“You’re promiscuous if you do anything, but you’re a prude if you do nothing.”
Let me say right off that I don’t have a problem with hooking up in a moral sense. As a former wild child I understand the appeal of the one-night stand. It’s not always a bad idea, and it can be a lot of fun. So my concerns are not about whether you are enjoying yourself in the moment, but rather the longer-term effects of hooking up.
I’m worried that when all is said and done it’s a bad deal for most girls, most of the time. I’m not here to tell you stop. There wouldn’t be any point – it’s the only scene available much of the time. I’m here to show you how to be smart about the way you hook up, and with whom, so that you can start getting what you want.
Girls have a lot more to lose than boys.
First, the reality is that girls who do a ton of hooking up get a bad reputation. Whereas a boy gets to be a player, a girl gets called a slut for the same behavior. So the same behavior that increases his social status decreases yours.
Guys say they perceive girls in two ways: girls they might date, and girls to have sex with. When looking at girls to date, the three qualities they want most are faithfulness, loyalty and limited sexual experience. But when it comes to hooking up for sex, boys want a very different kind of girl: sexual experience, a high sex drive, and it’s a bonus if the girl is already involved with someone else. Of course, this is his insurance policy that she won’t expect anything from him. So the old double-standard is alive and well, and that means that a girl’s best way of protecting her reputation is to have sex in a relationship.
Second, girls assume all the risk of pregnancy, and their odds of contracting an STD are a lot higher than boys’. Girls are physically just a lot more vulnerable to exposure because of the way we’re built. A recent study estimates that one in four teenage girls has an STD, and when you consider only the teenage girls with sexual experience, that number is one out of two. The menu of STDs being seen among young women today includes:
Gonorrhea (both genital and throat)
Alcohol almost always plays a key role in fueling the hookup scene by lowering normal inhibitions. The drunker the person, the more likely he or she is to hook up, and to have intercourse during the hookup. Condoms are much less likely to be used, and girls commonly report being raped while hooking up, or having sex to appease an angry boy.
Finally, and most importantly, even benign hooking up often leaves girls feeling unhappy. All the studies that have looked at hooking up reveal that girls often feel disappointed after hooking up. They do the walk of shame and often blame the hookup on how drunk they got the night before. It doesn’t live up to their expectations, and they wind up feeling lonely, angry or regretful.
Girls hook up for a variety of reasons. Before hooking up with anyone, you owe it to yourself to think about what you are looking for in the hookup, and whether the experience is likely to meet your needs. It’s important to examine your motivation and expectations up front to avoid feeling disappointed or regretful afterwards. For young women who would like to experience emotional intimacy with someone special, the most important (and discouraging) fact about hooking up is this:
Hooking up rarely leads to a relationship.
Research shows that only 12% of hookups turns into romantic relationships, and those last an average of four months.
Half the college students who have reported having intercourse during a hookup never saw the person again.
Girls looking for relationships hook up because they don’t see an alternative. No one is asking them (or anyone) out on dates. The girls they know who have boyfriends usually got there by hooking up first. If you are not looking for anything serious, then you can act impulsively and are far less likely to experience disappointment. But if you have a goal of being with someone in a relationship, it’s important that you manage the process strategically. Hooking up regularly with boys you don’t know means wasting a lot of time. That’s time you could be spending meeting the right boy.
When deciding to hook up, girls are often not being true to themselves.
Often girls hook up to get boys to pay attention to them, not because they want sex. They don’t really expect a relationship to come from it, but they don’t want to be left out of the social scene either. So girls run around pretending to be something they’re not, essentially acting out male fantasies. It makes us feel powerful to witness the effect we have on men. But if you don’t use that power wisely, you just wind up getting screwed in every way!
It’s important to understand how guys think. When a guy wants to hook up with you:
You feel desired, especially if he is hot. And he does desire you. At that point in time. Physical attraction makes the boy want to touch what he sees, and nothing more.
You feel singled out, chosen, special. But you need to understand that he feels that way about MANY girls. When it comes to hooking up, guys are really not that choosy, especially at closing time.
You feel powerful. But you cannot hook a guy with great sex. Both girls and guys say that girls use sex as a way to get and keep a guy’s love. And neither thinks it works.
Sex doesn’t make women fall in love either, but it does make them feel emotionally attached.
Women release the hormone oxytocin during times of intimacy, which is the same hormone that helps them bond with their babies during birth and breastfeeding. Men release oxytocin too, but testosterone tamps down its effect in guys. He’s left feeling satisfied but not particularly attached, and you wind up fretting over some boy who may not be right for you anyway! You might not even like him much, but you wind up a prisoner to your own hormones.
Hookups often turn manipulative, guaranteeing a winner and a loser.
Hookups are often dishonest in the sense that both parties are vying for control. They both know someone’s bound to get rejected at some point, and neither one wants it to be them. So they both pretend they don’t care, eager to walk away first. Most often it’s the boy who is less invested so he walks, and the girl’s feelings are hurt. The whole dynamic has turned adversarial, which leaves girls feeling wary of boys and cynical about hooking up.
Make your own happiness your highest priority. Think about what you really want and need, and don’t do anything that won’t help you get it. Next time we’ll talk about the quality (or lack thereof) of hookup sex.