Hooking Up: Sexual Gratification, Relationship Starter, Or Just Regret
May 19, 2013

Hooking Up: Sexual Gratification, Relationship Starter, Or Just Regret

Hooking up is a part of young adulthood. Likely it always has been, but in recent decades it has grown as part of the college experience as well as non-college experience for young adults. What exactly is hooking up? Well, in the past, that word was specific to having sex with someone with whom you are not in a committed relationship. However, today it also consists of kissing, making out, heavy petting, and sexual intercourse. In short, making out means having some sort of intimate contact without the intimacy of a relationship.

CNN Health writer Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, looked deeper into the hookup culture. Hooking up apparently has both proponents and critics. Let’s look at the proponents first.

One sex and relationship researcher from the University of Kentucky, Kristen Mark, found that many students viewed casual hookups as a positive substitute to romantic relationships. These students felt too busy to maintain a serious, long-term relationship, so the hookup was a solid alternative for sexual gratification. These students did not want to make a relationship a priority. As Mark said, “Without exception, they discuss a long-term monogamous relationship as their desired end goal, but for now, casual sex meets their needs.”

Justin Garcia, a sex researcher for the Kinsey Institute in Indiana, found that one of the greatest contributors to the hookup culture is desire for sexual pleasure. Some also seek emotional gratification in the hookup. For many who are hooking up, they hope that the hookup will start a romantic relationship.

Right then, so what do the critics say? Donna Freitas, author of “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused about Intimacy,” says that the hookup experience is leaving many college students feeling empty, sad, and regretful. She found this through her research for her book as Kerner explains.

“Freitas’s book is partially based on the results of an earlier Internet survey she conducted of 2,500 U.S. college students at secular public, secular private and Catholic universities.

Of the 557 male and female students who responded to a question asking how they felt the morning after a hookup, 41% of those expressed sadness, regret and ambivalence.”

She further contends that today’s culture pressures these young adults into hooking up whether they enjoy it or not. Freitas wants college administrators to expand sexual education programs on campuses and encourages that young adults take a break from hooking up.

However, Justin Lehmiller, social psychologist and Harvard researcher, says that people of all ages engage in the casual hook up. And though many men and women regret the hook up, they also regret their serious romantic relationships as well. Sometimes both are a part of the search for love, for commitment, for relationship gratification.

I am not sure that I believe the hookup culture is a bad thing entirely as Freitas does. I also do not know that it is completely good. I think that anytime people explore their own feelings and sexuality that is probably more positive than not, but I also believe in being sexually responsible and emotionally honest. When one engages in a casual hookup, then he or she must use protection for health reasons including sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancy just to list the big ones. If one goes into a hookup without the honesty necessary, then he or she will have regrets and feel empty. Hooking up may be a part of maturing and finding what we want, but we must do so with caution and responsibility. People who hook up must understand the health issues related with casual sex and take the proper precautions in order to protect themselves.

Justin Garcia said that the “pursuit of sex and love are at the core of the human condition.” The hookup has become a part of that. Though I certainly do not condone reckless behaviors, I do encourage people to own their bodies and their choices whether in a serious relationship or with the casual hookup.

Image Credit: Piotr Marcinski / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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