We all know of hookup culture—whether you’ve experienced it yourself or seen it in the movies, hookup culture is everywhere. Now I know everyone has differing opinions on whether hookup culture is toxic or not, but I hope one thing we can all discuss more often in open dialogue is the way in which hookup culture has altered our perception of love.
Thinking back to my high school self—my virgin high school self—I didn’t have a full grasp on sex. If we’re being completely honest, I hadn’t even explored my own body enough to know how my anatomy works. My high school understanding of sex was mainly based on hallway whispers with friends. I heard things like “I didn’t know if I did it right” or “I was so nervous and tense the whole time.” It became extremely apparent to me that we all had no idea what we were supposed to do, but that hooking up somehow was synonymous with desire—aka the more we participated in hookup culture, the more boys would want us. Piggybacking off of that mentality, my perception of self started to be heavily shaped by the male gaze. I transformed from a girl who rarely showed cleavage to a girl who wore a pushup bra everyday. I doubled my makeup routine time and would critically analyze myself in the mirror before stepping outside.
By the time I got to college, hookup culture became overwhelmingly more present. I had some experience under my belt at this point. Hooking up became something I started to enjoy. It initially made me feel more confident in my body and sensuality and also helped me learn more about what I did and did not enjoy in the bedroom. However, I became lost on the hookup cycle.
I started to accept hookups as my standard and reached a point where dating didn’t seem fathomable. Every time I started developing feelings for someone, I told myself that I couldn't reveal how I felt because hookups weren't supposed to go that way. Every time I would confide in my girlfriends, it felt like there was this universal understanding that feelings must stay separate in hookups. I know that’s the norm, but I also feel that suppressing present feelings makes each hookup more and more dull.
I asked some of my closest girlfriends to sum up hookup culture:
- “In hookup culture, sex is the new first base.”
- “Hookup culture leaves me physically half full and emotionally emptier.”
- “Hooking up does make me feel empowered. I am specific about who I chose and I always set my intentions beforehand. It lets me fly my free spirited self.”
- “Hookup culture is a good idea in theory, but in practice it leaves much to be desired.”
- “Hookup culture makes me anxious about only being viewed for objective and sexual purposes.”
- “I’ve been told it can be empowering to own my sexuality but I never truly felt empowered by a hookup—I’ve found it more empowering to withhold until it feels meaningful for both of us.”
- “Hooking up feels like a game of who can be the most ‘chill’.”
Now I’m not at all saying that hookups cannot be empowering. But what I might shed light on is how hookup culture can make us feel lesser than if we don’t always feel satisfied. I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you don’t enjoy partaking in the mainstream hookup culture, don’t worry—I can assure you that many other girls feel the same.By: Vivian Reilly