Hook-Up Culture: What It Means, How to Get Through It & Not Lose Yourself

Are you sick of the hook-up culture? Many people are. But what exactly is it, and how can you survive it in this day and age? We have all your answers.

hook-up culture

Dating has become even more complicated these days, with some even saying that we live in a hook-up culture. With the birth of dating websites and dating apps like Tinder, more and more people are hooking up than actually going on “real dates.”

If you’re looking for something more casual, perhaps hooking up can work to your advantage.

What does hooking up mean? 

The term “hooking up” is used quite often these days and most people think they know what it means. However, there are a few different definitions and explanations for the term. It can also mean different things to different people.

In essence, hooking up with someone means that you’re sexually intimate with them. However, this intimacy can range from just kissing to having sex. [Read: Fuck buddy – the casual sex guide to hook up and have sex with a friend]

Because of this, the term hooking up is more of an overarching expression to describe a wide range of sexually intimate acts. The reason the term is so vague is probably that people don’t want to reveal the details.

The vagueness of the term allows people to keep some privacy about the specifics of the intimate time spent with the other person. That way, they can avoid any stigma or judgment from other people.

The most important part of the meaning of hooking up is that the two people aren’t in a monogamous relationship or even dating each other. [Read: Booty call – the definition and 26 sexy tips to casually hook up with a friend]

It can simply be a one-time occurrence or a type of ongoing sexual relationship, such as friends with benefits.

Is the hook-up culture real?

Ask just about anyone these days if the hook-up culture is real, and they will probably give you a resounding “yes!” It has slowly become much more common than it was decades ago.

With that said, that doesn’t mean that everyone participates in hook-up culture. [Read: Why do guys only want to hook up with me? And all you want is a BF]

There are still plenty of people who are in monogamous, committed long-term relationships too. So, it’s not like society has completely changed over to only casual hook-ups.

So, answering the question of whether or not hook-up culture is real depends on the perspective of the person answering that question. There are some people who have never—and would never—have a casual hook-up.

And then there are people who only do casual hook-ups. This could either be because they want to or they could be making bad choices with the people they try to romantically pursue. [Read: Tinder hookup – 24 rules and photo secrets to get lucky and laid on Tinder]

Where did the hook-up culture come from? 

Believe it or not, hookups became more frequent as far back as the 1920s. Hard to believe, right? 

This is because cars started to be used and entertainment, such as movie theaters, became popular. So, instead of “dating” at home with their parents at home, the young adults went out of the home and were able to explore their sexuality more freely.

By the 1960s, young people became even more sexually liberated. [Read: 16 signs your hookup has feelings for you and you just want a fling]

During that decade, there was the rise of feminism and birth control became more common. Also, college parties became more sexually loose as well.

Today, sexual behavior outside of a committed romantic relationship is even more common. With the invention of the internet, online dating sites, the smartphone, and dating apps, the hook-up culture has become very common.

The reason for this is that technology just makes it too easy. Suddenly, with the swipe of a phone, a person can have many options for sexual encounters. It’s like being a kid in a candy store. [Read: Are we dating? 22 cute signs you’re more than just friends or a hookup]

Before these technological advances, people would actually have to leave their homes in order to meet people. And even then, the likelihood that they would get a sexual encounter that night was slim to none. 

Hooking up vs. Dating

What is “hooking up”? This seems to be the norm in today’s society. In fact, it has made dating sound so archaic, and at times, downright pointless. 

Hooking up usually means getting into a sort of relationship where there is no actual commitment between the both of you. [Read: How to make your hookup miss you – 26 pros, cons, and ways to hook them]

People who “hook up” get into sexual relationships without any form of emotional attachment. Of course, when one does hook up with someone, you’re pretty much all set. 

Do not expect to be part of your partner’s everyday activities, besides the occasional romp between the sheets. You won’t be introduced to your hook-up’s friends or family. After all, this is a mutual agreement that you have both agreed on.

Most hook-ups would rather use texting or other messaging apps as the constant form of communication. Why? Because it is cost-effective and super convenient. Plus, it also gives rise to the occasional “booty call.” [Read: 16 best hookup apps of 2023 – what do you want in a hookup right now?]

