What is the hook-up culture? There’s only one way to find out: Wikipedia. Believe it or not, Wikipedia has a full page dedicated to “hook-up culture.” It’s about as interesting as you would expect an encyclopedia article about hook-up culture to be. It’s also flagged for four separate issues — so you know all the information is right — but it has the science to back up some of the things I’ve learned about hook-up culture during my experience at the College of William and Mary. It turns out that colleges everywhere are pretty much the same; people everywhere are interested in low-commitment sexual encounters that seek to avoid the emotional investment that comes with a relationship. It is little wonder; sex is undeniably pleasurable. We want it, we need it, and most people will go to great lengths for it. But some of my experiences have left me wondering if our hook-up culture actually leads to good sex.
The most disturbing aspect of the hook-up culture to me is its relation to alcohol. This makes no sense to me. Intoxication inhibits really good sex. Why aren’t people drinking Gatorade to get properly hydrated? Drinking to prepare for a hookup makes the hookup seem like a bad thing. It’s like old-timey surgeons who would give their patients a swig of whiskey before sawing off a limb.
I consider myself a pretty good listener and have spent many pleasant hours listening to people talk. But there is one story I have heard too many times and for which I have no further patience. My friend, let’s call her Jessica, saw a guy, we’ll call him Kevin, at a party. They hit it off and hooked up that night and enjoyed it enough to do it again. Pretty soon, they were regular hook-up buddies. They enjoyed spending time with one another, in and out of bed. Then things started to change. Jessica started thinking that maybe there was something more. She began to see Kevin as a potential boyfriend. They were already acting like most of the couples she knew. Jessica desired a real relationship. Unfortunately for Jess, Kevin wasn’t interested. He remained perfectly content with hooking up and occasionally hanging out. They drifted apart as she became stressed by his complacency. Eventually they stopped hooking up and hanging out. They never had a real conversation about it — at least not one both of them could recount the next day. And so went a friendship.
Even though both people had come together looking for the same thing, their expectations diverged. This isn’t an isolated incident. We are people, not robots, and we change. We assume everybody wants the same thing and that what we do won’t change anything. This doesn’t reflect reality. If we want to be more fulfilled in our relationships, we need to be more willing to discuss exactly what it is we are looking for and how we can reach that goal. Otherwise, we’re all just fumbling around, hoping to fall into someone who fits our desires perfectly. Good luck with that.
The best part of hookup-culture is the honesty in it. We don’t have to hide our intentions. One friend of mine has been designated as a hookup finder for her group. We were at a party once and she said to me, “My friend wants to hookup with someone tonight. Are you that person?” I wasn’t, but the question didn’t register as surprising. In our hook-up culture, you can say things like that. But if you think that maybe you’re looking for something else, voice it. Talking to people works.
But there are some things I don’t like to hear: “Did you hear about Michelle and Tom? I heard they had sex on the couch you’re sitting on.” Seriously, I can’t seem to find anywhere safe to sit. I don’t even know Michelle. I know what she looks like now because somebody has shown me her Facebook page. Now, I see her on the Terrace five times a week. I know entirely too much about the sexual histories and proclivities of girls and guys whom I’ve never met. This is uncomfortable for me and unfair to them. I’ll take some of the blame for this one, because I am too willing to listen to gossip or boasting, but still — there’s nothing more awkward than meeting someone and knowing nothing beside their weirdest sexual experience. The most unfair part of this over-sharing is that the person involved had no part in the decision to let me know. If you chose to tell me about your personal life, that’s fine. I’m writing a column in a newspaper that involves many very personal things. Contrary to the thug life, I chose the sex columnist life. If you hear about me from someone else, please don’t listen. I’m not sure if I am interesting enough to talk about. Almost all of the stories I hear about are random hookups. People in relationships are too boring, right?
Joseph S is a Behind Closed Doors columnist and doesn’t think you should be sitting on that couch.