The Dark Side to Hook Up Culture

By: India AfriyieScreen Shot 2017-03-27 at 11.44.03 AM.pngEveryone who enters college meets hundreds of new faces. There is an exciting air of mystery, where no one has a past and everyone is looking toward the future. Attractions spark and interests ignite. Soon, sometimes even on the first night, hooking up becomes a daily activity between students. There are different definitions of what it means to “hook up.” People are friends with benefits, people are exclusive with no label, and, people are one-night stands. Many times these arrangements are not discussed and one person ends up with the short end of the stick. There are also social anxieties that come with hookups. There are stigmas that hooking up is disgusting and that people should not sleep around. These stigmas are often more detrimental to women than men. Men can face scrutiny for not having many sexual partners. Whereas women can face scrutiny for  having many sexual partners. Also, a person can feel inadequate if no one tries to hook up with them. Everyone wants to be desirable; even if you are not looking for a hook up, it’s nice to feel wanted.

What is a “hookup”?

Everyone has his own definition of what a “hookup” is. For this article, we will define it as having any sexual contact between consenting adults who are not in committed relationships.

Why do people hook up?

Let’s face it: sex is fun, but relationships aren’t always. In a 2002 study on casual hookups conducted, Elizabeth Paul and Kristen Hayes found that over 75% of college students have had at least one hookup. With the mass majority of college students taking part in hookup culture, there must be strong driving forces that cause them. There is an unspoken expectation to indulge in new experiences when a young person leaves home to go to college. Among the experiences one can have, dating and nightlife are two of the main ones that students will partake in. New apps, such as Tinder, have created spaces for  quick and easy hookups, and the subject has gone from taboo to almost expected. When asked straightforward about why they partake in hookup culture, many first answers are that it’s an easy way to find sexual release without putting in much work. But when pressed, there are often deeper reasons as to why someone might go out looking for a hookup. When I started college, I made two friends, Lisa and Maria, they both took part in hookup culture. Lisa always said hooking up made her feel liberated. Growing up, her family told her to suppress her sexual desires and it was how she could break away from those constraints. She would brag about her new partners and new experiences and how good she felt about being able to let loose and enjoy her youth and sexuality. Lisa found hookups freeing; she did not feel any regrets about hooking up. Maria had different views about hooking up. She had low self-esteem and could often only feel pretty when she was getting sexual attention from men. Because of this, she wasn’t selective in her partners and most men she would meet at a party could sleep with her. She once told me that she used sex a way of self-harm; she knew that it would hurt her in the morning. Maria described it as the feeling of release when someone cuts themselves. The major differences about Lisa and Maria hookups are the feelings that they had after. This is an often overlooked reality that is detrimental to young people.


What are the downsides to hooking up?

There are obvious downsides to having random sex with strangers or even friends. STD’s and unplanned pregnancies are the most known downsides however, both can be prevented with proper contraceptives. But there are emotional and psychological downsides to hook up culture. These downsides affect men and women differently. Psychology Today reported that “women are more likely to regret a hookup, and their emotional response might include shame or self-blame. Men are more apt to regret their partner choice, lamenting their situation if the partner was sexually permissive or unattractive.” These different reactions to hookups are a result of our culture shaming women for being sexual and pressuring men to be sexual. For people like my friend Maria, hookups are a dangerous way for self harm. She uses sex and rejection to psychologically abuse herself. These behaviors are unhealthy, yet common. Many people use sex to fill inadequacies in their lives. In the end, hookups are not necessarily bad, and can be fun and freeing for some people, but for others they can cause emotional heartaches. People must ask themselves if they are making a happy and healthy choice when partaking in hookup culture.


Ph.D., T. E., M.S.B.A., P. N., J.D., T. B., & Ph.D., M. G. (n.d.). 10 Things We’ve Learned About

Hookups and Regret. Retrieved March 08, 2017, from


Paul, E. L., & Hayes, K. A. (2002). The casualties of casual sex: A qualitative exploration of the

phenomenology of college students’ hookups. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 19(5), 639-661.


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