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. 61

    Liz, you did the right thing by cutting him out is all that I can say. I completely understand how you got into the situation. I can only hope you feel better soon. Like me, you won’t make the same mistake again I am sure.

    Karmic, I don’t need to hook up to know that men think I am sexy. I am always having to deal with inappropriate advances and normally it just annoys me. Unfortunately this guy was a friend and somehow in a moment of weakness I let a situation arise that shouldn’t have. I am not however going to be anyone’s hook up girl going forward. I have spent the last year doing everything to find a husband and failed and the fact that I allowed this situation to even arise tells me – just stop!  So I am focusing on the person in my life who needs TLC – me – and then I am thinking of doing some volunteering work and men can look for their hook ups elsewhere.   

  2. 62

    @ Fiona: you said that you’ve come up in the top 5% of anything you’ve ever done.   I can only imagine that comes out on your dates and the guys just end up thinking, “Oh, geez, what a topper.”

  3. 63

    Joe, I frankly couldn’t care less for your opinions which are generally not constructive. As you can see, I am no longer dating so frankly this is irrelevant.  

  4. 64

    There’s one point I wish to make. I don’t see men who engage in hook-ups as using women purely and selfishly for their own personal gain (unless their intentions clearly don’t reflect in their actions). Where does the woman fit into this equation? In a healthy situation, both people are using each other and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Sure chances are that no person sees the other as someone with great relationship potential, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t respect each other and treat each other decently.  

    And a healthy person does not need a hook-up for validation or to feel sexy. However I’d say that if it’s been a while for me without dating (and I might have no desire for a relationship), then some kind of healthy involvement can be quite fulfilling. It certainly makes me look like less of a desperado because my hormones are in balance. It reminds me too that being single for me is a choice, until I find the right person. And recently I have decided to withdraw from that stuff because I don’t feel like it at the moment. It’s about making healthy decisions for you and not getting into situations you do not what to be in. All of that is within my control.

  5. 66

    Lucy good for you. Withdrawing is so the healthy thing to do. Humans can’t be used as crutches. If only there were books on the when to hold them and when to fold them when dealing with someone is not 100% ready for something because of their past. Its hard for me to draw that boundary, its so arbitrary to say no I cannot see you, and then withdraw for some kind of specific time from someone’s life. But if you don’t, your sucked into that emotional crutch only to watch them fall in love when they are healthy. I have always wondered about the ones that it ends because of this, not the chemistry, lust, affection, or personalities. Those are the ones that hurt and make you question.  

    Fiona. Yeah don’t know if I could date someone so wounded. Even casually. Too much heart ache in the end. We are all colored by our past, but the inability to love is kinda of non-starter. 🙂   

  6. 67

    Thank you, Karmic and Liz.

    Well I used to be quite the idealist and in some ways I still am, except now I think that I can balance it out with some real world perspective. Well I bought myself some thinking time with the hooking-up and now I know for sure that a relationship is what I want. It really opened my mind actually. As I said in a previous post, I’ve found that men I’ve hooked-up with have treated me with more respect than previous   boyfriends. I know that doesn’t say much about my relationship choices, but it also shows that people can’t be put in black-and-white boxes because of how they live their sexuality. I have not changed overnight. I’m the same old loving me. I was in a relationship with a man who frequently rejected me sexually and was a selfish lover. Then a few months ago, I had a brief fling with a man who really did care about my pleasure and really made me feel good. He’s not relationship material but being around him made me feel that there’s the possibility of something better out there. It took away some of my self-doubt as the previous boyfriend said it was my fault he could not get aroused enough to have sex with me.

    I don’t find it difficult to draw the boundaries most of the time. And well, I would not get involved with someone who had stronger feelings for me than I had for him (or any feelings I did not share). Everyone deserves the best. But like you said Liz, it can be pretty arbitrary. You can’t choose someone you are too close to because it could ’cause issues, and yet you have to know enough about them to trust them. I have not been in any situations which were distressing or dangerous, but when you see people at their most vulnerable, it really does reveal a lot. See I’ve noticed that many are not as honest up-front as they could be. That takes a lot of self-awareness and confidence which some men (at least of my age; early 20’s) do not have, regardless of their outward persona.

