“Hooking up with people who do not care about your happiness or you; is a serious and big decision. If you do decide to hook up, you must have a good reason for it just as you would to have a relationship.”- Shahla Khan, Friends With Benefits: Rethinking Friendship, Dating & Violence
I have a friend who’s been with her boyfriend for almost a year. She’s very moral, would never think of sleeping with or even kissing a random guy, and she loves her boyfriend. But, she didn’t see herself being in a relationship for this long in her twenties. She thought she’d be using her twenties to be single and have fun and be crazy. That didn’t mean hooking up, but it did mean being able to flirt with whoever she wanted whenever she wanted, going out on the weekends with the girls, and having lots of stories to talk about after.
As we talked, we wondered if we were just buying into a society that tells us we’re supposed to use our youth to be reckless, hookup with random people, and do a lot of stupid things that will make for good stories later. It really made me think about the past few years of my life, where I admittedly have many stories – and most are not good ones. Just a few weeks ago, I was talking to a co-worker about such experiences with dating. The first story I told made us both laugh, but the second quickly silenced us, because it was a story in which a guy really crossed my boundaries even with my small, but clear protests.
I want to start with defining a hookup as any physical encounter ranging from a kiss to sex, to anything in between. I also want to point out that when it comes to the hookup culture, everyone already has an opinion, whether they’ve ever voiced it or not. There are those who think it’s immoral and bad, and that only sluts and players participate. The other view is that it’s fun and there’s nothing wrong with messing around with a few people (but obviously not too many, because then that’s bad). They think it’s completely necessary to partake in it while you’re young, but only while you’re young, because when you’re older you have to deal with real life adult things like a family, career, and other major responsibilities.
For this post, I’ve approached with the initial question: is hooking up and having casual fun something that everyone needs to do at least once while they’re young? Through my research, I came up with a lot of other questions: Do people actually prefer casual over serious? What motivates men and women to hookup? What affects does hookup culture have on both men and women? The most important question I had for myself was, do I regret the two years I spent being careless and reckless in my dating life, or was it an important and necessary experience for me to have? Through countless stories and personal experiences, I’ve noticed a pattern of reasons that both men and women give for preferring hooking up over serious, committed, long-term relationships:
- They want to prioritize career, school, and future goals first
- Serious relationships take too much time and energy
- The emotions and feelings that come from relationships are messy, complicated, and difficult to deal with, so it seems easier to hookup
- They want to get it out of their system before they’re too old to do these things
My perspective on the hookup culture is from a young female, but I’ve also read about the male perspective and talked to many guys about the topic. As for my own view, it’s funny to me that one of the reasons listed is something my dad has taught me my whole life. My dad didn’t want me to date in high school or college, and even now says I should get my career started before I think about settling down and getting married. I guess his thought process involved me being abstinent, focusing all of my time and energy on school and my future goals, and then once I was successful, I would magically find the right guy and get married even though I’d had no prior dating experience. It’s probably what every dad wants for his daughter, but it’s not realistic.
From a young age, I’ve had the mentality that my school and future career comes first, and marriage will come later (which apparently is what a lot of ambitious girls think). My dad feared that a boy would distract me from goals. He feared I’d fall in love and drop everything to go be with some loser. I wouldn’t finish school. I’d probably get pregnant or married too young. Then my whole future would be ruined just because I chose a guy over my school and career. In Hanna Rosin’s article, “Boys on the Side,” she echoes this sentiment saying, “For college girls these days, an overly serious suitor fills the same role as an accidental pregnancy did in the 19th century: a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future.”
Rosin’s article mostly focuses on how the hookup culture benefits women in their education, career, and social lives. She claims women are successful now because of “the ability to delay marriage and have temporary relationships that don't derail education or career.” Her reasoning isn’t far from what my dad taught me and what I’ve believed my whole life. However, I don’t think my dad ever intended for me, or any young woman, to become successful by maintaining hookups rather than relationships.
Rosin cites a study conducted by Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton in 2004, in which they followed the romantic lives of 53 women over four years while they were in college. Two thirds of the women came from privileged backgrounds, while one third came from more modest ones. The ones who were more privileged wanted to delay marriage in favor of success, so the study found, “For an upwardly mobile, ambitious young woman, hookups were a way to dip into relationships without disrupting her self-development or schoolwork.” The other one third wanted to get married and have children, and many had boyfriends back in their hometowns. These women were the most uncomfortable with the hookup culture. Some of the less privileged women dropped out of college and went back home, while a few others began to participate in hookups. The women who dropped out to be with their boyfriends were considered tragedies, while the women who hooked up were considered successes by the standard of the privileged two thirds.
