Stop Blaming The Hook-Up Culture Because You Can't See There Are Other Options

by Siena Bergt

Millennials, we have a new collective nickname: “The Hook-up Generation.” Sound ominous? If so, that’s the problem. It’s time to take a closer look at what really scares us about hook-up culture.

It’s not hard to understand why our new moniker comes with an implied sense of wrongdoing. Many of our guardians approached "The Sex Talk" with a sense of dread or shame.

Articles with titles that range from “Teaching Generation-Y the Basics of a Strong Relationship” to “Young People Who Sacrifice Romance for ‘Unencumbered Striving’” argue that our lack of romance is robbing us of important emotional lessons.

A recent Elite Daily piece entitled, “How Accepting The Hook-Up Culture Is Getting 20-Somethings Nowhere” decries hook-up culture based on three objections: 1) It’s killing chivalry in relationships; 2) It “causes women to reluctantly participate” in the hopes of a relationship (and leaves those women “crushed when this dream dies”); 3) Participating will cause problems when you “one day decide you want to be in a relationship.”

The concept of a (good) relationship is key to understanding these arguments, but that word means different things to different people. This article uses “relationship” in the context of a committed, monogamous long-term heterosexual romance, but not every person wants such a relationship.

And, when you factor in another of the author's criterion for a good relationship, — that the man (assuming you want a relationship with a man) “should be asking [the woman] out” and with “definitive plans in mind” — the group of people who agree with that definition grows even smaller.

Not everybody enjoys formal dates; some like the ceremony and tradition while some find low-key hangouts less intimidating and more conducive to openness. Beyond that, not all men want to make the first move and not all women want to take a more passive role in a relationship.

Women are equally capable of asking men on dates and not all men want a position that puts them at risk for so much more rejection. In the 21st century, we have the right to choose greater gender role flexibility.

Now, what about women (in general) being reluctant participants in hookups that men initiate? That idea only holds up if we disregard the fact that many women, like many men, enjoy varied sexual experiences.

The truth is that there are plenty of women who actively like, or even love, casual sex. The reverse is also true: There are plenty of men who just aren’t interested in sex outside of exclusive established relationships.

Some people only enjoy hookups in certain circumstances or with certain people. Wherever you fall, your sex preferences don’t make you any better or worse as a person. But, assuming that one set of preferences is one-size-fits-all for a certain gender causes problems.

Ignoring the reality that some women want to have casual sex outside the context of a committed relationship leads to less safe sexual environments for women and can make females feel ashamed of their desires.

This black-and-white viewpoint also perpetuates damaging stereotypes about emotionless, sex-crazed men that leaves them fewer safe environments in which they can be honest about their emotions.

The author's final concern — that hooking up will cause problems down the road once “relationships” become appealing — may be the most common. Because of this, it’s also often a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If we believe that men need to “score brownie points” with women, who in turn need to “hold off on sex until a commitment is made,” then some men will feel that they have to play a game rather than be honest about what they want in terms of sexual fulfillment.

If we believe that men will only consider “relationships” with women who won’t have sex with them outside of a “relationship,” then men and women will only see their identities in a limited dichotomy (player/gentleman, slut/good girl).

In reality, it is possible to be both, as the only reason these labels seem mutually exclusive is because society teaches us to see them as such.

The key is that this doesn’t mean everyone has to enjoy hookups.

You can like being chased or taking the lead; you can love casual hangouts or planned dates; you can want casual sex or be totally turned off by it (or be turned off by sex in general); you can want a committed monogamous romance or not. You can enjoy any combination of these examples and all of the grey areas between.

It is your right to feel fulfilled by old-fashioned courtships, avoid romantic rules completely or take pleasure in some combination. Your attitudes can change over time, too.

The point is that hookups aren’t the monster; rather, it’s lack of choice in the kind of relationships we deem to be acceptable.

Wherever you stand on the subject of hooking up, we can all agree that a wider variety of feasible options for how we want our love lives to look would be wonderful.

Disclaimer: Hookups involving coercion, alcohol or any sort of impaired judgment or freedom are an entirely different matter. I’m only referring to safe and completely consensual sex.

Originally published at the Undergraduate Times

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It