Defining the Hook-up Culture

Christine Whelan | Posted on 05/17/10

Today I posted a piece on with survey results from an online poll of young-adults. What is a hook-up? When does it happen? Is it all in good fun--for both men and women? And what happens the day after the hook-up?

Here's an excerpt -- and read the whole piece here.

What happens after the hook up? To me, this is where it gets really depressing. According to respondents, 47.5% say a woman should expect nothing from a hook up - no call, no date, no relationship, nada. And the man shouldn't expect anything either. It was just casual. Only 15% of respondents say the woman should expect a call from the guy. Check out this un-romantic chart. The chart for what guys should expect looks pretty similar.

One respondent suggested that there should be rules and time limits to hook ups - physical contact for a set period of time - to manage expectations. Others described a hook up as a way to "test the waters" to see if there should be future contact. Not romantic stuff.

"I do believe the definition has shifted from ‘make-out' to more intense physical connection," mused Samantha, 30. And as for what happens next, "If you expect nothing except physical pleasure than you won't be disappointed by the short-term."

Says J, a 22-year-old single guy, said in one of his hook ups, "I walked a girl-friend home, we hooked up passionately on the street, texted and so on since, went out once, but it was awkward so we're just friendly acquaintances now..."

(I think the key word there is "awkward.")

Should a hook up be emotionally meaningful? The majority of respondents want a hook up to be emotionally meaningful. I asked whether people agreed or disagreed with this statement: "Hooking up is just fun, and doesn't have to be emotionally meaningful." Some 59% of respondents disagree. Which is really nice, except... how does that add up with the previous chart about the low expectations of post-hook-up interactions? Romance isn't dead, but it seems most young adults are shielding their hearts and preparing for the worst after these interactions.

"As long as the hook-up doesn't evolve into meaningless sex, it's harmless and fun for both parties," says Tara, 17.

But Patrick, 27, who defined a hook up as meaning sexual intercourse, disagreed: The whole "hook-up culture is a shame," he said. "Too many men and women have come to look upon the human body as a tool for pleasure. It's also a shame that the popular idea of sex is void of a deeper meaning."

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