Rosin gives another reason why people hookup, which is specific to women, and I’m not sure if it’s true for men as well – hooking up is empowering. At least, that’s what the feminists argue. Rosin talked to an Argentinian student who came to an American business school, and after four weeks had this to say, “Here in America, the girls, they give up their mouth, their ass, their tits before they even know the guy. It's like, 'Hello.' 'Hello.' 'You wanna hook up?' 'Sure.' They are so aggressive! Do they have hearts of steel or something? In my country, a girl like this would be a desperate. Or a prostitute.”
American women are aggressive. We go after what we want in every aspect of our lives, and that includes dating and sex. If a woman wants to hookup with a guy, she’s not coy about it. Obviously, not all women are like that, but it’s something I greatly relate to. This aggressiveness is something that plenty of people have associated with as something bad - being a slut, hoe, tramp, and the words are pretty much endless. Yet, as I read the article, I realized I’ve had this quality since I was 13 years old. That was the year that I decided that if I liked a guy, I would tell him. I’m not shy about that kind of thing. I also realized that in my dating experiences, I’ve more often been the initiator and instigator when it came to making plans to hangout, kissing, or anything else. I always just thought it’s because I’m impatient (which I am), but it’s also because I’m aggressive. I’ve struggled with this aggressive quality ever since I obtained it. I was told implicitly by my parents, uncles, and various random people that it’s a male quality that I shouldn’t have. I should let men be the initiators, pursuers, and aggressors. So, I spent most of college trying to not be so aggressive and forward, but it feels wrong to go against an innate quality I possess.
During this past month, when I realized how forward I am and how many times I’ve initiated things, I had a semi-existential crisis, because I thought I might actually be a slut. It took me a few days to get over it and accept that I’m not a slut, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a slutty side. I’m still coming to terms with the idea that I like my aggressiveness. It goes against everything I’ve been taught I should be, but it’s also something that I don’t want to change, because it really is part of who I am. It make me feel powerful, and I discovered that it’s associated with my confidence level. I like knowing that I have the confidence to go after anything I want, whether in dating or in life. I don’t care if that makes me aggressive and that women shouldn’t be that way. It’s how I am. Equally noteworthy is that my worst hookup experiences happened when I wasn’t the one who initiated anything. Whenever I initiated something physical with a guy, I knew that it’s because I wanted it. But whenever I didn’t, it was because I was either unsure or knew I didn’t want something. Those were the times that guys took things past my boundaries. They were the experiences that left me feeling used and the most unhappy with myself, because I beat myself up for letting things go farther than I wanted them to.
Feminists have published well-known articles and studies to show why the hookup culture is beneficial to women, and also why women even hookup now. Needless to say, there isn’t research on why men hookup, because it is assumed it’s what they prefer. As several articles, and even a few men, have put it – men want to spread their seed. I’ll touch on this more later, but it’s worth noting that the reasons women hookup – to be successful – are also among the reasons men do as well. Men have always been taught that they need to provide for their families. If a man can’t provide, then he shouldn’t have a relationship. At least, that’s the reason men have given me for being single. One of my guy friends who doesn’t have a car says that he doesn’t want to ask girls out because he can’t drive them anywhere. Another old friend of mine liked a girl, but wouldn’t even think of trying to start a relationship because he didn’t have a job.
Ultimately, I think, people hookup because they want intimacy, but for whatever reason either aren’t ready or can’t have a relationship yet. I spent about two years of my life serial dating – talking to, going on dates, having romantic/intimate encounters with guys sometimes once a month, every week, or every other month. I didn’t have sex with any of these guys, but I’m still not proud of how many guys there were, and how many I hooked up with. Even though I don’t want to get married until I feel stable enough in a career or with my life goals, the desire for success has never been a reason for why I dated so much.
For me, during those two years, I was just going crazy. I was depressed and lonely. With every new guy, I liked myself even less. I’m not a hookup person. It’s not something I enjoy, and I had to learn that the hard way. But, the reason I was either talking to someone new, or going on a date with someone new, or doing whatever else with someone new fairly often, was because I craved intimacy and affection so badly. It was a deep craving that wasn’t easily fulfilled, nor could a hookup ever fulfill it. I wanted a deep connection, but I’m incredibly picky when it comes to someone I’ll actually have a relationship with. I wouldn’t settle for just anyone, and I knew early on when I either just didn’t like someone enough, or if it wasn’t going to work out for other reasons. But I still wanted affection, so I accepted it with very low standards.
