Hooking up: Empowering or Not?

July 1, 2009 | NeW Staff

I have often wondered exactly what constitutes a hookup nowadays. Whenever I hear, “so and so hooked up with so and so…” I respond with the expected curiosity, but I really do not know where a “hookup” falls on the physical relationship spectrum.  I know that makes me sound about 20 years older than I actually am, but I feel that the term can be used to classify just about anything. In an article by Brenda Wilson hooking up is described as an activity performed by young people who are not actively pursuing a commitment,

“Young people during one of the most sexually active periods of their lives aren’t necessarily looking for a mate. What used to be a mate-seeking ritual has shifted to hookups: sexual encounters with no strings attached.”

That is essentially how I had always thought of it. But, a shift in cultural norms is also discussed in this article. In the past, women and men dated and eventually this dating could lead to sexual activities, but in our,  “oh so reckless,” hookup culture,

“something sexual happens, even though it may be less than sexual intercourse, that may or may not ever lead to dating.”

What is so bad about dating? When did it become such a burden to actually get to know someone before you let them slip their tongue down your throat… or hands up you shirt… or skirt… or whatever actually happens when two people “hookup.” The article goes on to explain just how vague the term, “hookup,” can be,

“The term “hookup” is so vague, however, it might well encompass someone’s idea of virginity — it involves anything from kissing to fooling around, oral sex and sexual intercourse.”

According to some of the women interviewed for this article, the vagueness of the term is what makes hooking up so great,

“It has been sex; it has just been some sort of light making out. That’s the beautiful thing about the phrase. Whatever happened is hooking up.”

I am sorry, maybe I am just old fashioned, but nothing about the ambiguity associated with the phrase makes me comfortable. Someone could get the VERY wrong impression if I said I “hooked up” with someone, meaning “light making out,” and their impression of hooking up is sex! Sorry Charlie, way too much room for interpretation.

The article went on to explain how prioritizing between a career and a social life played a part in determining how relationships were handled. In the minds of many women and men today, marriage seems very undesirable and a hindrance to success. Marriage also seems to reflect a lack of independence and kept young people from pursuing careers and advanced degrees. This seems especially to be the case for women.

“A number of experts accept this relaxed attitude toward sex outside of relationships as a natural consequence of the sexual revolution, women’s growing independence and the availability of modern contraceptives.”

Hooking up might be the nonchalant way to have your cake and eat it, too.  But, what about the dangers that the participants face to their health by taking part in such irresponsible sexual activities? This is what one interviewee had to say about that,

“We all attended health class in middle school and high school. We know about condoms and sexually transmitted disease. Sex is fun, and a lot of people would argue that it is a physical need. It’s a healthy activity.”

Is that really the response we should have to this issue?  This article begs the question, is the hookup culture empowering or is it destroying the ability to form meaningful and healthy relationships? What do you think?


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