The End of Sex: Chapter 1, Hookup World: the What, the Why, the How, the Classic vs. the Serial

October 16, 2013 | Catie

by NeW summer intern Catie Verano, student at Hillsdale College

This week, the Online Book Club is discussing Chapter 1 from “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy.”

Freitas continues her explanation of how the hookup culture impacts our generation in this next chapter. I thought she provided some interesting insights, including the way men and women truly perceive hooking up. For men, it is often less about winning the woman as a prize (like it might have been done in the past) and more about simply winning the hook up. Hooking up oftentimes elevates a man’s social status, but not without its drawbacks. If a woman hears that a guy hooks up a lot, for example, she might be less inclined to do so with him. If that same guy suddenly undergoes his “wake up period” (which Freitas discusses later) and doesn’t want to hook up anymore, his reputation still stands as a male “slut.” It will be difficult for him to transition into serious dating, or dating a girl with a good reputation. Although statistics show more men and women actively engaging in casual sex, the statistics don’t tell the whole story. They don’t reveal how the students feel about what they’re doing or the quality of their sexual experiences. According to Freitas, many privately express their dislike for the hookup culture, but engage in it anyway because of the accompanying social expectation. Many students report that someone usually gets hurt in a hookup, and it’s usually the woman. Whoever shows attachment or feelings of compassion toward the other is viewed negatively.

However they may feel privately, women often play the hookup game well because of the vagueness of the term. She can say that she hooked up with a guy, which could mean she just kissed him. She can get away with meeting a social expectation without being labeled a slut. Men can also work the vagueness of the term to their advantage. A man might tell a few friends that he hooked up with a girl and just allow them to assume he had sex, when it really could have been a kiss. Both men and women engage in hookup culture, but the way they are perceived is still different. A feminist goal in perpetuating this culture would seem to be breaking down the expectations and roles of men and women. This culture has not achieved that goal at all; we just have a lot of people having sex, pretending not to care for each other.

Hookups can be defined as “classic” or “serial.” The classic hookup is a one night stand, and a serial hookup might include several nights of hooking up. Oftentimes, the serial hookup is the most vague and confusing. One partner may perceive it as the start to a relationship, where the other might think it’s purely physical. Hooking up has replaced the first date, and according to Freitas:

“The ‘lessons’ of hookup culture set students back when it comes to pursuing a relationship with someone whom, in another world, they would have liked to ask on a date. Hookup culture doesn’t teach students anything about how to handle the hollow feeling that so many of them wake up to the next morning. In order to keep themselves in the game, students learn to self-medicate” (38-39).

People have to train themselves to remain detached, however unnatural it is so for them to do this.

One final interesting point Freitas made was that most people undergo a “wake up” experience in which they realize that hooking up has only made them unhappy and they don’t want to be involved anymore. It seems as though this culture is just a phase for many, but as Freitas points out, it often sets back one’s ability to pursue a healthy relationship.

Discussion Questions:

1) What do you think it takes in order for someone to experience a “wake up?” Does everyone need to go through the negative experiences of the hookup culture to come to this realization?

2) What do you think the real lessons of hookup culture teach? Are there any good values it promotes?

3) Would the hookup culture be less negative if there was better communication between partners? Is this even possible?

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