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Wellness > Sex + Relationships

Should You Participate in Hook-Up Culture?

Fact: College is a busy, stressful and confusing time in life. Relationships are also notoriously time-consuming and sometimes stressful and confusing. So it makes sense that “hook-up culture” is popular on college campuses across the country. Just to be clear, by ‘hook-up culture’ we mean an environment where dating is sparse and people tend to get together, no strings attached. No commitment, no problem…right? Who has time for a serious relationship, a full schedule of classes, a job and extracurriculars? In theory, this hook-up culture seems like the perfect solution to a busy schedule. But in reality, things can get messy and there can be serious consequences of hooking up. Before you choose to experiment in the culture or not, check out these pros and cons to make a better-informed decision.

PRO: There’s less pressure to be in a relationship

Growing up, we’ve all felt the pressure of needing to be in a relationship. But on a campus where hook-up culture is prevalent, there’s less people jumping into a serious relationship. This ultimately means less peer pressure, and more freedom to just enjoy your college years. “I think having your first boyfriend in middle school or high school is always so exciting,” an anonymous source from Penn State says. “But getting to college and realizing that you don’t have to go that route is comforting for a lot of people.” Hook-up culture definitely gives you the freedom to let loose and just have fun!

PRO: Exploring sexuality can be empowering

College is all about exploring, and that doesn’t just mean academically. This is the time to find yourself, and a hook-up culture celebrates that. “Sexuality is empowering here [at my school] which I think is great,” says Lexie Mikula, a senior at Point Park University. “Before I came here, freedom in sexuality was downplayed, stereotyped and shameful, but I feel so comfortable with myself as a person with sexual desires, rather than ashamed!”

CON: Things can get awkward

Unfortunately, we live in the real world where not every hook-up goes well and sometimes things can get awkward. “I am not a big fan [of hook-up culture] because our school is small and you’re almost guaranteed to run into the person you randomly hooked up with at some point in your time here,” says Lauren McClure, a senior at the University of Wyoming. If things didn’t end well between you two, things can get weird pretty fast. What do you do? Acknowledge them? Avoid them? Help! It ends up just being weird for both parties involved.

CON: It’s hard to find a serious relationship

For those of us who are interested in getting serious, hook-up culture is a big hurdle. When people who just want casual hook-ups surround you, you might feel like the odd one out. “It can be hard to find someone who’s looking for something more,” says Rachel Petty, a junior at James Madison University. “It’s difficult to tell if people just want to hook up or are actually interested in you!” It’s important to be open and honest from the beginning, and make sure you communicate to the person you’re with that you’re interested in more than just a one-night fling.

CON: There can be judgment

This one can vary depending on where you go to school, but unfortunately “slut shaming” has become a serious issue recently. Slut shaming refers to degrading or mocking a girl for being sexual. This is all too real at some college campuses, even those with rampant hook-up culture. However, this doesn’t mean that all campuses do this. In fact, there are places that celebrate women’s sexuality and don’t put them down for it. “I like that people don’t judge others for hooking up with who they want to hook up with,” says Rachel.

We listed this one as a con because criticizing someone for their sexuality is always a negative. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll run into that on your campus. Props to your school if it embraces sexuality and doesn’t put other people down for it!

CON: There can be serious health risks

Because hook-ups are temporary, people don’t always think about the long-term health risks that could be involved. If you choose to be sexually active, it’s important to be safe. This means using contraceptives and proper protection to prevent STDs. Be sure to take advantage of the resources that your school’s health center provides, beyond the free condoms they pass out. Also, don’t be ashamed to talk to a doctor if you think something might be wrong. Taking good care of yourself always comes first!

As you can see, we listed more cons than pros, but a lot of these can vary depending on what school you go to. Obviously every school has a different culture, so it’s hard to make generalizations. There’s really no “one size fits all” when it comes to discussing casual hook-ups. Some of these cons could be pros at your school, and vice versa. For example, not every school will shame you for exploring your sexuality, or maybe you don’t think it’s that awkward to run into an old hook-up. But like most things in life, the hook-up culture has both pros and cons. Whatever you choose to do, the most important thing is to have fun, stay informed and be safe.