People hookup, because they crave intimacy and affection, but either can’t or don’t want it in a serious relationship. I truly 100% believe that everyone would rather have a relationship than a hookup. The few exceptions to this are those with commitment issues, and possibly a very small group of people who really would rather have casual fun their whole lives. To clarify further, my belief isn’t that everyone wants a relationship right at this moment. Often, we want one, but there are different factors like not being emotionally ready, etc. I’m saying that ultimately, we prefer something serious over something that isn’t, and that the desire for deeper connection is always there.
Leah Fessler echoes my sentiment in her article, “Most women don’t enjoy hookup culture—so why do we force ourselves to participate?” She found that, “After interviewing 75 male and female students and analyzing over 300 online surveys, the solidarity was undeniable: 100% of female interviewees and three-quarters of female survey respondents stated a clear preference for committed relationships.” She also noted that the vast majority of males also ideally preferred committed relationships, “but they felt strong social pressure to have casual sex.” She identifies that one particular reason men hookup, despite wanting something committed, is that hookup culture enforces that “their public identity as heterosexual men [is based] on the number and physical attractiveness of the women they’ve slept with.”
I was talking to a girl my age (23/24) about our love lives, or lack thereof, and she very excitedly told me about this boy she was supposed to go out with for the first time. This girl is the epitome of the hookup culture, which isn’t to say anything derogatory about her. She’s a great person who really enjoys having her fun in every sense of the word. She presents herself as wild and free. When she was telling me about this guy, at first she said he would be someone to have fun with (a f*** buddy). But then, she said he’s romantic, and she’s never been with someone who’s romantic. She told me about her ex who she was with for two years, and still referred to him as a f*** buddy. She’s never had romance, and I thought that was sad, because I don’t think she realized how much she wanted it and what she was missing out on. She even went on to say that with this new guy, she wanted to wait a month before they had sex, because she didn’t want to seem like a hoe.
In Rosin’s article, she points out that, “Researchers guess that about a quarter of college kids skip out on the hookup culture altogether, while a similar number participate with gusto... For the majority in the middle, the hookup culture is a place to visit freshman year, or whenever you feel like it, or after you've been through a breakup.” It’s a common misconception that all young people are hooking up like crazy. This girl who never had romance would be someone participating with gusto, and she felt no shame about it, which I applaud her for actually. But I also talked to a 22 year old guy who’s been with his girlfriend for five years. He’s never had a hookup, and I asked him if he ever felt like he was missing out on something. He said he wish he had a little more freedom to do his own thing, but that no, he didn’t have the desire to hookup or feel like he was missing out on anything.
Rosin also says, “Zoom out, and you see that for most women, the hookup culture is like an island they visit, mostly during their college years and even then only when they are bored or experimenting or don't know any better. But it is not a place where they drown.” I agree a lot with this statement. There are people who are immersed in the hookup culture, and there are others who just visit it at some point, or sometimes multiple times. “Ultimately, the desire for a deeper human connection always wins out, for both men and women,” says Rosin. There’s a big reason why the majority of people only spend a few years having fun with random people, and then eventually go on to marriage, or something long term and serious.
We crave connection and true intimacy. I think that most of us desire that above all else – something that’s authentic and deep, and that won’t make you feel so alone. Anyone who’s ever hooked up knows that it can only temporarily fill a void, but it’ll never be enough. I met a guy who’s spent more of his life in relationships than being single, and he summed up the male perspective very perfectly, “I like casual sex, but being in a relationship is infinitely better.”
If it can be agreed that relationships are better than anything casual, and that they are even preferred, then it’s also important to note another important fact: anyone who is hooking up but would rather have a real relationship is SETTLING. I really don’t think anyone points that out. If you’re hooking up, having subpar sex, aren’t happy with the outcomes of these casual flings, then you are definitely settling. A big indicator that you’re settling is that you’re lowering your standards, which is what everyone does for a hookup.
Before I explain this concept further, I need to explain that this word is a very ironic one for me, because of a mantra me and one of my close guy friends have taken up. When we met, we were both recovering from a relationship where we had loved someone for the first time. It’s not an easy or fast process to move on from first loves. By coincidence, we got into new relationships at about the same time. He was with a nice girl and I was with a nice guy. Both of our relationships lasted about the same duration (5 months ish). After those relationships ended, we realized that we didn’t like those people as much as we should’ve, and had in fact settled for someone nice, but not someone we were crazy about. So, we decided to get bracelets (which took years to actually get) that said “don’t settle.”
