A casual hookup here and there doesn’t sound too bad —in fact these are the memories that we go back and gush to our friends, telling them about our wild night. Hooking up with someone is definitely not as taboo as it once was anymore, in fact it’s a lifestyle. But when did hooking up become one of the most popular ways to “date?” When did dating become so transactional? And what exactly is hookup culture? According to Donna Freitas, author of “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy” hookup culture can be defined in three parts:
“1. [A] vague in the kind of sexual intimacy, from kissing to different types of sex, which women can play down and men can play up;
2. brief—from ten minutes to a one-night stand; and
3. casual and only physical ”
We all know that hooking up with someone means getting your business done and keeping your feelings out of it. But not only are physical beings, we are emotional ones too. Taking the humanness out of sex is the heart of why hookup culture is ruining our self-esteem. As a woman in her early 20’s, hooking up is presented to me as a way of having control over my body and sexual freedom. But for me, that’s dead wrong. Maybe I won’t be shamed for wanting to have sex, but I am shamed in other ways — including my feelings and desires. The very nature of hooking up means keeping it casual, and to keep it casual I have to deny myself the very normal human desire for emotional intimacy.
Not being able to express your true feelings crushes self-esteem because it teaches us that our feelings are not only wrong, but that they are shameful and need to be hidden. Actually, being comfortable with expressing emotion is the foundation to a healthy mind. In a culture that denies emotion, sex transforms from a personal, familiar, and fun act into a power struggle where the person who is most attached loses. But there are no real winners and losers in sex — only missed connections.
“To keep it, casual I have to deny myself the very normal human desire for emotional intimacy.”
Of course, we can’t talk about hookup culture without bringing up online dating — the two are inevitably tied together. And in a world where online dating is the most popular method of dating, you can’t avoid people only wanting casual sex. The problem with apps like Tinder or Hinge is that there is no real accountability or social responsibility to the person you’re talking to. It’s easy to toss someone aside. As soon as we don’t like somebody’s Instagram, or their internet persona doesn’t match their real personality, boom — on to the next. I’ve been guilty of not responding to someone mid-conversation and ghosting someone I met (even if I really liked them) just because I knew I had other prospects. Until you meet someone for dinner or drinks, it’s almost as if they’re not even a real person. And even if you do meet them, you’re meeting with a stranger who you have no ties, no connection to, and no obligation towards. This is all a recipe for failure.
But that’s not the only issue: online dating, by its nature, forces us to make judgments about people in a few seconds based on their looks and comparing them to the people that came before them. Swiping through these apps, I realized the more I judged others on dating apps, the more I judged myself. Dating should be fun — it shouldn’t be about scrutinizing the tiniest of details in search of reasons to reject someone. We need to be aware that having so many options and rejecting people based on the tiniest of flaws can make our own inner critic meaner and nastier.
In my eyes, sexual liberation does not come from hooking up with as many people as possible without caring about their feelings. I’m not saying that people should stop hooking up altogether. But I try to be honest with myself about the emotional needs I have, and find ways to meet them. Sex can naturally result in catching feelings, and all dating comes with vulnerability. The more comfortable we become with expressing our feelings, the more confident we become in ourselves.