With dating, people would give you phone calls now and then. You want to hear their voice on the other end of the line. You would want to know how their day went. And you would want to hear their laugh once again.

The hook-up culture can be rather confusing because you are only allowed to see your hook-up at specified intervals. This could be once a month, or perhaps every other month. Again, it would all depend on your mutual agreement. 

After all, hooking up gives you time to see other people in between. Those who choose to enter these waters must be ready for the turbulent waves ahead. [Read: Casual relationship – 80 casual dating tips and rules to not get hurt or attached]

Negative impacts of hooking up

Sure, some people find hooking up fun. But not everyone does, and it can have some pretty big negative impacts on your life. Here they are:

1. Negative emotional responses

One or both of you could become jealous, insecure, depressed, or any other negative emotion in response to the hook-up. There is no commitment, love, or romance in these situations. So, it is very likely that they will not produce happiness for most people.

2. Negative health outcomes

If someone is hooking up with you, how many other people have they hooked up with before—and after—you? Hook-ups put you at risk for STDs and pregnancy.

Sleeping around with a lot of people is never a good idea, even for your health. [Read: STDs 101 – the most common types and their symptoms]

3. Social consequences

You might also gain a negative reputation for hooking up too much. This could lead to you being labeled a “slut” or a “player.” Then, quality people might never want to date you. And people will think you are shallow because you never have a real relationship.

Why is hooking up not for everyone? 

Many people enter hook-ups without really knowing what they are getting themselves into. It’s like diving into unfamiliar waters, where your only hope for survival is to sink or swim. 

Most people cannot stand the pressure. And some would suddenly fall in love with the one they are hooking up with. [Read: Fling to relationship – 31 signs you’re moving from something casual to love]

You need to remember that as far as relationships go, they should be a two-way street. The emotional burden of being the only one making the relationship work is just too exhausting. In fact, this is the very reason why many hook-ups never work. 

Someone is bound to get hurt just a few months into the no-strings-attached relationship. And what started out as a good idea might turn into an emotional and psychological nightmare for many.

How to survive today’s hook-up culture

For those of you who aren’t sure how you can make it through this generational dating phase, here’s our guide for what you can do to avoid getting your heart broken by someone who’s just looking to hook up. [Read: FWB to relationship – 15 ways to get a friend with benefits to fall in love]

1. Know what you are getting yourself into

As the great military strategist, Sun Tzu once said, “If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles. If you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one. 

If you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” To enter into battle unprepared is foolish. To dive into unfamiliar waters is suicide.

Entering the hook-up culture emotionally unprepared is considered social suicide. You must remember that when you enter a hook-up, you are there for the casual sort of relationship it brings, nothing more. [Read: Giving up on love – 20 practical reasons why it’s not the right answer]

Do not expect any commitments or emotional attachments, as hooking up is a “no strings attached” sort of thing.

2. Know when to take charge

If you have decided that the hook-up culture would work for you, then by all means, go for it. When you see someone you like, make the first move. When it comes to the hook-up culture, it all comes down to making your intentions clear. 

If that person rejects you, move on to the next. After all, there are no emotional attachments whatsoever anyway. [Read: How to hook up with a girl, pick the right one, and 30 must-know secrets]

3. Be honest and open about it

Once you are in the relationship, remember that honesty is crucial even when it comes to hooking up. Your partner is no mind-reader, so be clear about what you want. 

If possible, set all your ground rules on paper. If you plan on being exclusive, make sure to make this clear to your partner to avoid any future conflicts.

4. Be responsible

Casual hook-ups are mainly all about sexual relations. Since most hook-ups tend to be a non-exclusive sort of thing, it is always advised to practice safe sex. [Read: 25 friends with benefits rules to make sure you have a happy ending]

STDs and unwanted pregnancies are still very real things, and no one wants something as burdensome as that, especially in a casual no-strings-attached sort of relationship. 

Taking responsibility is always the mature thing to do and should always be put into practice.

5. Learn to not take things personally

Let’s face it, hook-ups have an expiration date. Sometimes, people just can’t take the pressure or one of you suddenly wants something more serious with someone else. [Read: 20 signs she’s leading you on, using you, and pretending to love you]

Whatever the reason, you will find that your partner will disappear from your life just as quickly as they have arrived.