In the spirit of “not settling” for a nice guy who I didn’t like enough, I began serial dating. Among the reasons I went through guys like I go through chocolate is because I didn’t like any of them enough, and I didn’t want to settle, because hello, that’s what the bracelet that I didn’t have yet told me! So, in honor of not settling for a relationship I wasn’t happy in, I did the next best thing – I settled for short encounters with guys who weren’t all that great or worth it. I know that’s a big part of dating, but I think it’s a little different when you actually take things father than they should go if you don’t like them. Just to be fair and honest, I wasn't always the victim in these encounters. I may have not used any guy for sex, but I know I led guys on and hurt enough of them emotionally, which is one of my biggest regrets.
It’s uncommon to see something casual as settling, because most people are under the delusion that it’s what they really want. They really believe they want something casual and fun, and maybe there are people who truly do, but I don’t think it’s the majority. Fessler touches on this topic in her article, and explains that she had a boyfriend for most of high school, and when she started college, she was hoping to find a new relationship. Then she realized that at her college, people weren’t getting into relationships, they were hooking up. So, she shoved her desire for a relationship deep down, and started to hookup too, because that’s what she thought she wanted. It’s worth noting that her reason for hooking up had a lot to do with what she thought was feminism – “True feminists, I believed, not only wanted but also thrived on emotionless, non-committal sexual engagements.”
Fessler’s college experience was far from my own, but is very similar to that of the friend I mentioned at the beginning of the post (the one in a relationship who wondered if she would be missing out on having fun). She explains that though there were plenty of people who engaged in “a series of emotionless one-night stands… Far more frequent, however, were pseudo-relationships, the mutant children of meaningless sex and loving partnership. Two students consistently hookup with one another—and typically, only each other—for weeks, months, even years. Yet per unspoken social code, neither party is permitted emotional involvement, commitment, or vulnerability. To call them exclusive would be “clingy,” or even “crazy.”” I’m pretty sure that’s the very definition of settling for something less than you want or deserve.
Her article focuses primarily on the female experience of hooking up and illustrates the negative impact it has on women, but I’m sure there are plenty of men who can relate. She explains that her and her friends “were desperate to know what it felt like to be wanted; desperate for a chance at intimacy. Desperate for a hand held in daylight, for public affirmation of desire typically expressed only after too many drinks.” They wanted that deeper connection everyone ultimately craves. By her senior year, she realized that she and her friends were very unhappy with their dating/sex/love lives. What she at first thought was empowering, turned out to be detrimental to herself and every woman she knew. For her senior thesis, she conducted surveys and interviews that led to her article.
She says, “The women I interviewed were eager to build connections, intimacy and trust with their sexual partners. Instead, almost all of them found themselves going along with hookups that induced overwhelming self-doubt, emotional instability and loneliness.” She also found that, “Only 8% of about 25 female respondents who said they were presently in pseudo-relationships reported being “happy” with their situation.” Nearly every woman she interviewed had experienced sexual insecurities, such as lying about orgasms and blaming their own bodies when guys told them, “the sexual connection wasn’t there.”
There are a lot of studies to indicate that both men and women are more likely to orgasm when in a relationship, and they also have more and better sex. Peggy Drexler, Ph.D. says, “New research… in fact, found that, in a study of 600 college students, women were twice as likely to reach orgasm from intercourse or oral sex in serious relationships as they were in hookups.” Dr. Wendy Welsh explains why this is in her article, “Why Women Should Bow Out of Hookup Culture.” She says, “Women's sexuality is a complicated mix of psychology, social conditioning, and biology. Men's sexuality is closer to basic plumbing.” For women, it’s less about blood flow, and more about complicated psychological processes.
I think any older woman knows this, but it’s something that younger women are unaware of, and usually learn the hard way. To put it crudely, it’s not easy for a woman to simply bang a guy they barely know, aren't comfortable with, or have no feelings for and come out completely satisfied and happy with the experience. Most women have too many insecurities about their bodies to enjoy themselves with someone new. More often though, it takes a degree of comfort and trust to allow themselves to fully enjoy the experience. A highly important factor that women hooking up don’t like talking about is knowing that the guy actually cares and appreciates them and their body, which is something most guys don’t do during hookups. No one likes feeling like an object. As for Fessler’s sexual experiences, she eventually realized, “In retrospect, it’s obvious that I was highly unlikely to have an orgasm with a guy who didn’t know me or care to. Even more asinine is that I beat myself up when I didn’t climax.” She learned the hard way, and after years of having sex, “that sex is inextricably linked to emotions, trust, curiosity, and above all, self-awareness.”
