Understanding Hookup Culture

In college, he and I had a straightforward routine. We’d text one another midday to negotiate a hookup:
He’d arrive on my stoop in sweatpants, looking horny and brooding, I’d skitter downstairs in a T-shirt to let him in, and within minutes we’d be undressed on my mattress on to the floor. More often than not we were sober; sometimes, we met up before or after venturing out. I didn’t always come, but that wasn’t actually the point.
After, while both folks were consistently getting dressed, we’d catch up and I’d complain concerning the other guys I was seeing. Every one of them gave me more trouble than him. As he was leaving, he’d always require a post-coital cigarette. He’d walk off, smoking his; I’d take a seat on my roof and smoke mine. It felt OK – good, even. It had been casual. It worked.
We weren’t the only real ones it was doing work for. From 2013 to 2015, newspapers and magazines were wanting to report on the crisis of what the media made a decision to call hookup culture,” and each offered another, slightly hysterical angle: that it had been making us misogynistic; no, that it had been feminist and liberating; no, that it turned out an economic calculation bled of romance entirely.
But just how much sex are millennials actually having just? Relative to a recently available survey , we’re actually having less sex with fewer partners; some millennials (15%, to be exact) aren’t having any sex at all. The normal quantity of lifetime sexual partners for Americans is approximately 7 just, for women and men. Yet that’s also the number I told my gynecologist when she asked the number of partners I’d had – in the last year.
The disparity between your data and anecdotal evidence provided by both media and research reports originates from vastly different sexual practices among millennials. You can find those who find themselves in long term, monogamous relationships; people who don’t date much because of their careers or workloads; and a small proportion of people who do hook up a lot because it’s… fun? Exciting? Challenging? Easy, now that we have Tinder and Happn and Hinge and Bumble and Grindr and Scruff and Coffee Meets Bagel and… there’s still some people out there who still use OkCupid, I guess?
How We Start
I was driven by wanting to explore various kinds of people,” wrote Sarah, a 27-year-old Korean-American woman living in New York. The thrill of both the chase and what happens when you hook up with someone for the first time, and also finding many different types of people attractive physically, mentally, and emotionally.”
For Danny, who’s 22 and based in New York, hooking up casually started as a way to sort out his relationship to being desired. As an Asian-American male, in my experience, girls don’t really find Asian guys attractive. There have been so many times where a girl I’ve hooked up with has said ‘You’re my first Asian,’ which is just a really weird thing to be told. So hooking up with people always felt like validation. Validation for myself, my looks, my personality. Having sex is just a really good confidence booster in that way.”
Using sex to learn about desire – or more precisely, understand how to be desired – was a standard theme among people I talked to. In all honesty, I didn’t know I was hot until like six years back,” said Megan, a 24-year-old surviving in NEW YORK. Clarification, I didn’t understand that many people are hot.”
When I decided that I possibly could incorporate my sexuality into my identity without compromising the main things to me – empathy, fairness, accountability – I kind of compensated for lost time by hooking up a lot,” wrote Ben, who is 25 and bisexual. I’ve also got the classic condition of all late bloomers – needing to prove to my 15-year-old self that I’m capable of being desired. Which, of course, isn’t super distinct from just acting just like a 15-year-old.”
Graeme Adams
But for others, sleeping was more difficult around. It felt like something I had to accomplish,” said an anonymous friend whenever we met around have talk and coffee. I felt like I was trying things out just. I felt okay about any of it at the proper time, however now, it feels similar to a hollow thing, even sort of sad maybe.” It had been a learning process, i was told by her, nonetheless it was also something that’s resulted in exploring sexuality through different outlets, like kink.
For Courtney, a 27-year-old black woman surviving in L.A., casual sex was useful until it wasn’t – from then on her priorities shifted. Though she began starting up to explore that which was possible casually, the entire thing eventually, the hooking up, finished up making me feel as if I was missing something deeper. What began as fun finished up making me feel empty,” she wrote. I’m a good supporter of, ‘If you are not having fun, you should stop’ and I stopped having a great time. I crave intimacy, but I also value my alone time and also have tried to pursue that instead.”
How We Meet
In 2015, Vanity Fair published a hilariously tone-deaf feature called Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse,’” which posited that dating apps have killed modern romance and left people gorging” on a veritable banquet of sexually mediocre yet easily available partners. Tinder has unquestionably changed just how we date and attach now, but it isn’t all for the worse. For queer and trans people especially, dating apps provide a platform for a particular and deliberate sort of self-presentation that also allows users to filter who they speak to. Among other things, this means people could be a lot more open about their desires.
Apps, apps, apps,” wrote Alex. As a bisexual (trans) man, I’m much more comfortable being clear in what I’d like from other men – and trans individuals who don’t ID as men using these apps aswell – because that is the point of the app,” he continued, speaking specifically of Grindr and Scruff.
