Hookup culture hinders meaningful relationships and does more harm than good
Studies such as one conducted by University of Portland sociologist Martin Monto have shown that college hookup culture today is no more scandalous than it was 25 years ago, and that the amount of sex students have has not significantly increased. While that may be true, hookup culture has indisputably become far more casual in recent years, leading to confusion, hurt feelings and often a jaded view of relationships.
Psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne, when referring to research on casual sex by Kinsey Institute researcher Justin Garcia, wrote in Psychology Today that “young adults are turning more to casual encounters as a way to express and satisfy their sexual needs.” These “casual encounters” could be a one-night stand or a dance floor make-out (commonly referred to as a DFMO). In these scenarios it can be unclear to one or both parties what the result will be of the casual hookup. Does he like me? Will she text me later? Is this the beginning of a possible relationship?
Most often, no: it is not the start of a relationship, but rather a one-time thing. This can be devastating for one party, perhaps if he or she thought the casual hookup would lead to something more. It can also be confusing to the party who did not think anything would come of it, and yet he or she is receiving multiple texts and phone calls afterward asking to hang out. This miscommunication is common among college students, especially at parties and at bars, where one-time, casual hook-ups may appear as the potential for a relationship. And with hooking up, sexual interaction comes first — and dates come later, if at all. Because of this casual hookup culture, we are all working backwards when it comes to relationships. By starting with the physical aspects, we are not taking the time to get to know the other party, which hinders our ability to form a real relationship.
In the absence of clear communication, casual hookups can lead to confusion about where lines are drawn. There can be pressure from one party to go further physically, while the other party does not want to do anything more. This miscommunication can result in regret and anger if one party crosses the line unknowingly, due to the vagueness of a casual hookup.
This vagueness can also lead to hurt feelings if one person has unreturned feelings for the person he or she hooks up with. This unrequited infatuation is common and many college students find themselves disappointed when they discover their casual hookup will forever only be that. Also, there is the possibility of hurt feelings if one discovers his or her casual hookup has been casually hooking up with other people too. This can be very hard to deal with, and comes from the vague communication that results from a casual hookup culture.
Finally, the hookup culture can leave students jaded. Constantly failing at starting a relationship — because often we try to form them from casual hookups — some college students begin to believe love doesn’t exist. Some might think, “I gave him/her everything, and yet they still don’t want me.” This can be very disheartening and discouraging.
I do not know anyone who has mastered the casual hookup. All I have witnessed in my time here at the University, in terms of the casual hookup, have been messy endings to quasi-relationships and mornings full of regret and disappointment.
That is not to say that a one-night-stand or a casual hookup never lead to relationships, because they can. But more often than not they fail. So perhaps it is time we reevaluate the way we treat one another, and evolve from the casual hookup.
Meredith Berger is an Opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. Her columns run Mondays.