What's wrong with hook-up culture?


First aired on Ontario Today (22/5/13)


College is a time of liberation, to explore who you are and what you want, professionally, personally, socially and sexually. But this liberation has led to what religious studies and gender studies scholar Donna Freitas calls "hook-up culture" -- and it's having a negative impact on college students across North America.

Freitas interviewed hundreds of university students for her book on hook-up culture, The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy, and she came to a few startling conclusions. First, the definition of hook-up is broader than you may think. It's more than casual sex or a one-night stand. According to Freitas, "a hook-up can be anything from kissing to different types of sex" and can last "anything from a few minutes to an entire night." Second, there is an expectation of "no strings attached" and no emotional investment in the hook-up. And finally, there is almost always alcohol involved.

Freitas' biggest discovery was the difference between a hook-up and hook-up culture. Hook-ups are supposed to be a liberating, guilt-free good time. Freitas believes there's nothing wrong with mutual, consensual and safe casual sexual encounters. However, hook-up culture has dictated that this kind of sexual encounter is the only kind of sex worth having, and as a result, many people who engage in hook-ups are left confused, lost and unsure of how to navigate sexual relationships. Hence, the alcohol. Freitas discovered that many students felt alcohol is essential for a majority of hook-ups because it allows students to "numb themselves" to the experience.

"In theory, everybody I talk to thinks a hook up should be liberating," she told Ontario Today host Hallie Cotnam, "But the reality of living in a culture of hooking up where students feel like hooking up is the only option for sexual intimacy ... that's when they start becoming unhappy."

So what should college students who aren't into "hooking up" do? "One of the things that is really missing is empowerment around sex and hook-up culture," Freitas says and the way to reclaim that is for students to be honest with themselves and what they want. "I just want the young women and young men to feel sexually empowered. I want them to feel like they have options. I want them to see choices ahead of them. I want them to ask themselves 'What do I want out of sex? Do I even know? Do I know what good sex is? Am I kidding myself when I say I can do this? Can I really? Can I really hook up and be okay?'"

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