A Think Piece About Hook-Up Culture

I was recently asked if I want to hook up with a complete stranger. I declined.

But it got me thinking about hooking up in general. I’m not against it. People are going to do what they’re going to do and it’s not a new phenomenon by stretch of the imagination. I believe in sex positivity and the right to do what you want with your body. I don’t think that people who hook up are bad or dirty or wrong. The only strong feeling I have is that both parties should consent to whatever they’re going to do.

I just don’t think that I can do it with a person I don’t know or barely know.

There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. I have the tendency to fall into a perpetual trap of putting a lot of myself into something and getting little to nothing in return. I refer to it as “accepting breadcrumbs.” So I think hooking-up is basically priming myself for such a scenario. I know in my previous relationships, I was criticized for going too fast too soon. In other words, letting a person into my life, into my home, without vetting them beyond a few hours. Even if it was just to hang out and watch TV, that was perceived as unwise. I’m supposed to value myself more and not just drop my boundaries in response to proffered “breadcrumbs” by guys who really aren’t that great for me.
  2. Apprehension about assault and/or STIs. Researching what I do, I cannot help but add fuel to this fear. Add to this thoughts about serial killers and “Ted Bundy seemed like a nice guy!” — not a great way to think about a potential sexual partner.
  3. Ingrained sexist messages about sluts and whores and self-worth. I am a fierce feminist and I do not think that women who engage in hook-ups are sluts or whores. However, I was raised in a culture that looks down on women who engage in casual sex. Many, many, many of my friends growing up wore purity rings. I even bought into the True Love Waits ideology at one time, forcing my parents to get me one of the rings so I could be like my friends (my parents rolled their eyes while they entered their credit card on the online store).
  4. I don’t personally know of any actual women – or at least they have not shared with me – that they have done this sort of thing. Maybe they have and have kept it on the DL. Most of my close friends are married and have been married for a while. To my knowledge, they have not breached the whole full-fledged adulthood hook up with a practical stranger. By full-fledged adulthood, I mean, beyond college, getting established in career, late-20s/early-30s adulthood.
  5. Feelings. Oh, feelings. You complicated things, you. Having sex without feelings getting in the way is hard. Perhaps that is what is appealing about the barely-just-met hook up — there is little time to develop feelings and attachment. Perhaps if my sexual expression was not so intertwined with my value or worth, I would not have to worry about feelings of attachment or, worse, feelings of having been used. 
  6. Hooking up isn’t exactly shown to be all that pleasurable for women. Studies have shown that men’s pleasure is usually central in a hook up. Women’s pleasure does not matter as much or at all because she is just a hook up, not a girlfriend. So, that sucks.
  7. Body consciousness. As body positive as I try to be, I am wary of being the woman who is okay to have sex with, but who a man would not date or be seen with in public. 

Sometimes, I look at my future and wonder if my reticence to engage in hook up culture means that I just won’t have sex again. I say that because I am not sure if I will get in a relationship again.   There are more single women my age than ever before. Seriously. And they are all along the spectrum of permissiveness, from those who hook up on the regular to those who are abstaining until marriage. On the one hand, this helps me to know that I’m not alone in my singledom. But on the other hand, I wonder about the market saturation, so to speak. How many of these women are engaged in hook up culture? Is it something that is aged out of? Am I old-fashioned for wanting to date and have a relationship before jumping into bed?

I sometimes wish I could be one of those women who could take risks and be like “I’m getting mine because I want to and I can!” That is a type of empowerment that I lack. It’s not in me or my personality. 

Edit 9/7/2016

I decided to be one of those women who took risks! I had a good time. It was a confidence booster. I think a lot of it had to do with being in a different environment as well as the selection of men to choose from.