I like apps as possible screen people for warning flag,” agreed Megan. I haven’t installed with anyone racist, transphobic, etc. for that reason. Also, there’s a amount of transparency people allow themselves on the apps, that’s sick. I enjoy know what I’m participating in.”
Apps might make the task feel more mechanical, and less organic, nonetheless they also offer an opportunity to present yourself the way you plan to be perceived just. Online, it’s better to be direct in what you would like and everything you can provide somebody pertaining to emotional and sexual availability. But in addition sometimes, it means that the entire transaction might take place in the browser, if what’s being sought is often a kind of intimacy instead of necessarily the sex act itself.
Wrote ShawnГ©, a 25-year-old black woman situated in Chicago: I generally meet people on apps nowadays but rarely sleep with them easily do. EASILY fck someone from an app, it feels clinical generally. Sometimes that’s what I’d like, sometimes it’s not. I really believe it’s easier for me allowing you to connect with people emotionally on apps, but, after the physical stuff rolls around I’m bored.”
Swipe anxiety aside, individuals are still meeting each other through the most common means – bars, parties, and friends of friends. And, needless to say, totally randomly. The hookups should never be planned,” Courtney explained. Because should they were, I’d will have an ideal playlist to play in the backdrop.”
How It Goes
Hooking up with my pal – though to be fair, we weren’t really friends, just joined in fluid transfer a few times weekly – wasn’t the mindblowingly satisfying experience that no-strings-attached sex often appears to promise teenagers. We weren’t freaky; we didn’t have spectacular, marathon sessions where we enacted our weirdest, wildest fantasies.
Instead, I didn’t come. We rarely kissed. We installed to exactly the same playlist every time, which gave the complete experience a reassuring familiarity. Nonetheless it was fulfilling. It had been good to touch one another also to be touched in the ways I cannot touch myself, that was actually the urge I was attempting to satisfy, a lot more than anything specifically orgastic. Our movements made my bed move. There is an intimacy inside it. We tried to be good to one another. It had been a quieting, nonetheless it was also a link, one I haven’t experienced an excessive amount of since then.
It is a wonderful feeling when you can have an area of camaraderie and mutual understanding and pleasure without other things, but that’s rare,” wrote Adrian, a 30-year-old black man surviving in Brooklyn. More it appears to be people who are working through something often, me included, and compartmentalizing their lives in a manner that is productive for them… or sometimes in a genuine way that appears like delaying the inevitable pain of growth and change. In the rare instances aforementioned… it feels amazing! It’s like, wow! You possibly can make life what you need! But more regularly, it leaves an aftertaste that is clearly a bit strange.”
It feels good!” Megan wrote. Aside from when it doesn’t. Periodically I’m like, ‘OMG, is
this gonna be awkward? Sometimes
I get swept up in several existential mild anxiety slightly, but I get an iced coffee it fixes itself also.”
My sex life is exciting pretty, I really believe,” wrote ShawnГ©. I’ve extremely rough sex with lots of people. I would like it to feel like a task. I wanna play against each other – especially if I don’t love you. I’m definitely not considering truly satisfying my body with casual sex. I would like to satisfy something more intellectual.”
You have individuals who you experienced who meet your reliance on companionship however, not your reliance on sex. It’s not an excessive amount of out to think you could have individuals who you experienced who do the contrary,” wrote Ben. And ever important and seldom reinforced could be the fact that setting up with new people is in many ways a clean and uncomplicated joy! You learn a brand new body, you get pleasure from a brand new person’s actions and reactions. It is possible to benefit from the sudden pivot from being strangers doing solitary calculations and negotiations over a glass or two to strangers who are naked and comfortable and stroking each other’s hair.”
But is it always uncomplicated? I wondered, how did people go about navigating the intersection of sex, feelings, and other emotional dilemmas? For some, like Megan, hooking up itself was the solution. I usually have a rotation of 2-3 people,” she said. I really just try to be minimally talking to more than one person because I can talk the talk but I’m still figuring out if I can walk the walk in relation to not getting emotionally attached to someone I could potentially see on a frequent basis, even though it’s casual.”
For others, like Alex and Sarah, their racial and sexual identities influenced the true way they experienced casual sex. I ventured right into a sugar-daddy /cam/sex-work situation briefly, because after a few years, I was like, i should/why not be covered this maybe?” said Sarah. But I stopped when i realized most these folks were white men pursuing me because of the obvious Asian fetish. I am going to say there is a weird thrill factor for receiving an envelope of crisp $100 bills, if the sex was mediocre even.”
The other thing I believe will probably be worth mentioning is that Personally i think like I have an extremely small pool of men thinking about me, and to be able to have the quantity of sex I want to have ideally I’d have to change or lower my ‘standards’ of who I’d like to fck. Like, do I would like to fck someone fetishizing my race or my trans identity clearly?” wrote Alex.
