Is There Anything Wrong With Hooking Up?

Have Hookups Replaced Dating?
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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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Comments:

  1. 21
    Lucy

    @Karmic –  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.”

    Well I agree with what you said. Just to clarify what I said, I was not identifying it as a gender issue. I just see a hazy line between people’s actions and expectations. Whilst a person should be able to look after themselves and state their needs adequately; I believe that they should make themselves accountable if their actions have inadvertently   had an effect on someone else because they’ve communicated their intentions incorrectly. Maybe it’s something people ask themselves a lot? How much are we responsible for as individual human beings, and how much is up to the other person? It’s very easy to take the easy route, which might prove not to be the right one.
      
    As you suggested, it’s best not to pretend to know what the other person’s intentions are. And if you’re unsure, asking will not do any harm. I used to think asserting myself would come across as aggressive but now realise that me asserting my   needs doesn’t mean the world will fall in under itself. It sounds obvious but it is counter-intuitive to everything I have learnt growing up about how to interact with the opposite sex.

  2. 22
    Tom10

    Ruby
    “If a woman has gone out 3 times with a man and they make out…is that a hook-up? Did you tell the women before you hooked up that you weren’t looking for anything serious?”

    Like you I see hook-ups as random one-off nights, rather than when dating someone. If I was actively dating someone I would feel a moral compunction to ensure we were on the same page at the outset. W

    My predicament normally arises when you meet someone after you’ve had a few drinks and think that they’re great. Then when sobriety hits in the morning you realise that for one reason or another it won’t go any further, rather than intentional deception.

    Karmic
    Thanks for that advice. I used to send a friendly text message a few days later purposely not asking her out, implying that I liked and respected her but didn’t see anything further happening. The problem with that is it might be construed as leading-on, thus furthering the confusion.

    I will stick to “thanks for a wonderful evening” from now on so.

  3. 23
    Fusee

    I do not think there is anything “wrong” or “immoral” per se with hooking up. Whatever consenting adults choose to engage into is fine by me, regardless of whether I want it for myself or not.
      
    However hooking up is threading in unsafe waters, and usually without really knowing that you are in unsafe waters. Older women who know what is going on can make an enlightened consent to the situation, but younger and less experienced women might end up consenting to something they might not truly understand. The consequences could be confusing: either believing there was more to it than what was actually offered, or convincing themselves that they will be able to secure real relationships with the same kind of guys later on, when they are finally ready to settle down.
      
    Not likely to happen. People have different criteria for casual sex and for relationships, and this blog is a good testimony of how some people of both genders feel entitled to a certain “standard” of partners (who might have chased them for casual sex when they were younger), but who will never consider them for anything more serious. Regardless of their numerous accomplishments.
      
    So hook up if you can enjoy it. But please educate your younger friends, sisters, and daughters about what such behaviors entail, and what the physical, emotional, and strategical risks are.
      
    @Tom #16: “What is the correct etiquette in this situation?”
      
    I find ironic to ask about etiquette in a situation that so often is about exploiting the grey areas, the lack of awareness and clarity. To me, the proper “etiquette” would be to clarify verbally and clearly BEFORE the fact that you just want casual sex and nothing else. The anti-game indeed! But less women would (sexually) hook up if they knew the truth. After the fact, there is no more need to worry about etiquette: either she did not care and does not need “etiquette”, or she did care and etiquette was needed BEFORE using her. At that point, this is going to be about you, and what would make you feel less bad about yourself, right?
      
    @Karmic Equation #18: “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.”
      
    I actually have even stricter standards than that and will not even go to second base BEFORE a relationship is established. With me, sex happen WITHIN a relationship, not as the celebration of “the first night of our relationship”. But as I said multiple times: to each their own. I completely respect other preferences. I have friends who wait until marriage, I have polyamorous friends, I have friends who go with the flow, and some acquaintances who hook up and have casual sex with multiple partners at the same time. I found a happy middle way that works great for me and the kind of men I’m interested in for the long-term, that’s all.
      