Through all my research, I think the most disheartening thing I learned was how horrible men view and treat the women they are hooking up with. It reminded me of what my dad and uncles had told me my whole life, but I never believed – that men will do anything for sex, and as soon as they get it, they don’t care about the girl. I couldn’t believe what men in my life were telling me, because I’d never had that experience, at least not until the past few years. My first two relationships were with great guys, and we didn’t have sex. They respected me so much and treated me like a princess. When I started dating a lot, I only half believed what my dad had always warned me about, because only about half of the guys I dated/hooked up with just used me and didn’t care about me at all, while the other half were decent guys.
Fessler explains that she partook in the pseudo-relationships that were so common at her college. She would hookup with a guy for months, and then eventually move on to someone else. One of these guys was Ben, and months after things had ended between them, he told her, “I didn’t think of you as a human being while we were hooking up.” When I read that, I couldn’t believe someone can use someone else for so long and see them that way. It didn’t make sense to me, and it just got worse the more I read about it. One of the women Fessler interviewed said, “I had this façade of wanting to hookup with people… but I don’t think that was ever the entire motive … And the fact that most of these guys wouldn’t even make eye contact with me after having sex or would run away from me at a party is one of the most hurtful things I’ve ever felt.” This sentiment is echoed by hundreds and hundreds of women who have ever hooked up. I remember another story my friend told me of a girl at her college that lost her virginity to a guy who a couple years later didn’t even recognize her.
Stories like these are the reason so many people, particularly conservatives, are completely against the hookup culture. Miri Mogilevsky was such a person, who used to feel degraded every time she had casual sex. In her article, she explains why she changed her opinion, “But as I later realized, the reason I felt degraded wasn’t because casual sex is inherently degrading. It was because my hookup partners had treated me like an object, like a means to an end. They didn’t care about my pleasure, they disrespected and ignored me afterwards, and they were often pushy and coercive.” She argues that there is nothing wrong with casual sex, but instead that the problems in the hookup culture have to do with sexism. She believes she was treated horribly by men “because that’s how they’d learned to treat women (often not just in hookup situations, either).” It’s the fault of the sexist society that we were all raised in.
She makes five really good points for her argument, but I’ll only touch on a few. The first is a point that is repeated by nearly every feminist and in almost every article I read: there is a lack of focus on women’s sexual pleasure. She cites, “One study of college students found that 80% of men had orgasms during their hookups, but only 40% of women did. By comparison, 75% of women in relationships had orgasms during sex.” As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of complex reasons for this that have to do with emotion and psychology, but a very important one has to do with men not caring about female pleasure. A New York Times article quotes a young guy about this study, “I’m not going to try as hard as when I’m with someone I really care about.” There really isn’t an incentive for either person to try very hard in hookups.
Drexler adds, “Researchers noted that while women do not like to say what they want and need, neither do men really ask.” I’ve heard from a different study that women don’t tell men what they want or like, because either they are insecure, uncomfortable, or don’t want to come off as a certain way. I understand that, but I think it’s strange. If a woman really is just using someone for their own pleasure (because it really does go both ways), then why wouldn’t she try to get the most pleasure out of it as she can? Men definitely don’t hesitate to get their own pleasure. That’s probably a horrible perspective, but I think it’s very logical for those who hookup. From a moral perspective, I think it’s wrong when two people use each other for anything, but to be very clear, both men and women use each other when it comes to hookups. And I think one of the reasons men more often come out of the experience satisfied and women come out feeling used and degraded is because men get what they want and women don’t.
I’ve had pushy and coercive guys that just really only cared about what they wanted. Those were my worst experiences, and like Mogilevsky, I feel the most degraded and ashamed of those encounters. But, there are a few experiences I don’t feel shame for (at least not anymore), and I look back on it as a good experience. The best one was with the only guy who ever asked what I liked, and when I didn’t know, he helped me find out. A few other guys figured out what I liked, and in my opinion, those were usually the guys who were actually decent human beings as well. The ones who just didn’t care at all, I view as horrible people. Why wouldn’t I? When both people come out satisfied without feeling used, then it’s just a more positive experience overall. I’m a big advocator for women finding out what they want and like and asking for it.