There were definitely a lot of people where I was a whole many more into getting them off, and at the same time I was funny about not permitting them to obtain me off because that is too intimate for me,” said Sarah, talking about her non-sex work partners now. I shall not lie, you will discover definitely occasions when I felt lonely or wanted a different type of intimacy, but additionally some hookups were funny for the reason that you’ll literally meet this person and like, perform intimacy (like cuddling, little kisses, making breakfast) for just one day/the morning after, and just never note that person again.”
How We Leave
Not that pleased with it, but ghosting was sort of the easiest option for me personally,” Sarah admitted. Sometimes should they seem a lot more invested than I’m, I’m going to be honest and inform them if I’m just thinking about someone else, not thinking about being monogamous, or that something came up. Personally i think like the majority of people knew what the problem was, though, so breaking things off was never that hard. Also it goes the other much too, I’ve definitely developed feelings for those who were unavailable. It is possible to find yourself feeling used, or in unwanted or uncontrolled states of vulnerability, which is hard.”
Graeme Adams
For some, ghosting – as soon as you simply stop messaging your lover or returning their texts and essentially disappear from their lives – just feels practical. In NY it is possible for the ‘I’m too busy’ card to play and I really believe I’ve used it around other men purchased it for me,” said Alex. I don’t take offense.”
I’ve a unpopular approach to breaking things off with people – ghosting fairly,” wrote Danny. It really is frustrating and I am aware because it’s happened certainly to me, but I must say i hate texting and I believe ghosting is merely the cleanest solution to break things off with somebody who you’ve installed with once.”
However, not everyone appreciated ghosting’s utility. Ben specifically had strong feelings about it, writing to me: Ghosting is fcked up and unconscionable. It’s such a naked expression of selfishness. People tell themselves they want to spare the other party but it’s going to fck with them so much more if you just evaporate.”
And Charlie, the only non-millennial I talked to, told me: I will say, with some shame, that I have ghosted on a couple of folks when I should have been more direct – they either required more emotional time and energy than what was first established in our relationship or something made me feel bad or uncomfortable in our last interaction, and I didn’t have the guts to confront them about it. I’ve worked hard to not do that lately, but it’s still hard to have the conversation, ‘This is why I don’t want to be with you anymore.’”
How We Learn
I wish I’d been into casual sex earlier in my life,” Charlie told me. Charlie, who’s 38, is within an open marriage, and shacks up often, both alongside his wife and solo. I went from my senior high school girlfriend to my first wife and didn’t leave any space within to grapple with my queerness or really, what sort of person I wanted to be with.” Casual sex allowed Charlie to explore his feelings around sex, desire, and pleasure – feelings he hadn’t had the chance to explore in his previous monogamous relationships.
There are many sht I wish I had known when I first began engaging with my sexuality, but Personally i believe like obtaining the vernacular to navigate casual sex without stigma might have been super effective for me,” said Megan. Periodically I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m lonely, I would like a frequent partner’ – but I’m like, ‘Nah, you’ve been conditioned your entire life to want this that is your socialization seeking to get the most effective of you,’” she continued. You don’t want a frequent partner in those brief moments, you will need love. I’m learning how to treat love from family and friends with a similar exclamation I used to care for love from partners.”
With touching and kissing and sex, portion of me knew that touching the fire would hurt, but I had to feel it for myself still. I understand my own boundaries, the type of men I’m attracted to and ultimately what I would like,” wrote Courtney. I don’t think I would have a healthy understanding of a few of this had I not spent my 20s meeting, befriending and flirting basic individuals.”
For many my grumbling about how precisely hard it is to meet people and the endless texting and, oh God, the net is horrible… It has been ideal for me,” said Charlie. I’ve met some real friends, I’ve had sex that I was afraid to require in past times, and in my own fourth decade with this planet, I’m needs to feel just like I’m valued sexually.”
My friend-with-benefits and I never actually shared a cigarette together directly after we hooked up. He’d require a cig, I’d give him one, and he’d disappear. Eventually I asked him why. He said, It just feels as though something I would like to do for myself, by myself.”
When we split up, we didn’t really split up – we just faded from each other’s lives. In the end, there wasn’t really anything to break in the first place. He started dating someone seriously; a few weeks later, so did I. And that was fine, actually. We’d gotten what we needed from each other; we’d given it to each other, too. And that was something that we could each carry, long after our sexual relationship ended.
Hooking up is a learning experience for many of us. We learn about other people’s bodies, sure – all of the real methods for you to make someone feel different sensations; all of the sounds and ways people move when they’re in the throes of passion – but more regularly, we find out about ourselves. We find out about our bodies; we find out about our emotional needs. We find out about what we like and what we can’t stand; what feels great and what doesn’t. We find out about what we wish from others, whether that’s physical, emotional, psychological or romantic. After all, of the day at the conclusion, the through line running right through our sexual histories isn’t other folks – it’s us at the guts. Also it feels true to state that in sleeping with other folks, all we’re doing is actually attempting to understand ourselves.
Names have already been changed.
Illustrations by Graeme Adams.

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