not regret them.

    I have one question though. I talk about this freely to close friends but not because I have a sex life in order to brag about it. A couple have warned me to lie about my number and extent of sexual experience to get on better with a man I might end up dating. However I don’t think I’d be true to myself if I did this. I would never tell them everything (why do I need to?) but I don’t think I would hide it either. Those experiences made me who I am. I don’t need to be validated but I reckon that my having had a threesome (for example) would intimidate some men.

  7. 7

    Hooking up is not an activity just for the college-age crowd.   I’ve dated extensively over the last few years.   I know I might be busting a few stereotypes but quite a few women I’ve met are just like men when it comes to “hooking up.”   I’ve gone out with plenty of women who are not really interested in a LTR for a variety of reasons. Whether 35 or 55, many of them just want to enjoy life and don’t have any hang-ups about NSA sex.   They just want a decent man to spend time with and want to keep things very casual.

  8. 8

    Posters, define what hookup means to you.   Most posters so far say it means intercourse (or close enough that it might as well be intercourse). I have heard it meanheavy petting with someone you don’t intend to have a relationship with, and one night stand is used to mean sex.
    The excerpts from the article say it is sex, but urban dictionary attributes several meanings to it, so for clarity give us your definition.

    1. 8.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      My definition of hookup is anything physical without commitment. Making out is hooking up.

  9. 9

    @Evan-then I hook up a couple times a month at least!!!

  10. 10

    I’ve kissed plenty of guys I knew I’d never see again.   However, I’ve never had sex hookups because I know myself well enough that I realise I’m someone who attaches too much ego and emotional importance to more intimate physical acts.     I don’t think I’m “better” than those who have sex without commitment but I am glad I know myself well to create boundaries that seem to work pretty well for me.

  11. 11

    So we all know that its not a bad idea to hold out on having sex until someone is your partner.   In fact, if more people did this my guess is there’d be a whole lot less heartache out there, and a whole lot less people on here bemoaning the fact there there are no ”decent men/women” left.

    Yes I think hooking up (as per EMKs definition) is more prevalent, or at least, more socially acceptable.   Does it make it ok? Not if you want a partner as it seems 66% of people do.   

    the problem is that sex changes things.   it gets hormones racing that skew thoughts and feelings.   If you can handle that then I guess thats a whole other issue, but seems to me most people cant.

  12. 12

    Hooking up was great when I was in my 20-30’s but now I want something more than that.

  13. 13

    Hooking up is no problem in my book.  

    I don’t even think it’s got anything to do with having morals or not. It’s anyone’s own personal business and he/she is not hurting anyone else, so why not.


    From a guy’s perspective…if the girl I’m with has a very adventurous sexual past, I’d rather not know. But if the guy you’re with insists on asking you, you’ve got the green light.

    But if he never asked for it and you tell him, it’d be the same as him telling you about his past sexual experiences–only, in very very vivid details. You wouldn’t want to hear that.

    So why not spare him.

  14. 14

    @Leo – As I suspected. Well I have no need to flaunt my sexual past at anyone. And if I did, then I’d have to question why I had sex in the first place. My plan has always been not to mention it unless explicitly asked. After all, it doesn’t affect anything I will be doing in the future. Even if he asked, I’d still make an effort to look at the situation properly and still not mention it all simply because he says he wants to know.

    With regard to what you said, “I don’t even think it’s got anything to do with having morals or not.”,  I know I’ll give the best response if I’m honest, so here goes. I absolutely do think it has something to do with morals. I have never got into a situation I did not want to be in. However with a couple of men I’ve slept with casually they have only raised the question of commitment after the act. This is when they’ve said “I’m avoiding a relationship” or “I’m not looking for a relationship”. This has been okay because I never went into it expecting something. However it does make me wonder why they find it so difficult to be honest up front and how that would affect a woman who wasn’t as sure of what she was doing as I was. They think they are excused from a position of responsibility because they never went into it promising anything. But I would argue that it has to work both ways. They have a responsibility to properly check whether the woman is more emotionally invested even if she has not said so. And the same would work if a woman was initiating something with a man. I would certainly not get involved with someone casually if I could tell he wanted more from it which I couldn’t give.

    I got into hooking up because I wanted to experiment and actually test my feelings about sex. I have to tell you that it’s done nothing to dissuade me from my preference for sex within a loving relationship (which has made me realise what I want). It’s opened my eyes too. Maybe I was naive but it is definitely not as glamorous as I perceived. Most people who do it don’t really know what they’re doing and can’t really deal with the consequences. My number is not actually that high but I’d say that some of men I have been involved with casually have some kind of emotional avoidance issue and that’s why they’ve pursued something casual over a meaningful relationship. Rarely have I been involved with someone casually who doesn’t have some kind of emotional baggage.  