  7. 68

    I am old so I assume that I have experienced enough  life to make some cogent observations.   In reading these discussions regarding “hook ups”, it is my personal subjective observation that the conclusion of all of these discussions does involve casual herterosexual sexual intercourse.   And, there is certainly nothing wrong with that!   However, because of my 28 years of married life (and therefore sexual exclusivity to one woman) have I missed out on the stupendous news that Sexually Transmitted Diseases have disappeared off the face of the Earth??   If not, then it does seem to me that engaging in casual sex (with an unknown partner) could be a life threatening event!   It is impossible to know if a person’s sexual partner is safe unless that person has the results of a recent medical examination by a urologist (for either male or female).   And, even then, it usually takes up to six months for the symptoms of HIV to appear after first contact.

    So from a perspective of “self preservation” it would seem to be a worthwhile effort to know the detailed “history” of a sex partner long before engaging in sex with them.   Although that might lead to awkward and unromantic conversations, is it better to contract an incurable STD afterwards simply because one partner wanted to “believe” the other partner about their sexual history?  

    My other observation is my perspective on an agglomeration of some of the other commentators, specifically female, to this discussion topic.   A number of them seem to have “passed their prime” and consequently lament their lack of a stable long-enduring relationship, but still seem to believe that they are yet “prime”.   Let us be blunt; most of them seem to focus only on one topic in life: themselves!   So why should it be surprising that they are alone in life (and probably permanently until the day of their death).   Any “thriving” heterosexual relationship is a “two way street”!   <– What an astounding comment!   And, to paraphrase (poorly) what some of them have written here, “they want nothing to do with children”.   Unfortunately for them, most Homo sapiens (including men) are biologically “conditioned” to want to reproduce.   My condolences to them when they meet men who do want to reproduce.   For the ones who are actually past their fertility, my naive speculation is that it should be much easier for them to meet men who are “somewhat” older than them for the simple reason that the vast majority of men past a certain age are not likely to be looking to make a new family with babies.   Yet they still lament that they have not found “Mr. Perfect”.

    I will contradict myself somewhat in my comment above because it is true that when I was well past my 43rd birthday, my wife and I were making our third child (she was past her 36th birthday).   

    One of these lamentors commented upon her intellectual, academic, and career achievements, indicating that she is in the “top 5%”; yet she is still (middle age??) alone.   My point is not to demean her, but has she really looked in the physical mirror and the emotionally-mature mirror?  

  8. 69

    Observer, first I would question what a man who has been married for 28 years is doing on a site that is aimed at helping successful, intelligent women find love esoecially as you do not seem to have much in the way of pearls of wisdom to offer. Second, I am amazed that you find it surprising that women actually talk about themselves and their experiences on such a site. Third, you sound rather ignorant regarding safe sex but perhaps they didn’t have condoms back in your day. In short, you just seem to be on here for the sole purpose of firing shots at single women. You speak about emotional maturity but that doesn’t sound very mature to me. You need not worry about demeaning me old chap. You were simply being mean to me. A person can only demean me if I allow them to do so.

  9. 70

    Ugh, I agree with you, Fiona. Observer’s comment was pompous and mean. No idea what male posters like that are doing on this blog.

  10. 71

    Observer ´s and Fiona ´s comments are a typical example of people living in two different worlds – Observer in the old, traditional one and safe for him because he was brought up to think like he does; and Fiona living in a new one, which is still in the process of creation and doesn ´t provide any safety as it is completely new. I must take Fiona ´s side because she is more courageous than Observer, at least that ´s my opinion.

  11. 72

    As a 40 year old going through some issues I think a hook up is invaluable.  I need the intimacy and am scared at the moment to promise more. What is so bad about it if you are respectful of the woman you are hooking up with and are total honest as well as putting her before yourself?
    We are adults and I don’t see what the problem is. If two people are single and lets be honest we all theed the contact.

  12. 73

    In my opinion casual hookups are okay as long as you dont have any expectations. I dont think coming from a girls perspective that a guy should or would look at a girl any less wether she slept with him right away or not. I think what mostly drives men away is the way girls act after the fact of hooking up. If u become all psycho  
    act attached then thats what takes you out of the category of it becoming something more. If you develope certain feelings for the guy but keep them under control than i feel you should just ride it out and take it as it comes. W
    hat men seem to want is someone who can keep there cool, go with the flow, be independent, confident, not needy, fun to be around, flirtatious, but not overly flirtatious, and most of all good in bed. Its really all about your mind frame. Even if your feelings are getting to involved..dont think so much about it. Just keep calm, cool, and collective.  

