Op-Ed: In defense of hook-up culture

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - 5:02pm

When I was a little girl, I had a very clear picture of how my romantic life would turn out. Here’s what would happen: When I was about 18 or 19, I would meet the love of my life. He would come home, meet my parents, impress them and, after a few years of dating, we would get married. It would be an easy and simple system, following a moral code of conduct in parts inspired both by the Bible and the Disney princess movies I was addicted to watching.

As I grew older, the media I consumed changed from Snow White and “The Young Women of Faith Bible” to more mature romantic books and films, mostly romantic comedies such as “27 Dresses” and “Hitch.” With this change also came an alteration to my perception of sex and dating. All of the sudden, the clear picture of my future romantic life turned into a story of how I would date multiple awful men before finding The One. Sex early on in the relationship was imperative to the relationship’s survival, and I would have to walk the fine line between slut and prude. Though less easy and simple, this new system would also follow a sexist moral code of rules and regulations on how to act and behave in potentially romantic situations.

And then I was old enough to participate in both of the systems I had created in my head, and I began to realize just how unappealing they really were. I could either pressure myself into getting into a long-term relationship at a super young age, or I could play romantic games with everyone I dated until I found someone with whom I could cut through the bullshit, holding myself to ridiculous beauty and diet expectations until then. So, though every adult I’d grown up with was shaming millennials’ “hookup culture,” I have to say I’ve found much more freedom in this supposed immoral system than in any of the other dating systems presented to me by the media and the rules of our parents.

The freedom I have found comes from the fact that in regard to dating, none of us really seem to know what the hell we’re doing. Some of us are hooking up with lots of people, and some of us are intentionally single and abstinent. The rules that governed the romantic lives of our parents don’t seem to apply anymore, so we’re kind of making things up as we go. And honestly, I think it’s in this confusion that really makes hook-up culture great. People in romantic/sexual relationships are forced to talk about their relationship status and what that status looks like to them. They’re forced to really think about what their expectations are and what they want from a romantic/sexual partner or partners. From my experience, I’ve learned that “casual” and “dating” look a lot different to different people, and what might be “casual” for one person might be more serious for another. And honestly, even though they’re undoubtedly awkward, I’m here for these open and communicative discussions. They prepare us for when, or if, we decide to enter into more serious, long-term relationships. They make us better listeners and also better friends.

Our generation has seen a sexual and romantic revolution comparable only to the sexual revolution of the 1960s. In our lifetime, we have witnessed the implementation of marriage equality, the rise of discussions surrounding consent on college campuses and the #MeToo movement, all of which have transformed the ways we view romance, sex and relationships. In my experience, the generational gap between our parents and us regarding attitudes towards LGBTQ relationships is the size of the Grand Canyon, and the universal idea that we are all sexual beings who wish for romantic happiness is very much in question. Suddenly, the conversation surrounding our romantic lives isn’t as open and shut as it once was, and I celebrate that.

I’ve read articles criticizing hook-up culture for dehumanizing women and for destroying young people’s abilities to have long-term, meaningful relationships. However, I would argue that a more liberal attitude toward sex and relationships has created a landscape where young people feel more able to express their wants and desires. It’s this more liberal attitude that I see bringing about the ability to discuss the #MeToo movement without the shame that was once attached to sexual assault and harassment. And apparently, since the divorce rate is dropping, I would advocate that folk’s ability to foster healthy relationships isn’t dying out, but becoming stronger. I would argue hook-up culture’s liberal attitudes toward sex and romance are creating an atmosphere that makes sex and romance safer.

So, this Valentine’s Day I hope everyone does exactly what they want to do, uninfluenced by any societal expectations of what they should want. If that means looking for a casual hook-up, having a romantic date with a long-term partner, being alone or spending time with friends because you aren’t interested in romance or sex now or really ever, then I hope you do that. We are living in a time of unprecedented change and confusion in regard to our personal lives, and I hope you take advantage of that and do exactly what is comfortable for you.

Elena Hubbell is an LSA Senior and Senior Opinion Editor.