Modern society is plagued with an unnatural and confusing paradigm in romantic relationships: hook-up culture. This new relationship status is prevalent from high schools to office buildings, but is especially popular among university students. Replacing a traditional intimate relationship with one of the various forms a hook-up relationship may take has become the norm, and traditionally defined relationships the exception.
It’s not inherently bad to engage in intimate acts with an individual to whom you are not committed. Honestly, it’s often quite fun and exciting. The problems with hook-up culture come from the fact that these ill-defined relationships have no clear set of rules guiding us on how to act — the logic behind deciding to engage in a hook-up relationship as opposed to a traditional relationship is often faulty.
What exactly is hook-up culture? That’s the issue. No one is actually sure of what it is or what’s going on in their relationship. There is no set structure, no proper etiquette of how to be a partner in a relationship that is simultaneously so intimate and so distant. What behavior is deemed appropriate and what isn’t? You spent the night, but if you see each other in the cafeteria are you supposed to say hello? Is having a snapstreak as opposed to communicating via text indicative of emotional investment? If it’s just physical, why are you spending non-intimate time together?
There are infinite combinations of intimacies and non-intimacies that all fall under the umbrella of a hook-up relationship, and there are no terms that properly describe the particulars of each type of relationship. What does hooking-up exclusively, hooking-up, hook-up buddies, friends with benefits, talking, casually dating, seeing each other, etc. actually mean and how do they differ? We need to establish concrete definitions for these terms and assign proper behavioral conducts to the respective relationship in order for hook-up relationships to function properly.
Hooking-up is confusing. Aside from the ill-defined definitions and uncertain paradigm for proper behavior/etiquette, the presence of feelings is imminent and scary. At least one partner is almost always bound to catch feelings. It’s logical. Being intimately close with someone in such an uncertain relationship is beyond appealing. The juxtaposition of feeling physically connected yet mentally distant, combined with the sense of unattainability, danger, and the passion of intimacy is bound to facilitate feelings between partners in a “casual” hook-up relationship. The feelings that arise from a hook-up relationship are primarily based on physical intimacy and not emotional/intellectual respect.
It isn’t real love. It’s lust, and most likely one partner’s secret shameful desire to be in a committed relationship. The one partner that develops feelings within the “casual” relationship is viewed as weak.
Wanting love and mutual respect is not weak. In fact, it’s actually quite brave.
Why are we as a society afraid and ashamed of our feelings and desires to be loved by someone else? Love and commitment are scary, but hiding behind casual hook-up relationships in place of finding something real is not going to solve anything. Instead, it will just worsen the problem, because you will begin falling in love with someone you aren’t really compatible with. Why are we afraid to commit to something real?
The cognitive dissonance within society surrounding hook-up culture is significant and problematic. Traditional relationships are being replaced by casual hook-up relationships because we’re afraid, and because they’re too complex.
But hook-up relationships are leading to more confusing and complicated situations than the traditional relationships people are choosing to avoid. It doesn’t make sense to choose to be in an ill-defined relationship as opposed to a traditional relationship if the reason behind the choice is that a traditional relationship is too emotionally complex — “casual” relationships are even more complicated.
It really only makes sense to participate in a hook-up relationship if you and your partner are both 100 percent honest about not wanting to be in a committed relationship. In order for the casual relationship to function properly, both partners must openly communicate about desired behaviors and labels. Since there is no societal precedent guiding us on how to act within these extremely malleable relationships, it is crucial that each relationship clearly establishes their own guidelines.
Above all, we must remember that it is dangerous as a society to divorce the body from the soul. We aren’t just bodies, and intimacy isn’t just physical, even if we label it as such.