    Maybe I have plenty myself. I went into it after being in relationship after relationship in which I’d been mistreated. Looking back I feel like I wasn’t appreciated so I’ve never really had love and sex in the same package. I feel more respected sexually by the people I’ve been involved with casually than I have been in long-term relationships. I’m not sure how to interpret that.

  15. 15

    “Define what hook-up means to you”

    I would define a hook-up as spending the night in a bed with someone and having some sort of physical contact; ranging from just a fumble to full intercourse.
    “I have one question though…a couple have warned me to lie about my number and extent of sexual experience…I would never tell them everything…but I reckon that my having had a threesome (for example) would intimidate some men.”

    I think your number and extent of sexual experience is nobody’s business but yours, therefore, you don’t have to discuss it with any future partner. Lying isn’t a great idea unless you have a great memory. I wouldn’t be intimidated by finding out you had a threesome (I might by a gangbang though!).

    “They have a responsibility to properly check whether the woman is more emotionally invested even if she has not said so”

    This is wishful thinking…the onus is on each individual to look out for their own emotional well-being, not someone else’s.

    “I’d say that some of men I have been involved with casually have some kind of emotional avoidance issue and that’s why they’ve pursued something casual over a meaningful relationship”

    As you are quite young I will assume the men you are hooking up with are quite young; and for young men hooking up is just great fun! No more than that really.

    My question is; what is the most sensitive and honest way of ending a hook-up? Should a guy ask for her number even if he knows he’ll never ring her? Or should he just kiss her on the cheek and walk away?
    I’ve walked away from girls after hook ups before without asking for their numbers and saw the hurt in their eyes, which made me feel terrible. Other times I’ve taken their numbers but didn’t ring them. What is the correct etiquette in this situation?

  16. 16
    Karmic Equation


    From several books and blogs I’ve read, even if the guy *insists* on knowing, it is recommended to NOT tell him your number no matter how low or high. Not because you have anything to hide (although he may intimate that) — but because it is none of his business and him having that knowledge would NOT be beneficial in any way, shape, or form to the relationship. Don’t lie, but don’t tell. The recommendation is to say something vague (“I’m sure it’s less than yours”) or deflect (“Why do you want to know?”). And no matter how reasonable sounding his answer may be, and no matter how much you want to tell him, don’t tell. And if he pressures you, he’s not the guy for you, because only masochists, low self-esteemers, or prudes want to know. Guys who have been around don’t ask; guys who are confident don’t care.

    @Helene 4 – I agree with you 100% on not hooking up with potential romantic interests.


    Always ask yourself if you may want the guy to be a BF in the future BEFORE you hook up. If you’re honest, and think YES or even MAYBE, then DO NOT HOOK UP. If the answer is I DON’T CARE or NO, then go for it. The caveat is that even if you want him to be a BF in the future, he may not want you to be his gf. But you need to answer the question honestly to yourself, because that honest answer will help you avoid an ONS with someone you may care for. While consciously you haven’t made this assessment, your subconscious probably has…and the honest answer will help you avoid unnecessary heartbreak.

    When I was in college, hookups and booty calls were not the norm. I had never been anyone’s booty call. So it was interesting to become one at the age of 45. And I have to say it was a truly liberating experience. Having always been a serial monogamist (sure I had a few ONS in my 20’s between relationships, those don’t count as I was such a newbie) – I always cared more about my guy’s pleasure during sex to the exclusion of my own pleasure. But as a booty call, I only had to think about my own pleasure and was not at all concerned about his as I figured that was his problem LOL…and lo and behold, the sex was better than I had ever experienced in a committed relationship.

    Moral of the story, I guess, is that even in a committed relationship, at least in my case, focusing on my own pleasure actually assures BOTH parties are satisfied. Which, applied to the hookup culture, may mean that women who grew up, and participated, in it are probably much more satisfied sexually (or at least more readily know how to become sexually satisfied) than those of us who grew up before the hookup culture became pervasive.

  17. 17
    Karmic Equation

    @Tom10 16

    “This is wishful thinking…the onus is on each individual to look out for their own emotional well-being, not someone else’s.”

    Agreed 100%. The problem, Tom, is that most women think that having sex with a guy tells the guy (without words) they’re interested in a relationship; while guys put on blinders and willfully ignore this unspoken expectation. How to level the playing field? I would suggest that WOMEN who are expecting relationships to result from sex, to take the initiative and say, “if I have sex with you, I want us to have a relationship afterwards. I consider tonight the first night of our relationship.” — But no woman woman (except maybe Fusee) will do this. So, women, if you’re not willing to volunteer this, then don’t expect men to volunteer that they’re not looking for a relationship. They are equivalent.

