Hookup Culture and Tips on How to Navigate It
Sexual Health & Wellness

Hookup Culture and Tips on How to Navigate It

For most people, the portrayal of love and relationships in the media shaped how many would view their own endeavors into the dating world. In the early 2000s, this entailed love letters and flower stems lodged in lockers between classes, burned CDs with sappy, curated playlists, pebbles flung at windows followed by some poetic profession of feelings - otherwise a few classic examples of the “simple” acts of love we may have learned to romanticize and crave.

But, as years progressed, our understanding of human sexuality has also been reconstructed. The traditional dating that has been regurgitated through media or older generations was no longer seen as the only way. Apart from queer relationships becoming more celebrated, the normalization of open arrangements, and even learning to accept being alone as an option, casual dating has become more prevalent in our culture.

Casual dating can be understood in the broader scope of hookup culture. In many ways, hookup culture has seemed to serve as an alternative to traditional dating in modern society. This tends to encompass sexual encounters that do not require commitment in the way relationships do. It can range from arrangements such as one-night stands to “friends with benefits”, moving away from traditional, romantic relationships. Casual sex is more normalized and understood as an activity that may be detached from emotion. Even if hooking up is less emotional of an arrangement for you and your partner(s), consent and respect must always be present.

For many, porn has shaped depictions of sex and intimacy. This can heavily influence how people perceive their own experiences to carry. If our sexual expectations are influenced by perfectly scripted representations of sex and intimacy seen in much of free online porn, we are feeding into unrealistic expectations of how these experiences should look for us in real life. Most times if you are putting these messages from what you have seen in porn into your real life sexual expectations, these experiences can be more awkward than seamless. This can be the case, especially if you first begin seeing someone or experimenting and may have little to no knowledge regarding what they may enjoy sexually. This is usually not the case for many performers seen in porn, who openly discuss their likes, dislikes, boundaries and use consent to form the scenes you ultimately see on screen.

If hookups are not navigated respectfully, they can easily become detrimental to someone’s physical and/or mental wellbeing. This may not always be how they are portrayed through mainstream media, which includes porn. Oftentimes, people who participate in hookup culture are depicted as cool and collected, which is often characterized through a lack of communication and consent. In turn, in hookup culture, emotions and vulnerability have become subconsciously more demonized. Processing emotions and communicating boundaries can be received negatively. Doing so can even be equated to weakness. Ultimately, there becomes this desire to be perceived as calm and detached by one another, which may be deceptively received as confidence in the situation. But, actually, it breeds fear to develop emotional maturity.

Yet, this is the key to properly navigating hookup culture. Emotional intelligence encompasses a multitude of favorable traits. Most importantly, it grants an individual the capacity to be self aware and confident in what they desire from a hook-up. Becoming in tune with one's emotions allows them to further decipher what may or may not serve them. Going into these hookup situations, one may be less apprehensive to set boundaries with their partners and communicate more openly about their boundaries and what they may or may not be comfortable with.

This could range from what pleasurable activities they prefer to the necessary conversations on regular STI testing or use of contraceptive methods. They are not concerned with presenting a false facade that is perpetuated by unrealistic depictions in the media; they are able to recognize the necessity to humanize themselves and their needs. This further advocates for safer hook ups and the selection of partners that will reciprocate communication and respect. 

Even if you are not romantically involved with someone, it is still an emotional exchange. Time and energy is shared with another person, if not multiple people. Respect, communication, and consent are vital to create safe and fun situations, regardless if there is a presence of romantic feelings. Respect and communication is ultimately what distinguishes us as people and allows us to navigate in the modern day of hookup culture or general dating. If utilized respectfully, we can learn about ourselves and our sexuality in more depth, regardless of how long a partner may be in our lives. Why would we suppress the human gift that is emotion? After all, you will be the one left unsatisfied.

Iga Stepaniak