    My wish to everyone is to know themselves really well, to be fully educated on men/women dynamics, and to understand all the ramification of their choices not only in the short-term but also in the long-term, when their circumstances will have changed.

    1. 23.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @Karmic, in particular. I’ve enjoyed your contributions but felt the need to step in to offer a correction:

      a) “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.” – This is awkward phraseology. See my book “Why He Disappeared” for exactly how you can successfully communicate that you will only have sex within the boundaries of an exclusive relationships. It’s definitely not what you said above.

      b) Far more importantly, the key to understanding hooking up is not to expect men to suddenly stop having sex without attachment or emotion. That will never change. Instead of blaming men for doing what men do, take responsibility for your actions and have absolutely NO set of expectations following any sort of hook-up. Because, to most men, hooking up means NOTHING except physical pleasure. It is certainly not a promise of a future relationship. It’s not HIS job to tell you that. It’s YOUR job to know that.

  4. 24
    Nicole

    Maybe it’s a generational thing, b/c as someone who went to college in the 90’s, hooking up did NOT mean sex.   And for a lot of the college age people, it is frequently all matters of physical contact stopping short of intercourse.   It could be for some people, but it basically could be any kind of physical fooling around with someone that you were otherwise not committed to, and I’m pretty sure things haven’t changed from the idea that a lot of youngsters don’t date so much as have friends with varying levels of benefits.  

    Is everyone else here just a Boomer who is used to “going steady with a beau” and therefore completely unaware of the “hook-up culture” that has been rampant on college campuses for a while/  

  5. 25
    Ruby

    Tom10 #23
      
    My predicament normally arises when you meet someone after you’ve had a few drinks and think that they’re great. Then when sobriety hits in the morning you realise that for one reason or another it won’t go any further, rather than intentional deception.


    I’m curious, what makes you change your mind about these women the next day, if you thought they were so great the night before, or is it just the fact that you’re not looking for anything serious?

  6. 26
    Karmic Equation

    Well first, my post had a typo, didn’t mean to write *woman woman*

    @Lucy

    I specifically wrote my answer to women, as generally, women are the ones who have a problem with guys not stating up front that they’re not looking for a relationship. Guys don’t tend to care that women are looking for them (e.g., those “wilfull blinders” I mentioned). Hence, I feel if women have the issue with men not stating their intentions up front, I challenge these women to state their own intentions up front. It doesn’t feel good when the shoe is on the other foot, right? Why do the men have to say it first. If we’re feminists here, we have equal opportunity and responsibility stating our intentions. Can’t have that both ways, imo.

    @Tom10

    You’re welcome. My other motto in life is “Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.” ‘Nuf said.

    @Fusee

    It doesn’t surprise me that you have stricter standards. More power to you! I think we are at opposite extremes in starting relationships. Sometimes I lead with sex…you never do. In the end we both head towards the middle, a “committed relationship”. You wish yours to lead to marriage…I wish to have a committed relationship without the label (or responsibility). As you say, to each his/her own 🙂

  7. 27
    Julia

    I think its important to note that hooking up doesn’t mean one-night stand either. It means some sort of physical relationship that is not an exclusive partner relationship.

  8. 28
    Julia

    I also think its funny that the middle-aged people on here who are looking for marriage are debating this hooking up business. Did no one read the article? This is about young women in their twenties who are not ready for a marriage-orientated relationship. Its not about you.

  9. 29
    Ruby

    Nicole #25
      
    Interestingly enough, I have younger friends, as well as friends with college-aged kids, and these younger people are all in relationships, and not hooking up.
      
    And when I was younger (college in the 80’s), I had plenty of friends who hooked up. Trust me, it’s nothing new.

  10. 30
    Lucy

    And for a lot of the college age people, it is frequently all matters of physical contact stopping short of intercourse.