  13. 74

    hate it hate it hate it. yes its wrong. if you hav eany kind of moral compass at some point it becomes disheartening. it seems a relationship these days constitutes texting someone a few times a week and hooking up a few times a month. if you want anything more stable, well..
    people have kind of just started to shut down their emotions for what is quick and convenient, what doesn’t require much of them and foremost, what alleviates them of responsibility, two adults getting together of course is their business, but I have rarely ever seen that end well over an extended period of time. and oh the hookup culture, its not just the college kids, it has bubbled over into the 30 and 40 somethings too. as a mid 30s woman I can attest to this.
      I   just feel like   so many people are becoming socially challenged, incapable and unwilling to step out from behind th eir phones and computers and allow themselves the vulnerability of interacting with another human being, yes possibly liking someone, possibly falling in love, possibly getting hurt, but also possibly connecting with someone on a more meaningful level besides easy sex

    1. 74.1

      Tia, I am in agreement with you, but I have little faith it will turn around, as we live in an age where morality is based on what one feels at the moment rather than any objective truths.   But paradoxically, because of what you describe, not only do I avoid the hook up culture, but I find myself avoiding culture in general.   I’m trying to be better about engaging just on a friendly level so that I can be “salt and light” but it definitely takes effort.

  14. 75

    Sure, there’s nothing wrong with hooking up … Except if you are a woman & want to get married someday. No man or guy I know is interested in a relationship much less marriage with a woman who has sex with men who don’t mean anything. Sex with a woman who shares her body with men she doesn’t love isn’t special. Not at all. Town bicycles are fun to ride but you don’t ever buy one & you return it to the rental shop in a day or two. If I were to consider family & marriage it would be with a woman who is under 30 who hasn’t been with more than a few guys.

    Double standard? You bet. Too bad.

    A woman who thinks she can have casual sex in her 20’s & then start a family in her 30’s is delusional. Men would rather not be married than marry a slut. Simply because if you want a slut you don’t need to marry her to have sex. You don’t even have to know a slut to have sex.

    Guys are already abandoning marriage. There are some who would argue so are women but, this doesn’t add up. if this were true then all those wedding based magazines for girls would go out of business, & those wedding based TV shows would get cancelled.
    Doubt me? Think the media tells you the truth? Think men will forever chase you like in a movie? Think men want to make a life with girls out of a reality show?   Ask some good men you trust about a woman’s virtue … ask guys with good character. Then learn about women who wish they could find a husband who passed up their opportunities.  

    If you don’t want to settle down then hooking up is no big deal. But if a woman wants a family you greatly decrease your chances by sleeping around.

  15. 76

    I’ve never been truly clear on what people mean when they talk about equality – I think “equality” is in the eyes of the beholder and what people actually mean is that women should become more masculine and men more feminine in order to a better balance of power.   There is alot of confusion these days surrounding masculinity and feminity.

    I went to college fr ’82 – 86 and medical school from ’91 – ’95 and there was a cultural sea change that took place within that decade in between and I’ve experienced both.

    The thing I liked about the era I grew up in, we were given the space and time to develop an identity before jumping into sex snd having to define our sexual identity.   I think our sexual nature is over-emphasized at the expense of the rest of out being – we have hearts and minds and souls and our sexuality is just one aspect of ourselves.   I believe that if young people have had a chance to mature and develop their core identity before engaging in sex, the chances of having fulfilling romantic relationships is much greater.

    Im 51 and am in early stages of a relationship with a man 10 years older than me.   We work for the same hospital and have been running into each other for several years and he’s waited a long time to ask me out. – his marriage ended 4 years and he waited until the time was right for him to date again.

    Its been two months since we’ve been seeing each other and he is taking things very slowly.   Our last date we spent laying out on a dock watching the sky and had a long meandering conversation that went from everything from our childhoods to watching the clouds and the birds and listening to the waves wash up.   It is so sweet 🙂   The chemistry and the heat is building up and if and when things do happen, its going to be with this man in particular and I have a sense of who he really is.

    Im a hopeless romantic and the little bit of hooking up I’ve done, it always felt so empty and flat and like – “what’s the big deal”?   I made the decision, after hooking up in med school, that I’d rather have no sex than have bad sex and for me, quality sex when you really know and care deeply for each other.   I need to feel safe and protected with a man before I can really open up and be fully vulnerable.   Without that emotional security, as a woman, you end up protecting yourself by staying gaurded and walled up and bottling/suppressing up any emotions that want to surface.   I hate doing that.   I want to feel flooded with affection and warmth and tenderness without fear of being hurt or rejected afterward.




    1. 76.1

      I’ll paraphrase myself – if in the name of becoming more equal, I need to become more masculine and hence emotionally detached from sex because thr person who is least invested emotionally is perceived as being more powerful – I say ” No thanks!!”   I love feeling all those emotions, they are the best thing on planet earth!!   I embrace my femine emotional self 🙂

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