It’s no secret that our culture tends to promote casual sex over sex in relationships.
Unfortunately, this leads many women to think that they need to sleep with the guy they’re dating before they’re comfortable. This phenomenon goes beyond the normalization of hookup culture and goes into the concept of peer pressure. The answer to this problem is for women to know their worth and demand better from romantic and sexual partners.
However, it’s nearly impossible to understand this issue without acknowledging the biological and psychological reasons why men and women react differently to sex.
The Differences Between the Sexes Regarding Sex
In a society that often trivializes sex, it’s important to acknowledge the differences in the biological and psychological responses that men and women have to sex.
When it comes to how men and women have different reactions to sex, Louanne Brizendine, author of The Female Brain, writes, "Women have an eight lane superhighway for processing emotion, while men have a small country road…Men have the O'Hare Airport hub for processing thoughts about sex, whereas women have the airfield nearby that lands small and private planes."
Men also release oxytocin during sex, but in lower doses, lessening the effects of attachment.
This all comes down to the hormones that are released during sex. It’s often easier for women to develop an attachment to a sexual partner due to oxytocin, the hormone that women release during sex that’s known as the “love hormone,” which produces feelings of closeness and attachment. Sexologist Tanya M. Bass writes, “It can be very common to feel attachment to someone after sex, since the brain releases oxytocin during arousal, stimulation of the genitals and nipples, during intercourse or orgasm. The release of this hormone after being physically intimate may cause a feeling of attachment and closeness.”
Men also release oxytocin during sex, but in lower doses, lessening the effects of attachment. In short, this is why it's usually easier for men to have casual sex than women and why women are more likely to see sex as a big deal. This is also why casual sex and one night stands tend to psychologically harm women more than they harm men.
Hookup Culture and Peer Pressure
It’s no secret that hookup culture hurts those who don't participate, and peer pressure is one of the factors, from virgin shaming to pressure to have casual sex when we don’t want to. One of the strongest narratives in hookup culture is that women can "have sex like men," completely ignoring the psychological and biological differences between men and women.
The narrative that a women who has casual sex is liberated is also very harmful to young women, often leading them to think that they’re not a feminist if they don’t hook up. Hanna Rosin of The Atlantic summarizes this phenomenon perfectly. She writes, “To put it crudely, feminist progress right now largely depends on the existence of a hookup culture. And to a surprising degree, it is women — not men — who are perpetuating the culture, especially in school, cannily manipulating it to make space for their success, always keeping their own ends in mind. For college girls these days, an overly serious suitor fills the same role as an accidental pregnancy did in the 19th century: a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future.”
Sex early in a relationship is linked to later relationship dissatisfaction.
Many studies show how harmful these narratives can be. According to a study at Cornell University, “sex early in a relationship” is “linked to later dissatisfaction.” Sharon Sassler, Cornell University professor and lead author of the study, writes, "Women who entered into sexual relationships with their current partners the most rapidly reported significantly lower levels of relationship satisfaction than those who waited somewhat longer before becoming sexually involved. Women are just more sensitive to relationship-quality issues than are men."
The rise of hookup culture on college campuses often expands into dating culture in your 20s. Fortunately, there’s a solution for young women struggling in hookup culture: date with purpose and have high standards for the men you date.
As Women, We Must Have Higher Standards
To any young woman reading this, and I can’t stress this enough, you're worthy of respect from the men you date. You deserve to be seen as the amazing woman you are over being seen as a sex object, and the way to find a man who will treat you like you deserve is to have high standards.
It’s important to show respect if you want respect back, so one good standard to always follow in dating (and in life, in general) is to follow the golden rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. If you go by this rule, you should expect the guy to go by this rule too. There are very few things less attractive than guys who are rude to waiters on dates.
If he’s not willing to respect your boundaries in general, you shouldn’t date him.
In our modern hookup culture, many things that shouldn’t be too much to ask for in a relationship (like wanting to be exclusive) often feel like they’re a lot to ask. You should never apologize for having high standards. If he’s not willing to take you out on a date or respect your boundaries in general, you shouldn’t sleep with him. You’re worth so much more than a guy who sees you as a sex object. Actually, do more than refuse to sleep with him. Delete that guy’s number and never talk to him again because he’s not worth your time.
Modern hookup culture has a sneaky way of pressuring us into things we don’t want to do. Luckily, there’s a simple solution by going into dating with your expectations known and not settling for anything less than you deserve.