“Hookup culture” refers to the new cultural norm that it’s okay to have sex with people without necessarily including emotional intimacy, bonding or a committed relationship. It is much more accepted in the new generation and is considered the “preferred“ way of having sexual encounters by many. As technology advances, so does the convenience of just about everything and that includes casual, meaningless sex. There have been dating websites around since Match.com, which was created in 1995, but hookup culture really escalated when the app Tinder was released in 2012.
Tinder makes a simple system of swiping left or right, right being a like and left being a dislike, by just glancing at a photo of the person. When both users swipe right they “match,” meaning they can chat with each other. If a conversation on Tinder goes well, they may exchange numbers and go on a date.
Tinder has been a very popular dating app for college students and even though there are those rare cases of people developing relationships from it, which, according to Market Watch, is only a 0.6% rate of marriage, Tinder has mainly turned into an easy way users can find casual sex. This is because of the shallow aspects that come along with the system — just one quick glance at a photo someone decided to use for their profile will decide if they’re worthy of a texting conversation or not.
In the 1950s, young people typically only dated if they intended to marry and it was considered “improper” for a woman to ask a man out on a date, according to Best Life Magazine. The general norm of dating was a man would ask a woman’s father if he could “court” her. If the answer was yes he would ask the woman out on a date, typically to a public place. Sex was often saved for the wedding night. It was a much slower and a more personable process — no screen to hide behind, just face-to-face conversations.
Ever since the late ‘90s, it has been much more acceptable to have casual sex with someone you don’t know very well. Although there have been many good things that have come from this liberating norm, there also have been countless negative side effects — emotional, social and physical.
Some liberating aspects are feelings of excitement, confidence and empowerment, especially for women, who used to be frowned upon for making the first move.
But, hookup culture also has its range of negative feelings that come along after a hookup such as embarrassment, regret and loss of self-respect. According to the “Archives of Sexual Behavior,” most college students would describe hooking up as a positive experience but it has its wide range of consequences.
Despite the limited research examining the negative impacts of hooking up, there have been calls for efforts to examine ways to educate students about the potential risks of casual sex, promote safer hookups and address the negative emotions experienced following hookups.
According to the health journal “Culture, Health & Sexuality,”approximately three quarters of sexually active college students report regret after some of their sexual experiences. Overall, females appear to experience more sexual regret than males following a hookup — most likely due to the different expectations put on the sexes. For instance, while regret for females is more likely to be related to feelings of shame or being used, males are more likely to report regret over choice of sexual partner or partner unattractiveness.
In addition to sexual regret, according to “Journal of Sex Research,” casual sex is associated with psychological distress, including anxiety and depression, as well as low self-esteem and reduced life satisfaction.
Hooking up is also related to a number of health risks. High-risk sexual activities, such as unprotected sex, are common themes in students’ self-reports of their hooking up experiences, according to “Health Communication.” However, students are sometimes unaware of these risks. For example,“Qualitative Health Research”found that approximately half of students report being unconcerned about the risks of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) from hooking up, and the report of condom use during hookups was only 69%. Hookup culture also increases the likelihood of having multiple sexual partners which will further the sexual health risk.
There are also many negative social consequences that come along with hookup culture. Hookup partners are commonly casual acquaintances rather than strangers so this could mean that the new norm of casual sex with friends can negatively impact platonic relationships. Also, engaging in hooking up may have implications for a student’s reputation, particularly for female students. Although sexual double standards are diminishing, females continue to face stigma and criticism for hooking up drastically more than men.
Despite all of the negative aspects that come from hookup culture, there have been some positive research studies conducted. According to an analysis that sociologist Nicholas Wolfinger conducted, Americans older than 55 turned out to be more adulterous than people younger than 55. In fact, people born between 1940 and 1960 — people currently between 60 and 80 years old — were the ones who reported the highest rates of cheating on their spouse. This might be because of the lack of sexual experimenting they did before they were married — just pure curiosity of being with other people. This also could be because of the lack of genuine, intimate relationships people in the current generation experience — once they finally find it they don’t want to take it for granted.
There are many positive and negative feelings associated with hookup culture. Casual sex norms will change throughout time as they often do, but what is important is to remember to always do it safely and to consider the risks that come along with it. Your sex life is your own prerogative but you shouldn’t do anything only for someone else — focus on what will make you happy in the long run.