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Research Says Hookup Culture Is F*cking Us Up. Here's What I Think.

The fine line between men and women is thinner than you think.

Her Voice

Having a hoe phase and being friends with benefits are concepts most commonly utilized by generations that came after the 1960s sexual revolution. This is not to say these concepts were nonexistent before that time, but more so that they were not socially embraced...sans the colorful language, of course. However, the millennial generation was once baptized in what eventually came to be known as "hookup culture." One can only speculate that the social acceptance of hooking up is where things look extremely different from previous generations, as it has been largely accepted at this point.

In fact, it’s become so normalized that I have found myself feeling bad that I can’t get down with the get down. Not really. I’m that girl and have come to live with the fact that I always will be – casual sex isn’t for me, not penetrative anyways. In other words, I will get some head and head out. But casual penetrative sex always proves to be far too intimate for me to do without some type of romantic connection.

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That being said, it has always been thought that women just don’t have what it takes to fully immerse themselves in hookup culture without eventually attaching strings. However, per this misogynistic TikToker, research alleges that hookups are impacting everyone as a whole and it’s not for the reasons we once thought it to be. In fact, what this research suggests, is like every other mammal in this world, we eventually learn to evolve with the circumstances instead of being written off as extinct. Hookup culture, be damned.


Over time, the human brain adapts and rewires itself so that the new pattern doesn’t come with strings attached, and hooking up feels like less of an emotional chore. Though this might seem good at the moment, the same research suggests that if you are someone who eventually desires a romantic connection, your brain then has a difficult time remembering how to thrive under those lovey-dovey circumstances as it now requires itself to readapt and remember how to do so.

I’ve never been opposed to the protest against hookup culture backed by more reasoning than a societal “because I said so.” But, I have been opposed to how it is always framed as "the burden of women." It’s never a nuanced discussion and always a gendered discussion about how women are far "too emotional" to be able to tolerate hookups. Not only is it a problematic statement, but it is also false. Men are just as emotional as women, the difference lies in their inability to express emotion as anything in between anger and contentment (because I'm not even sure they know how to express joy).


Though I’m not deep into the research aspect of this, I truly do believe in "kill or be killed." I believe in evolution. This makes it difficult for me to ignore the likelihood that eventually a generation of brains would come to adapt to a new way of life, after all, it is a defense mechanism, yes? If we know human emotion doesn’t allow for us to instinctively hook up without the hurt and the attachment – wouldn’t it also be true that there would be far less hurt and difficulty exploring this new cultural norm if you shut all of it off? (Slight The Vampire Diaries reference there – the girls that get it.)

I do think we should be careful not to use this argument as a means to tear down other relationship structures that may fall into the consensual non-monogamy category. Why? Well,because I believe a hookup relationship stands alone in how it’s structured (by today’s unfortunate circumstances) in that they haven’t been conditioned to receive the care and candor that those in the non-monogamy community have poured into that category of relationships – though it absolutely should be receiving that level of devotion.


Much like the structure of non-monogamy, and despite what much of society thinks, the healthiest way to execute hookup dynamics is through strong, healthy, and ongoing dialogue. As it is innate for us to crave more, I think it is unrealistic and dangerous for there to be one sole discussion around the stipulations of a hookup without any aftercare/check-ins that allow for boundaries to be reset. If we were to treat hookups in a more healthy manner, I don’t know that it would hold the same emotional weight emotionally…mentally.

Nevertheless, I’m no scientist nor do I claim to be. And though promises of the future can seem far off, especially when you turn 23 and realize everything doesn’t magically fall into place by 25 as you once naively thought it might, we must be cognizant of our own emotional capabilities and observant of the shift we experience when making ourselves flexible to new cultural adaptations.

Though we all crave different types of relationships, my hope is that we do all crave the ability to intimately connect when it counts.

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I was determined to set the mood and engage in some erotic self-focus by way of masturbation, and I wanted to do so with a little more variety than my wand vibrator provides. My commitment to almost daily masturbation was affirmed even further with the arrival of what would become my new favorite sex toy, the viral Lovers’ Thump & Thrust Dual Vibrator.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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