When this happens, it is best to not take it all personally. People will leave eventually. It’s inevitable. Do not mope around or feel bad about yourself. 

Don’t stalk their social media accounts, and do not drunk text them. The hook-up culture requires some form of emotional detachment that comes in handy when your partner suddenly bails. [Read: Am I clingy? 23 signs of a stage 5 clinger and how to stop being one]

6. Have a sense of humor

Hook-ups are meant to be fun and lighthearted. You don’t have to keep things all serious and straight-laced when you are together. 

Sometimes, the best way to keep a person interested is to have a sense of humor about your entire arrangement. Keep it light and fun, especially in bed.

7. Learn when to leave

There are times when the hook-up will just leave you hanging. Sometimes, the answer is indefinite. [Read: Selfish people – 20 ways to spot and stop them from hurting you]

When you feel that this relationship is not worth your time, you have every right to leave. If you feel that this is doing you more harm than good, it is best to walk away than to keep torturing yourself.

Remember, hook-ups are supposed to be a lighthearted way of getting into a non-committal sort of relationship, but if you feel more emotionally burdened, learn to accept that this sort of thing is not for you. Make sure you exit with dignity.

8. Look at the positive side of things

The world is an endless sea full of assholes and jerks, and in one way or another, you will get hurt. You might find yourself developing feelings for the one you are hooking up with, and they might not feel the same way about you. [Read: Dammit, why doesn’t he like me back?! 31 reasons why guys do this]

Despite all this, remember that your happiness matters. Be positive, and try to see each relationship, failed or otherwise, as a rich source of life lessons. 

After all, it does take a bad relationship to make you appreciate all the good ones that come into your life.

Hooking up has become so prevalent nowadays that it makes dating seem like a myth. Social media coverage has come so far as to make reality shows that would glorify it all together. [Read: The toxic dangers of social media and 19 signs and ways it makes you feel insecure]

But while hooking up is not evil in any sense of the word, it is clearly not for everyone, and you need to remember that.

Are we getting sick of hook-up culture? 

This is a difficult question to answer because it’s different for everyone. Some people might think it’s awesome to have sex and hook up with a large number of people. While others think it’s degrading.

For the people who are sick of the hook-up culture, here are some reasons. [Read: 34 true secrets to find love and why you haven’t found the right person yet]

1. It makes people feel disposable

Just like something you use and throw away—like a paper towel—the people who engage in the hook-up culture can feel this way. No one likes to feel like they are replaceable. They want to be valued as a person.

2. It makes people feel insecure

Committed relationships make people feel secure and loved. But hooking up doesn’t. There is a lot of uncertainty, jealousy, and pain that goes along with it. Many people overthink a hook-up while trying to act cool and like they don’t care.

3. There is no romance involved

Aren’t those old movies where the soldiers wrote love letters to their ladies just great?

Well, in the hook-up culture, you never see romance like that. In fact, there’s usually no romance at all, but rather just sexual encounters. [Read: What to look for in a relationship – 23 traits of a happy romance]

4. Many people are sick of online dating and apps

Women in particular are sick of getting unsolicited dick pics from men they never met. They get grossed out by it. But men can be sick of these things too. A lot of people think that dating apps are just for sexual encounters and not relationships.

[Read: Unsolicited dick pics – why guys send it and 30 prickly ways to respond]

5. It promotes selfishness

In the hook-up culture, it’s all about instant gratification and doing what’s good for you *and only you*. There is no common courtesy or human decency. No one cares about people’s feelings—only their own carnal desires.

6. It encourages situationships and FWB

Just the fact that there are two terms “situationships” and “friends with benefits” tells you everything you need to know about hook-up culture. These arrangements allow people to have sex without the obligation of having to be loyal to someone.

[Read: No strings attached relationship – how to have it, end it, and 35 NSA rules]

Know yourself before getting into a hook-up. If you prefer committed relationships, it’s best to avoid entering the complicated world of hook-ups. After all, many have tried and failed, and it’s definitely not an easy road to tread.

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...