Hook-Up Culture: Toxic or Empowering?

As I sat in Drapers for the mandatory Monday’s Calling piss up, I asked some of my friends how they feel about hook-up culture. Most of my friends, myself included, said the usual. We joked about the inevitability of getting way too invested and ending up heartbroken (it’s never a great feeling when you spot a one-night stand on the dancefloor with their tongue down someone else’s throat). However, one of my friends had an entirely different mindset, and it was refreshing to hear her explain all the ways participating in hook-up culture has, in fact, been really positive.

Following a bad break-up, my friend decided she’d put two fingers up to her ex-boyfriend’s slut-shaming and she would start having fun and get with whoever she pleased. In order to fully enjoy hook-up culture and not feeling pressure to do anything she didn’t want to, she advised setting boundaries with the other person; making sure they had a mutual understanding of where they were at and what was and wasn’t ok. I asked her how she opened up the space to have such a conversation? As its often hard for people to openly talk about what they want and it’s common for people to end up feeling obligated to agree to things they don’t particularly want to. My friend being one of the most self-confident and assertive people I know simply shrugged and said she’d tell them if they didn’t respect her boundaries, and wouldn’t hook up with them again in the future.

Our conversation took a turn to how hook up culture at university seems so different. She explained how she felt back at home there was less pressure, being a much smaller circle of school friends and knowing everyone well. Starting university changes the dynamic of hook-up culture – you meet so many new people, so it feels harder to actually get to know any of them. I’d say hook-up culture is much more prominent at university because of this reason: less awkward encounters afterwards and as the old saying goes if it doesn’t go all according to plan: there are plenty more fish in the sea.

We spoke about how this culture can be toxic. There is the danger of feeling insecure if you compare yourself to your friends and base your self-worth on whether you meet someone out or not. We all agreed everyone is different and nobody should feel any shame in wanting to participate, but equally, if it doesn’t feel like something fun and enjoyable there’s no pressure either to participate.

Another huge part of hook-up culture is dating apps. Often deleted and redownloaded following endless swiping, corny one-liners, a few awful dates and ghosting, dating apps tend not to have the best reputation. But I believe there is some good in all the frustration and awkwardness. You can really outline what you want while presenting yourself in a way you’d like to be perceived. You have the chance to pick up on any red flags and get to know someone in a way you couldn’t if you’d just met them at a bar. This is particularly useful for members of the LGBTQI+ community who can use apps like Grindr or HER. You can filter out anyone who might be homophobic or transphobic and be open about your sexuality and pronouns. It’s a great way to casually meet people if nothing more and it is so important in growing your confidence with socialising in general.

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