This whole focus on female pleasure also reminds of something I’ve read years ago from something I found on Pinterest. It was a letter a dad wrote to his son about “How To Make Love.” In it, he writes ten steps, and step nine says, “Just because you come doesn’t mean she has, so don’t you dare come before her. Focus completely on your partner. Don’t worry about gettin’ yours, you’re a guy. You always get yours. Your job is to make sure she’s gettin’ hers.” In the last step, he says if sex is only lasting a few minutes, “You are masturbating with her body instead of your hand. Shame on you. Go back to step one. You’ve got a lot of learning to do.” I like his point about masturbating with her body, because it’s an accurate portrayal of what most hookups look like.
Knowing what a woman wants and likes is also important because of consent, which is another of Mogilevsky’s points. She says, “because so many of us believe that hookups don’t need to involve any talking, it’s easy for us to excuse sexual assault as “just a miscommunication,” especially if one or both partners had been drinking.” She explains that it shouldn’t be about when someone says “stop” or “I don’t like that;” “it should be on their partner to ask them what they want and check in with them to make sure they’re still into what’s happening.” I can’t emphasize enough how important this is.
It actually scares me that many men I’ve talked to, not even ones I dated, thought they knew what women liked and wanted. Just recently, one of my friend’s guy friends had to apologize to me because of an incident that happened a year ago. A group of us went dancing, and he got very drunk and got too handsy and aggressive with me. When it got brought up to him (sadly by my friend and not me), his first response was, “Don’t girls like aggressive?” Then when I told him I didn’t appreciate it, he apologized and said he’s normally very respectful. I’ve also talked to my friend’s boyfriend about this topic, and I think he’s a nice respectful guy, but I still didn’t like his perspective. I explained to him that I didn’t want to date his best friend, because of an incident where he tried to go too far with me. He defended his best friend, and said, “That’s what all guys do. They always try to see how far they can get.” He said this as if it was perfectly acceptable and okay. It’s not. That’s how assault happens.
I’ve also had other talks with my friend’s boyfriend, where he was explaining to me what women like and what makes them orgasm. The way he talked as if he knew everything about the female body, is the way I’ve heard so many guys talk. They really think they understand how our bodies work, what turns us on, and what we like. I’ve even had guys tell me that they knew I wanted something, when I wasn’t even sure what I wanted. I think there’s only ever been two, maybe three guys, who knew what I liked and wanted. And that’s because they took the time to ask or learn. Every female body is different. What turns someone on, does not always work for someone else. So to all the men out there, YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT SHE WANTS OR LIKES. Don’t ever assume you do.
Another of Mogilevsky’s points is one that I think is very important to discuss, because it is so poorly represented: “Men are expected to conform to unrealistic and toxic standards.” As horrible as I think that too many men have treated women, my intention is not to be a male basher, because I know they have it hard too. Mogilevsky argues that men, whether straight or gay, “are expected to want tons of casual sex all the time.” In the hookup culture at least, any man who doesn’t fit this mold (like if they actually want a committed relationship) is considered less manly. She also says, “If cis women’s orgasms are supposed to be “complicated” and difficult to achieve, cis men are expected to be “easy to please” and to have orgasms readily during a casual hookup. At the same time, they’re not supposed to orgasm too quickly, or else they’re viewed as inexperienced and not in control. They’re not supposed to be sexually submissive or unsure of what they want.” There is a lot of pressure on men to be and perform a certain way, and it’s just unrealistic for every man to be that way.
Through online research alone, it was incredibly difficult to find the male perspective on the hookup culture. Mostly everything is from a feminist point of view. The little I did find was mostly disheartening, but luckily I spent a lot of time afterward talking to different guys about the topic, and it was enlightening. So, I will try my best to present the male perspective on the topic. First, according to the dating coach Evan Marc Katz, it is true that NOT every guy wants sex all the time with a lot of different women. He cites Andrew Smiler who wrote the book “Challenging Casanova.” Smiler says, “Research typically shows about 15 percent of guys have three or more partners in any given 12-month span.” Over a three year period, however, the number of guys who have three or more partners a year drops to about 5%. Smiler argues that there are definitely guys who are hooking up a lot with various partners, but it’s not as many as we think. He adds that if you look at men who are very religious and dedicated to their partner, which is about 15%, there’s a lot more of those men than the ones who have many partners.
I didn’t read Smiler’s book, but I’m assuming he isn’t considering college hookup culture in those numbers. Though, I’ve heard that the average number of hookups college students engage in while at college is 7. It’s most likely very different depending on the type of school, for example a religious school versus a party school. Also, as mentioned earlier, it also depends on the type of person. There are those actively involved in hooking up, those who never do, and those who have a few times.
