Hookup Culture Still Hurts Those Who Don’t Participate

“If you don’t want to hook up, just don’t. Hookup culture isn’t hurting you, so chill out.”

By Meghan Dillon3 min read
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This is a cleaner version of responses that I receive when I write about the negative effects that hookup culture has on dating. This could be a strong argument if it were true, but it’s not. Hookup culture still harms those who don’t participate, mainly because the rise of casual dating leads to fewer romantic prospects and the myth that we need to “sow our wild oats” before settling down.

Without Sex, Modern Casual Dating Devolves into the “Talking Phase”

I never had a boyfriend or participated in hookup culture when I was in college, but I still went on dates. Though a lot of the guys I met were very sweet, there were also a lot of duds.

The norm on my college campus was hooking up, and very few people took dating seriously. Many relationships began after the two connected after an initial hookup that was meant to be a one night stand. I wanted a boyfriend but refused to hook up, so I managed to find a compromise between the two: the “talking phase.”

I wanted a boyfriend but refused to hook up, so I compromised with the “talking phase.”

Very few things can sum up casual dating like the dreaded “talking phase.” You’re not really dating or in a relationship, but you talk to the person regularly. The toughest part of the talking phase is it’s a game (and games are never healthy in relationships) with one rule: whoever cares less wins. I took this to mean that I could never admit that I actually wanted to have a boyfriend, which led to disappointment and heartache.

Though I’m the first to admit that I could’ve handled these situations better, I also think that the “talking phase” isn’t the healthiest thing in dating because it prevents you from developing a real relationship. The talking phase leads to two issues that make casual dating even more complicated: emotional intimacy and lack of communication.

You Can Still Develop an Emotional Bond in the Talking Phase

Psychologist Dr. Wyatt Fisher defines emotional intimacy as, “a sense of closeness developed with another person over time. Usually, it involves a feeling of safety and having your inner thoughts and feelings known and accepted.”

You don’t need to take your clothes off for emotional intimacy to occur. 

Though many know that women release oxytocin during sex, making women more likely to develop close relationships with sexual partners, you don’t need to take your clothes off for emotional intimacy to occur. If you’re casually dating or talking to a guy and you start to bond, chances are that you will likely develop an emotionally intimate relationship. What seems like a loophole in avoiding the pain of hookup culture can still lead to heartbreak when you develop a close bond to someone you aren’t even dating.

Is It Just Talking or Is It Talking?

Another problem with casual dating is a lack of communication. The idea of a  no-strings-attached relationship is one of the reasons why hookup culture is so appealing to many, but this leads to some negative consequences like lack of communication.

East Carolina University student Melissa Glen believes this affects everyone, as she writes, “As we choose to be more attached to a four-inch screen than an actual human being, we begin to lose touch with reality. Conversation is an intimacy expressed in the realest sense, and the reality for me is that conversation is just as important as sex.” 

This has affected Glen’s personal life as well, as she continues, “Recently, a friend and I realized we both had similar ‘romantic’ experiences with the same guy who, to our surprise, we later discovered had a girlfriend. The guy was fantastically interested in our lives, wanted to spend time with us, and was very affectionate. As mere mortals, we assumed he was flirting with us, but in fact, he was simply an avid conversationalist. Personally, I was shocked, as this was a characteristic I had assumed was already extinct in today’s male population. It seems impossible nowadays to find someone that will spend time getting to know you without wanting something in return. That this guy seemed more interested in our personalities than our bodies is what drew us to him initially. If people would stop swiping left and right and put in conversational effort, the people who want a real relationship would have a better shot at finding it.”

We assumed he was flirting with us, but in fact, he was simply an avid conversationalist. 

I’ve been in Glen’s shoes and can relate to her struggle. The normalization of hookup culture has blurred so many norms when it comes to relationships. When we prioritize sex over conversation, it’s hard to communicate boundaries and will lead some of us to guys who think it’s okay to flirt with other women when his girlfriend isn’t there.

Luckily, we can fix this issue by improving our own communication skills and refusing to tolerate this kind of behavior. Unfortunately, it won’t help on the front that fewer people are looking for committed relationships.

The Normalization of Hooking Up Has Led to Fewer People Seeking Marriage

One factor that led to the rise of casual dating and hookup culture is that marriage is no longer an economic necessity for women. Though it’s great that we’re long past the days of Amy March contemplating marrying Fred Vaughan for economic reasons over love in Little Women, it has also led to a popular belief that marriage is unnecessary, and therefore so is a committed relationship.

Many women no longer want to get married because it’s not an economic necessity, and many men no longer want to get married because the risk of divorce is too expensive. Add to this that it’s now socially acceptable to have sex outside of marriage thanks to hookup culture, and you have a major cultural force contributing to fewer men and women wanting a committed relationship or marriage.

Unfortunately, more and more young men and women have bought into the idea that hooking up is easier and more fulfilling than a relationship or marriage, leaving those interested in a serious relationship with fewer options. 

Closing Thoughts

It’s no secret that hookup culture harms those who choose to participate, but it makes it even more sinister that it also negatively affects those who don’t.