What’s Dumb About Hooking Up? (Part I)

November 25, 2008

“You’re promiscuous if you do anything, but you’re a prude if you do nothing.”

Naomi Wolf


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:

o Chlamydia
o Crabs/pubic lice
o Gonorrhea (both genital and throat)
o Hepatitis B
o Herpes
o HPV/genital warts
o Syphilis
o Trichomoniasis

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.

In What’s Dumb About Hooking Up? (Part II) we’ll look at whether hooking up leads to relationships.