In defense of hookups, not hookup culture
Like many who have written to the ‘Prince’ in articles and comments, I have a problem with the hookup culture. However, my problem has nothing to do with hooking up.
It seems to me that those who lambast the “hookup culture” and “hooking up” tend to mistakenly conflate the two. They make problematic assumptions about what hooking up entails — as Sarah Schwartz eloquently pointed out in her op-ed. Assumptions based on what they’ve been taught to believe: that women are damsels or harlots. That men are predators or knights. That hooking up will always be a regrettable, unfulfilling and transient experience.
I couldn’t disagree more. There are many people, myself included, who have found that hookups can be rewarding, mutually fulfilling and memorable. And I am surprised to learn from Dave Kurz that I should be feeling “lasting emotional confusion,” guilt and victimization from my relationships.
The reason I think the hookup culture is bad is not because hooking up is bad.
The way I see it, hookup culture seems to be premised upon the assumption that sex, relationships and hookups look, feel and work the same for everybody. Hookup culture — which I define as a culture that pressures people to conform to one perceived monolithic relationship style, “the hookup” — leaves very little room for alternative dating styles.
And the worst part? Those who lambast the hookup culture are actually reinforcing its principles — they assume sex and relationships work the same for everyone. Kurz’s romantic orientation clearly does not feel satisfied in a short-term commitment, and that’s fine. But he assumes that those who are satisfied are “immature” and wracked with the spiritual guilt he himself experiences. Considering his reliance on fairytale imagery, it might be wise to re-examine which perspective is more “immature.”
But the ultimate problem with the hookup culture boils down to this misunderstanding around romantic orientation. Romantic orientation is a relatively new concept, but, like sexual orientation, it suggests that some people are naturally inclined toward certain relationship styles. The problem with the hookup culture is that people who would be naturally happier in “serious” relationships end up in bed with people who have contently decided they don’t want long-term, monogamous commitments at this point in their lives. This turns into a mess of miscommunication, hurt feelings and regret.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Hooking up is not for everyone. But for those of us who enjoy hookups as much as coffee dates, walks by Carnegie Lake and “Facebook official” relationships, it is perfectly possible to do it all successfully — but it requires honesty, thoughtfulness and communication about our romantic preferences.
Kurz is absolutely right to challenge our current constructions of dating culture. And Schwartz is absolutely right in challenging Kurz’s attempt to depose one monolithic dating style only to install another, like this is some “war against hookups” where you’re either with us or against us.
I reject “culture wars,” and I reject dichotomies. I support someone’s choice to consensually hook up like I would support a friend who chose to be abstinent until marriage, to be monogamous or to be single. Because, in my ideal “culture,” people are allowed to explore and discover what they want, to communicate openly and honestly with their partners, to keep their promises to themselves and, most importantly, to be happy.
Vivienne Chen is an English major from Pleasanton, Calif., and can be reached at email@example.com.