Marc Katz also doesn’t completely agree with Smiler and has his own opinions on men hooking up. He believes, “I think lots of men would like to have sex with more than three women in a calendar year, but don’t have the confidence, wherewithal, opportunity or “game” to be able to do so.” It’s important to note that Marc Katz identifies himself as a “Casanova,” a man who likes to sleep with a lot of different women. It’s his edict that “men look for sex and find love,” which may be true for some men. He shares my opinion “that even if guys LIKE hooking up, ultimately MOST men are looking for one partner.” He says that even for those who like hooking up, the benefits of monogamy are better than the costs of giving up the hookup lifestyle.
While I was talking to different guys about the topic, there were a lot of various opinions. I asked them these questions: Do guys ever get emotionally attached during a hookup? If so, how often? Do you prefer hooking up or relationships? I asked about a dozen or so single and non-single guys, who were all in their twenties. Most guys told me that guys can get emotionally attached, but there were various answers with how often. A 20 year old guy, who never had a long-term relationship and never hooked up with anyone (also didn’t want to), thought that guys probably get attached about half of the time. Another guy who’s had his fair share of hookups and was a few years older, said that it only happens sometimes. The most interesting answer a guy told me was that it depends on the kind of girl a guy is hooking up. If she’s interesting, or there’s something unique about her, then he’s more likely to get emotionally attached.
What I noticed was that the answers changed depending on what kind of guy I asked. Only one guy told me guys never get emotionally attached during hookups, and he was the only guy who said he preferred hookups over relationships (he was also in a relationship). Besides him, every other guy I asked preferred relationships over hookups. The only other exception was a guy who spent more of his life in relationships than being single. He admitted that was the reason he wanted something casual, because it was exhausting to spend so much time in relationships. For the few guys who had never hooked up, or were in long-term relationships, I asked them if they felt like they were missing out on anything by not hooking up. They all answered no, but that didn’t mean that didn’t sometimes desire just having fun. For those in long-term relationships, they preferred having a relationship, but a few of them seemed burnt out. They admitted to wanting some more freedom, and maybe even something casual, because they thought it would be easier and less exhausting.
So, basically, there are only a minority of men who want to actively engage in the hookup culture. Most want relationships and commitment. Marc Katz says, “If a man is sleeping with you and not committing to you, it’s largely because he doesn’t want a long-term relationship with anyone right now or he doesn’t want a long-term relationship with YOU. It’s not because he’s some sort of single-minded sexual sociopath.”
Before I answer the last question I had for myself, the last thing I want to discuss is the dehumanizing, emotionless objectification that comes with hooking up. Mogilevsky lays out that the rules for hooking up are simple: “No feelings. Don’t get attached. Don’t be jealous when they sleep with someone else. Don’t be awkward or insecure about sex. Don’t act like you’re all that into them, or want to see them all that much. Don’t get upset if they don’t text again. If you have feelings, then you must be trying to manipulate them into a Serious Committed Relationship.” These rules, for some reason, seem so much easier for men to follow than for women. It’s something I still don’t fully understand from the male perspective.
Men can sleep with a woman, even multiple times, and then not even acknowledge her as a human being afterward. That’s something I have a lot of trouble understanding. The reasoning goes that women get devastated by this treatment, because during sex, the bonding chemical oxytocin gets released, thus women naturally get attached with a partner after hooking up regularly or over a period of time. I’m very aware of the female perspective when it comes to getting attached. Often times, even when a woman originally agrees to not-committed emotionless sex, she still develops feelings of attachment and desires exclusivity. This definitely happens for men, too, but more often to women.
When a woman hooks up with a guy, even just once, it’s rare that she doesn’t analyze every little detail afterward. If not right away, then eventually. Fessler describes, “With time, inevitably, came attachment. And with attachment came shame, anxiety, and emptiness.” She says that she felt powerful and in control while flirting with guys and making the first move, but the power balance always tipped when she started sleeping with someone. “A few hookups in, I’d begin to obsess, primarily about the ambiguity of it all. My friends and I would analyze incessantly: Does he like me? Do you like him? He hasn’t texted in a day. Read this text. I’m so confused. He said he didn’t want anything, but keeps asking to hang out.” Girls go freaken crazy when hooking up with someone.
Often times, women can’t help getting attached. Other times, they believe that hooking up will lead to a relationship. Rosin says, “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.” I’ve read that men feel very deceived and manipulated when a girl starts getting attached. I also talked to a guy who shared this sentiment. He told me that if they agreed from the beginning on something causal, then why can’t she commit to that agreement? I explained to him the bonding chemical thing and that girls can’t help it, which he seemed to understand a little. I asked why it’s not like for men, and he said he didn’t really know. We both agreed that it is manipulative for a girl to think from the beginning that a hookup will lead to more when the guy is very clear that that’s all it is.
