Hookup culture is usually marketed as empowering to women. It tells women who go off to college that they can explore their sexuality and have sex with random people without consequences. This narrative is not only a lie because hookup culture mainly benefits men (while also hurting them), but it also ignores the fact that men and women are biologically different.
TikTok user @nayaaford points out that hookup culture is not only a scam, but also negatively affects women due to our biology. She says, “Our bodies are the ones that release the hormone that make us attach to them. Even if that man means nothing to you, your body just released a hormone that makes you more attached to him.”
She ends her TikTok by saying, “It’s not a win for us. It doesn’t benefit us. If you want to hold power, view your body as a prize.” The hormone she’s referring to is oxytocin, also known as the “bonding hormone.” Oxytocin is a feel-good hormone that promotes feelings of closeness, but it’s important in this context because women release more oxytocin after sex than men do, dramatically increasing the chance of developing a close bond after sex. While hookup culture ignores this fact, it also likes to shame women who naturally get attached to their partners after sex.
TikTok user @saharrooo pointed this out in another viral video. She says, “The problem is that guys tend to lead girls on because they want to keep getting what they want, which is a hookup. And then girls are painted out to be clingy, obsessive, or psycho because they catch feelings. Realistically, it should be understandable to catch feelings because you’re doing something so intimate.”
We live in a culture that mocks "catching feelings" and ignores the fact that it’s natural to develop feelings for someone you’re having sex with, even if it’s “casual.” It’s refreshing to see women speak out about the lies that hookup culture perpetuates because we are the ones who truly have the power to end it if we choose.
One of the so-called benefits of hookup culture is the chance for a woman to explore her sexuality, but this is another lie. TikTok user @theglowupsecrets made this point in a viral post. She says, “You’re disconnecting from your body. Hookup culture makes you believe that you’re gonna get more experience, and that’s really not true. Every time you get into a new relationship, it’s a new body to learn anyways, and what you should be learning is your own body and what feels good to you.”
While our culture likes to pretend that women are sexually fulfilled through hookups, research shows that women in committed relationships and married women have better sex than their single counterparts. This is because having good sex takes time and learning about your (and your man’s) needs and desires. The orgasm gap is real, and women are more likely to climax if they’re with a committed partner instead of participating in a casual hookup or one-night stand.
Women Who Have Participated in Hookup Culture Are Realizing They’ve Been Duped
What’s interesting about some of these TikToks is that many come from the perspective of women who have participated in hookup culture and now regret it. Podcast host Hope Moquin said it best in a viral TikTok. She opened up about what hookup culture can do to your mental health and also speaks about how she felt peer pressure to participate in it. She says, “Hooking up is the most intimate level that you can be with somebody. Hooking up just to fill your emptiness will always leave you twice as empty when it’s done and over with. Sleeping around casually will always lead you to forget your worth of who you are as an individual. Sleeping with somebody does not and will not make somebody want to stay with you. Casually sleeping around does not lead you toward wholeness.”
She continues, “There was a point in my life where the hookup scene was where I was at and was what I did. Sometimes I thought I had to do it to be accepted, that if I didn’t do it, then I would be looked over, and the other times I thought that since I was already in that lifestyle, then what was the point of stopping and getting out of it?”
Moquin makes several good points here, but I want to highlight the link between hookup culture and peer pressure. Unfortunately, many women (especially college-aged women) participate in hookup culture to fit in with their peers. This makes it tough for everyone because women who don’t participate are still affected since hookup culture is so pervasive. It’s nearly impossible to escape, on college campuses and beyond. The belief (whether it’s true or not) that everyone is hooking up and that it’s the cool thing to do is responsible for many women participating.
TikToker @iyanamare had a similar experience. While she never participated in hookup culture, she still felt pressure to sexualize herself online and lose her virginity as soon as possible. She says, “As a woman in her early twenties, I feel like we are dangerously oversexualized and pushed into participating in hookup culture and sneaky link culture. Honestly, it’s not progressive or beneficial for us at all. I feel like a lot of women are brainwashed into thinking that they benefit from having sex or playing a game as a man plays it. They think they’re on the same footing as men.”
She continues, “This is coming from somebody who used to oversexualize herself on the internet. This is coming from somebody who lost her virginity at 20 and thought that was too old. At 21, I’ve never participated in hookup culture, but I can definitely tell you I wish I would have waited, and I hope you guys continue to wait if you’re still a virgin.”
If you’re a woman who has criticized hookup culture, there’s a good chance that you’ve been accused of having "internalized misogyny." This line of thinking gaslights women into thinking that their negative feelings about hookup culture are invalid and problematic – which is highly ironic in a society that preaches tolerance of each individual’s “truth” and choices (as long as they don’t hurt anyone).
What Does This Say About Gen Z Women?
It’s refreshing to see women speak out against hookup culture on social media, and I think it’s part of a larger trend of pushing back against mainstream feminist narratives. For example, last year, many women took to TikTok and other forms of social media to talk about their negative experiences with the birth control pill. From painful withdrawal symptoms to scary side effects, these women are using the platform to educate others about the risks of birth control, allowing women to make more informed decisions about their health. The same thing is happening now with hookup culture, showing that social media has the power to amplify personal experiences to the point of effecting cultural shifts.
These TikToks also show that Gen Z women aren’t afraid to question narratives that many millennial women didn’t even think to question, and a lot of it has to do with prioritizing mental health. From negative mental health consequences like low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety to unnecessary heartache, many of us can acknowledge that hookup culture is bad for women. It's clear that these women speaking out on TikTok aren’t willing to sacrifice their mental well-being to have casual sex.
While there are plenty of negative sides to social media platforms like TikTok, it has also given women the chance to tell their personal stories with battling hookup culture to large audiences. This not only helps women realize that they’re not alone, but has the potential to shift the narrative for good.
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