Behind Closed Doors: The ambiguity of hooking up

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October 31, 2016

10:40 PM

“Hooking up” is my least favorite phrase. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the act of hooking up. If you want to hook up with someone, go for it. You have my full support.

Wait a minute though — if you’re telling me you want to hook up with someone, what are you telling me? Do you want to make out with them? Do you want to have sex with them? If you want to have sex with them, what does that mean for you? Are we talking about penetrative sex? Oral sex? Something else? Who knows? Not me!

Once, in high school, my mother and I were talking about a boy with whom I went to middle school and I hadn’t seen in a while. My mother said to me, “You should hook up with him!” to which I immediately exclaimed, “Mom! Ew, no!” My mom was really confused. All she meant was that I should get together with him and hang out, since we were friends. I, on the other hand, thought she was suggesting I get together with him and make out with him. That’s a pretty strange suggestion, coming from your mother, even if the two of you have a very close relationship.

Both “getting together and hanging out” and “getting together and making out” are acceptable interpretations of “hooking up with someone.”

The point is, we had completely different understandings of what “hooking up” meant. Neither of us was necessarily wrong, however. Both “getting together and hanging out” and “getting together and making out” are acceptable interpretations of “hooking up with someone.”

Herein lies my frustration. I have NO idea what someone means when they talk about “hooking up.” There is such a wide range of possibilities that “hooking up” suggests. It makes it really hard for me to respond to someone when they tell me they “hooked up” because I don’t know what they mean by it.

I think we hide behind “hooking up” as a way to talk about sex and relationships without actually talking about them. If you have ever read a single one of my articles, you know how I feel about this. If we are old enough to be having sex, we are old enough to talk about it.

If you are talking to me about “hooking up” with someone, chances are you actually want to talk to me about the encounter, but maybe you don’t want to get into specifics. If that is the case, ok. That’s totally fine. It isn’t always necessary to talk about every detail of your sex life.

If we are old enough to be having sex, we are old enough to talk about it.

If, however, you’re talking to me about “hooking up” and you do genuinely want to talk to me about it and you want me to be excited/consoling/advice-giving or whatever, then using that phrase is not productive for our conversation. Just skip it. Say what you mean and want to say.

I’m starting to feel a bit like a broken record, but I think open, honest communication is the key to having positive, healthy relationships. So, I think we’ll all be a little bit better off if we start to phase out the phrase “hooking up” and start saying exactly what we mean.

Katelyn is a Behind Closed Doors columnist wants to hear the juicy details.

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