    I don’t get that. Why would you do it but not go the whole hog? Not trying to sound crass; just don’t see that there is much of an intimacy gap between second-base and full on sex. So if I stopped short of that, I wouldn’t really be holding back on something special. And if you want to save yourself for that special person then that’s really awesome but seems silly to interpret that as going around lots of people and not quite doing the deed. For example, I met this guy at university who’s catholic and he told me that he doesn’t believe in sex before marriage, so he says he can have anal sex with as many girls as he wants. His reasoning seems totally redundant to me.

    Regardless of my own experiences, I’d say that many people who participate in the hook-up culture don’t really have a clue what they’re doing; at least people my age anyway.

  11. 31
    Lucy

    @KarmicHence, I feel if women have the issue with men not stating their intentions up front, I challenge these women to state their own intentions up front. It doesn’t feel good when the shoe is on the other foot, right? Why do the men have to say it first. If we’re feminists here, we have equal opportunity and responsibility stating our intentions. Can’t have that both ways, imo.

    Oh yes. I wholly agree. Well I’ve always believed that you have to make sure that your own house is in order before you go sorting out everyone else’s. And it’s often the case that what you criticise in other people is what you dislike in yourself. I don’t like it when people aren’t up front but I acknowledge that I do need to work at this more myself. And if you don’t state what you want or ask the straightforward questions that you need the answer to, then you over-think everything. It’ll pile up and the original lesson will be lost. It has taken me years but I finally have more courage than I did before to articulate my opinions and needs. I’ve discovered that the consequences of this aren’t as disastrous as I originally thought. Boy, is it liberating! I have to continue on that path and that it’ll lead me through my twenties. It’s always good to test your assumptions, isn’t it?

  12. 32
    Nicole

    @Ruby,
    I think you misunderstood my post.   I wasn’t saying that 20 something never had relationships.   I just think that attitudes towards fooling around and sex have loosened up in a way that makes hooking up an option or substitute that was previously not something people owned up to.   And actually, I know that some people who had always had real boyfriends and girlfriends (as some people do) were kind of surprised by the casual nature of some of these interactions.   

    I’m sure people were “hooking up” in the 70’s and 80’s (I always assumed people were pretty slutty after the sexual revolution but before AIDS became a problem).   I just wasn’t sure if the slang/colloquialism were the same, and thought it might be why people were assuming it always involved sex.   Were you calling it hooking up or something else?

  13. 33
    Jennifer

    I have two things to say on the subject:
    1. Safe sex always (and I can’t believe the number of men who still balk at the wearing condoms!   really)
    2. Communication, communicatio, communication!!   People get hurt when they don’t communicate with their partners.

  14. 34
    helene

    As far as stating your intentions/expectations is concerned, I really don’t think this is as much of a minefield as others seem to think – its  all  pretty self evident. If someone you’ve just met on a night out suggests sex, its a hook-up until proven otherwise. If you want a hook-up, go for it. If you think you’d like to date the guy, don’t. There is no need to agonise over what he is thinking – he’s thinking “Its a hook-up.” There is no need to state: “I only want to have sex if this is the start of a relationship” because it ISN’T the start of a relationship! That’s like saying “I’m only boarding this plane if you assure me it isn’t going into outer space…” Don’t worry -its not!

  15. 35
    Tom10

    Fusee
    “People have different criteria for casual sex and for relationships…people of both genders feel entitled to a certain “standard” of partners…but who will never consider them for anything serious.”

    Good point — I’m not sure if people who have spent their 20’s hooking-up are sufficiently aware of this when they decide they actually want a relationship.

    “To me, the proper “etiquette” would be to clarify verbally and clearly BEFORE the fact that you just want casual…at that point, this is going to be about you, and what would make you feel less about yourself, right?”

    As Evan has repeatedly said, there is no obligation for men to declare their intentions prior to hooking-up. However, I feel I do have an obligation to behave as kindly, politely, and honestly as possible to the woman at all times, and this includes when saying goodbye. It’s not about me having a clear conscience.

    If I was back with a woman and whilst reaching for the condom I said: “oh eh, I thought you should know where I stand on commitment and marriage” she would laugh in my face.

