Today, we’re talking about hookup culture and mental health. In Ask An Editor, Her Campus Editors answer readers’ questions about how to be a human. This month, Her Campus’s Deputy Editor, Iman Hariri-Kia, hosts office hours.
Does anyone actually feel fulfilled by hookup culture?
Unlucky In Lust
Dear Unlucky In Lust,
Hey bestie — in order to answer your questions, let’s first look at what hookup culture actually means. According to the American Psychological Association, hookups can be defined as “brief uncommitted sexual encounters between individuals who are not romantic partners or dating each other.” (Lol.) In Layman’s terms, casually getting with someone you have no intention of being in a relationship with. But hookup culture refers to the social climate created when hooking up as a practice is accepted as the cultural norm. So, you can totally feel fulfilled by hooking up, but not by hookup culture. That’s like differentiating between loving Kravis as a couple but not particularly being here for the emo pop-punk resurgence of 2021. You with me so far?
For the purposes of our chat, I’m going to focus on the act of hooking up rather than its larger cultural impact – since engaging in casual sex is a decision that every college student will make for themselves on an individual level. And my answer is: Yes, you can 100% feel sexually fulfilled by a hookup. However, people are constantly evolving, changing their minds day to day, hour to hour. One day, you might be looking for nothing other than sexual exploration and a consensual orgasm. The next, you could be looking for a deeper connection.
All that being said, here are the three questions you should ask yourself to determine whether or not you feel fulfilled by hookup culture.
Am I Hoping Hooking Up Evolves Into Something More?
The answer to this question can ebb and flow, so constantly check in with yourself before and after hookups and make sure your intentions with all of your sexual partners remain intact. If one or more of your relationships have evolved past the point of casual sex, communicate this as openly and honestly as you can. Best case, they feel the same way and want to progress the relationship. Worst case, they want to keep things casual. If you and a partner no longer are looking for the same thing, it’s better to get aligned sooner rather than later. While it can be hard to walk away when those feelings aren’t reciprocated, that strength will save you a lot of heartbreak in the long run.
Is Hooking Up Still Sexually Serving Me?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to have eons of casual sex with many different partners. The best way to figure out what serves you in bed is to experiment with pleasure practices, erogenous zones, and more. Readers, as long as you’re giving and receiving active consent, using protection, and constantly checking in with your partners to discuss boundaries and intentions, hooking up can be more than fulfilling — it can be fun! But the second that you no longer feel excited or engaged with your sexual partners, start to long for a single sexual partner, or seek to develop a deeper emotional connection, listen to your gut. There’s so much power in walking away from something that no longer serves you.
How Do I Feel After Hooking Up?
The act of actually hooking up releases pheromones, which can leave you feeling literally amazing in the moment. Not to mention the emotional impact of feeling desired, cherished. But how do you feel the second that the head rush clears? Do you feel content, horny, and even a little bit hungry? Great news! You’re still feeling fulfilled by casual sex. However, if you find yourself feeling lonely, empty, or even a little more down than you did before, hookup culture may not be for you. And that’s okay! Different people need different things from sex and relationships — and we are constantly becoming different people every d*mn day. That’s why checking in with yourself (and your partners) is so crucial.
Look, maybe it’s the ex sex & relationships editor in me talking, but I am very pro HC readers doing whatever the hell they want in 2021 — whether that’s cuffing up for winter, moving in with a long-term partner, regularly hooking up with a hot childhood friend, cozying up to a vibrator or starting to date a crush. What matters to me is that you are determining what you truly want, then following through. But remember: It’s okay to want to have a sex drive. It’s okay to want to sexually experiment. It’s okay to masturbate between classes.
But it’s not okay to force yourself to engage in a cultural phenomenon that makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Period.