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The Benefits of the Hookup Culture

The media, celebrities, and our friends say chivalry is dead. No more opened doors, no more free dinner dates, no more floral deliveries. The drunken dance floor hook up has officially taken the place of the drive-in movie date. But is that a problem? We all know what our parents are thinking: we’re too promiscuous, we’re too emotionless; the complaints go on and on. Sometimes we even buy into their backward ideas of relationships, which ideally manifest themselves in an ice cream shop rather than a dirty basement. But, the past has passed. Rather than trying to dig it up, why not appreciate a movement away from chivalry, which encouraged female passivity, and towards today’s sexual environment, which tends towards a mutual pursuit?

Most of the 20th century’s sexual interactions were ruled by courtship culture; a system rooted in competition and male entitlement. Boy sees girl that he thinks is pretty, boy asks girl out, girl swoons, and suddenly she’s his. It may have seemed romantic when we saw it in our favorite 80s movies. But as it turns out, “Say Anything” was lying to us all along. In the world of our favorite pre-DVD chick flicks, the girl has no choice but to wait for the man to sweep her off her feet. Evidently, sometimes it isn’t so easy to “patiently” wait around for John Cusak to win you over. Most of the time, Mr. Right never comes carrying his boom box.

Welcome to 2015. Goodbye to waiting by your rotary telephone for his call. Courtship culture has been replaced with a much less rule-based alternative: hooking up. According to Urban Dictionary, “hooking up” is a “purposely ambiguous, equivocal word to describe almost any sexual action.”  The term may in fact be the most imprecise label of the 21st century. Yet, in the term’s indefinability lays some of its appeal.

In the past, “DTRing” stood in the way of exploration. The shift towards today’s sexual climate relies on freedom for both parties involved.  The ambiguity of “hooking up” in many ways helps both partners evade social judgment on their sexual actions, and in doing so, fades the very narrowly-prescribed, gendered expectations set by previous decades. Women can’t be disgraced for going too far and men can’t be harassed for not going far enough when no one knows exactly what happened between the two. The relative privacy offered by today’s sexual climate allows for both men and women to embrace our own desires, without the social disparagement of acting outside of prescribed gender roles. 

The increasingly blurred “rules of attraction” also present an opportunity for women to step out of their role as the “pursued” object of men’s attention. The premise behind hooking up helps mitigate gender-based expectations of relationships and changes the sexual scripts. When we aren’t waiting around to get pinned “Bye Bye Birdie” style, we are presented with the opportunity to take matters into our own hands. We can text the object of our attraction first, ask them for what we need out of our relationship, or we can even decide that we would rather get dressed up for the night and fly solo with our girlfriends. Sure, sometimes we may still crave a Noah Calhoun-like pursuer. But, thanks to today’s hookup culture, we now have at least the option to walk downtown on any given night and grab any boy we choose, or none at all. We no longer have to wait to be courted. We can hold court.

As strange as it may sound to mom’s ears, hooking up is liberating. Although it can get repetitive and is sometimes emotionally unfulfilling, its challenge to the notion that women are “damsels in distress” is a step in the right direction. We admit, things are far from perfect. But moving away from the courtship culture normalizes what always should have been considered normal: female sexual assertion. Females are no longer just seen as sexual objects waiting around to be swept off their feet. As casual relationships become more normalized, so too does a more casual approach towards the gendered expectations within those relationships. The one-sided pursuit of the courtship culture has been left in the past. In it its place lays a new opportunity for mutuality. 

As women today, we can dictate our own intentions. We can be in a relationship, hook up with five guys in a night, Dougie by ourselves, sing “Wannabe” with our best friends, get courted or court others. We are not decided for; we decide. See ya later chivalry.  

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