    Ruby
    “I’m curious, what makes you change your mind about these women the next day, if you thought they were so great the night before?”

    Well the logistics of real life start to kick in the next morning and I start thinking; she lives too far away / she’s too old or young etc., none of which seemed important the night before. But usually (and I don’t like writing this) it’s because I’m not as attracted to her in the morning as I was the night before. I know that’s shallow.

    Lucy
    “it is frequently all matters of physical contact stopping short of intercourse…I don’t get that…why would you do it but not go the whole hog?”

    I don’t get it either Lucy — I’ve hooked-up with so many women who have brought me back to theirs…just for a cuddle! Surely a snoring man in the bed just ruins a good night’s sleep?!

  16. 36
    Nela

    I like the idea of hooking up. You just never know when you will meet someone and things will just click with them.

  17. 37
    androgynous

    Hi Evan
    I believe congratulations are in order on the birth of your child!
    I have usually agreed with your comments and have found that both valuable and insightful. One thing you said in your most recent post needs clarification though.
    “NO set of expectations following any sort of hook-up. Because, to most men, hooking up means NOTHING except physical pleasure….. It’s not HIS job to tell you that. It’s YOUR job to know that.”
    Yes, but this presupposses that hooking up takes place in the appropriate setting. You’d expect hook-ups at designated pick-up joints such as clubs, bars, frat parties, raves…etc.
    However, a woman would definitely not expect a casual hook-up with a man she meets through family or friends by way of introduction. This is just not the appropriate setting for it.
    Then there are “grey” areas where a woman has every right to expect a dating situation from a man as opposed to just a casual hook-up. Internet dating through sites that purport to help people search for life partners, parties hosted by friends at their residence, through social events and functions organised by church, community groups etc.
    Yes, it is rude to indicate up-front to a woman that you are not interested in anything but a hook-up. So if a man just wants a hook-up, he should only meet women through designated pick-up joints and avoid the others.

    1. 37.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @Androgynous. No. You’re not getting it. You keep telling MEN what to do differently. “If a man wants a hook up he should only meet women through pick up joints.”

      That’s ridiculous. I dated online for 10 years. Hooked up with LOTS of people who did not become my girlfriend. The answer is not to tell guys like me to STOP.

      The answer is to tell YOU that a hook up doesn’t mean anything – so that YOU can make informed decisions about how you proceed. The answer is never in telling a GENDER to change.

  18. 38
    marymary

    Andro  
    If this is an issue for you, don’t   get physical when it’s stilL grey. I met the boyfriend at church but still did my due diligence, as did he. We didn’t kiss until over two months of dating.   We won’t have sex until marriage so maybe we won’t have sex at all.   I get that our values aren’t   for everyone but the principle is the same. If it would bother you to have casual hookups then dont have them. If perchance it does happen despite your best efforts, then you opt out if you’re not on the same page. I get that not everyone will want to wait x weeks to do y but he will show you quite early on if he is genuinely looking for a girlfriend and thinks you are worth courting, to use an old fashioned phrase. In this, actions and words must align.  
    he doesn’t deserve a free pass just cos you met him in a normal or respectable way.

  19. 39
    Gin

    @Tom10: Why do you feel guilty? It’s just a hookup. You’re using her (and she you), so just get on, get off, then get up and leave.

  20. 40
    Christine

    Well, I often hear the advice not to hook up, because that will decrease the chances of developing a long term relationship.   However, I frankly wish there was more advice out there about exactly how you’re supposed to cope with the lack of physical contact in the meantime, while waiting for that.   It’s not as though a committed relationship can just be purchased through amazon at will, according to your specifications.   I’m only human and it’s extremely difficult to go through long stretches of time with both no boyfriend and no physical contact.   So I think  a hook up between consensual adults is okay, as long as they just don’t attach any greater importance to it or have unrealistic expectations.   I’ve also learned to only do that with men who I think are cute and fun, but who I don’t see as anything long term–so that I’m really not disappointed when they don’t call the next day.

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