After learning all that I have about hooking up, I think it’s the strangest thing that two people choose to sleep together, or do other things, before they even like each other. I mean, I guess that’s kind of the point, but it’s still strange. While I was talking about this to other women, they all understood that I don’t want to do anything with a guy unless I like him, but of course a guy overhead this and said, “Why do you need to like him?” It seems like the majority of guys really don’t need to like a girl in order to do anything with her, which might be why it’s so much easier for them to treat them like an object and not an actual human being. It’s fair to point out that women can get deceived and manipulative too, because before or during sex, a man can act a certain way that will make her believe he actually likes her. My friend’s boyfriend clarified that it doesn’t matter how a guy acts before he comes, because he’ll do almost anything to reach that point. It matters what he’s like afterward. It’s true, and it's also true for women. When a guy has finished (climaxed, orgasmed, whatever you want to call it), and he doesn’t want anything to do with you, you were just an object, a means to an end.
I think that every woman, and also men, needs to decide if they are okay with that. Are you okay with settling? Are you okay with not having what you actually want? Or is hooking up really what you want at the moment? I think too many people don’t ever stop to think about what is they really want, just like the girl who never had romance, but had had plenty of “f*** buddies.” I also think there’s a certain degree of ignorance that comes with the hookup culture. While one of my friends was at a party school, she truly believed that no one our age ever got into serious relationships, therefore she shouldn’t have or want one. It’s the same mentality that people have with almost anything. If everyone around you is doing something, then you think that everyone in the world is doing it too, but it’s actually just the environment you’re in. And you’re environment shouldn’t be more important than what you actually want, and what’s actually healthy and good for you.
Which brings me to the most important question I had when I started the research for this post: do I regret the two years I spent being careless and reckless in my dating life, or was it an important and necessary experience for me to have? It’s a really hard question to answer, because I know I learned a lot from those experiences and have grown. But I also have a lot of regret and shame associated with that time. I’m not sure if it was all worth it, but I’m not sure I would redo it differently.
Ideally, I would erase all of the negative experiences during my two crazy years, and leave all the good ones that I don’t want to forget. But life isn’t that way. You have to take the good with the bad. So, for me, I do regret a lot from that time, but I also think they were important experiences to have. It changed me and I grew. When Rosin interview Harvard college women about the hookup culture, they had plenty of negative things to say about it, but none of them would abolish it completely. They just wanted to change it. I might be somewhere in that realm.
Overall, I don’t believe that spending a period of time being single, hooking up, and having casual fun is something necessary for everyone to go through. It’s definitely not. If you don’t feel like you’re missing out on something, then there’s no need to engage in a culture that will leave you more scarred and jaded than anything else. But if you do think later in life you’ll regret never just having fun like that, then it could be worth it for you to dip your feet in. Plenty of people don’t desire that, but I know that I did at one point. While I was with my first boyfriend, we were in love and he wanted to marry me some day. We were seventeen and I couldn’t fathom marriage. I knew that I wanted to experience dating, and be careless and free at least once in my life, because I’d always been modest and reserved.
Rosin says, “There is no retreating from the hookup culture to an earlier age... the only option is... stop doing what feels awful, and figure out what doesn't.” The hookup culture is very damaging for a lot of people in a lot ways, and has been very damaging for me. I hated myself during the two years I dated a lot and hooked up. It had a lot to do with my morals. I was going against things I’ve always thought about myself, and morals I’d always had. Now, I still have very similar morals, but they’ve been altered. I know I’m very changed because of my experiences. I’m far less judgmental, for one, which is a good thing. I also came out of the whole experience a lot more confident than I was before I entered it. I don’t feel so naïve anymore, though I’m sure I still am in many ways, but now I know a lot more than I did before. I know I don’t want to ever again settle for someone I’m not excited about. I know that I want to wait to actually really like someone before things get intimate, because it’ll save me from obsession, insanity, and anxiety. I know the qualities that are important to me. I know that I want a guy who likes to read, and who will hold my hand before he holds anything else. I also know that right now, I have something that I had been looking for during those two years. I reached a place where I feel free, confident, and bold without feeling shameful or disgusting. Of course, I await the day I’ll never hookup with or date anyone new again, because I’ll be married and spending the rest of my life with one person who I'll love.