    “My question is; what is the most sensitive and honest way of ending a hook-up? Should a guy ask for her number even if he knows he’ll never ring her? Or should he just kiss her on the cheek and walk away?”

    I would say the most sensitive way is to look her in the eyes and say sincerely “Thanks for a wonderful evening.” Then look away (so you don’t see the hurt), no kisses, no asking for numbers, no looking back, and just walk away. If you kiss her, you want to leave a good impression and are in essence hooking her in and hurting her more. If you really want to help her, do just as I say, so that she can hate your guts (or her own guts) and get over you faster.

  18. 18

    Tom10 #16
    Reading your post, I’m wondering if people always know it’s a hook-up. And by EMK’s definition, what exactly is a commitment? If a woman has gone out 3 times with a man and they make out, with her expectation that he’s going to keep seeing her, but he decides not to, is that a hook-up? I guess I think of a hook-up as a one night stand in which there are no expectations. You are not really “dating”. No?
    Did you tell the women before you hooked up that you weren’t looking for anything serious? Sounds like maybe you didn’t and are feeling guilty when you see the hurt on their faces. I know I’ve encountered men who were only to happy to let me think that something meaningful was happening, when it became clear later on that they were only humoring me. Unless both parties are very clear, it sounds like a gray area.

  19. 19

    @ Lucy #6 – like everyone else said, it’s don’t ask, don’t tell. That said, if a man insisted on knowing my exact number, that fact alone would lead me to thinking that he and I are probably not a good match, since his priorities are so different from mine. FTR no man has ever asked me about my number and I’ve never asked anyone about theirs. To me, it’s just irrelevant and frankly, like others said, none of my business.
    I had an interesting conversation the other day BTW, with an old friend who got out of an LTR around the same time I got out of my marriage, i.e. two years ago. One thing that surprised him when he started dating again was the number of women who have these arbitrary milestones – on date one, we’re allowed to hold hands. On date two, we’re allowed to kiss on the lips… etc etc His reaction to this was… “wth is this? Where are we. high school?” I told him that there are hundreds of books and dating-advice sites on the market that recommend women to do these things in order to secure commitment. According to him, it’s not working. All we do when we set these rules is weird the guy out. Personally I prefer things to flow naturally, depending on my personality, his personality and how well we get along. It may mean taking it slow, or it may mean moving quickly — whatever both sides are comfortable with.
    On topic, when in between relationships, I’d probably prefer FWB to ONS’s, because in my experience the first time is always so awkward and hardly satisfying, that I’d hate it to be my only time with a person. (My target audience are men in their 40s and early 50s.)

  20. 20

    Thank you everyone for your sage advice. I really feel that I am learning a lot from here, since you guys have experienced more of life than I have. It certainly gives me something to think about. And I agree with you, Karmic. Personally I don’t care what a potential partner’s number is. All I care about is that he is clean (I have had someone lie to me about this before).  

    @Tom10 – My question is; what is the most sensitive and honest way of ending a hook-up? Should a guy ask for her number even if he knows he’ll never ring her? Or should he just kiss her on the cheek and walk away?  

    Well I would feel that it’d be wrong to ask for a woman’s number if you have no intention of messaging her because that would be insincere and giving her false hope. I’d rather that people were authentic rather than do something for the sake of being nice whilst sending out the wrong communication signals. I suppose that others might have different opinions. From what I’ve experienced, it’s been friendly conversation the next day, them making me a cup of tea, walking me back to my house and a hug or a peck on the cheek. Strangely I’ve had more affection from men I’ve been casually involved with than past boyfriends. This makes my brain confused about men and how they do/should act.

    A gang bang is definitely not something I’d take part in…I find it hard to imagine how I could do that and retain my dignity.  

    @Karmic-  Always ask yourself if you may want the guy to be a BF in the future BEFORE you hook up. If you’re honest, and think YES or even MAYBE, then DO NOT HOOK UP. If the answer is I DON’T CARE or NO, then go for it.  

    Yes. That’s exactly my thought process. If my intuition tells me that it doesn’t feel right, then I don’t do it.   I have to protect my self-esteem.

    I felt what you were describing when I decided to be casual for a while. Although I’m only 22, I just felt drained by an abusive relationship I’d been in. I didn’t want to feel under anyone’s control for once, and I could discover a different side of myself. I realised that whatever society expects women to do sexually just isn’t me. I have a high sex drive, higher than some men I know, and I do need to find release sometimes.

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