It may sound crazy, but I grew up thinking that hookup culture was the only way I’d ever be noticed by a guy. This way of thinking was incredibly toxic, and it took me several years to realize that hookup culture was not — and should never be — the norm.
It all started when I became a teenager. As soon as I hit 13, all of my friends began obsessing over possible hookup partners. Everyone became in constant need of someone to mindlessly make out with, and it’s safe to say I did not (and, spoiler alert, never grew to) share this desire. Me, an innocent, naive girl just entering her teens, just didn’t feel the need to hook up with anyone. I wasn’t a fan of the awkwardness, the lack of emotional connection, and the way it seemed invasive. I particularly found it odd when my friends failed to share two words or even make eye contact with the person they were making out with the night before. I was perfectly content enjoying what was left of my childhood by hanging out with my friends and ignoring any prospective hookups at all costs.
However, there is this awful thing that starts when you’re a teenager — it’s called peer pressure. Now, don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t the type to be easily pressured. But when your entire friend group is counting on you to hook up with someone for the first time so that you guys can be “10 for 10” that summer (AKA, all 10 of you have hooked up with someone in one summer), it’s a bit hard to keep saying “no.” You can guess how that story ended — with an unwanted hookup and years of shuddering at the very memory of the incident.
You’d think I would start loathing hookup culture after that summer — especially given that the experience was nothing short of awful and did in fact feel invasive — but since I didn’t know any different and thought that hookup culture was the norm, I hadn’t begun hating it yet. I just thought, Hey, that’s the way it is, so I better just get used to it. I continued to feel pressure to hook up for another whole year, but proceeded to think nothing of it — because if everyone’s hooking up, it must be me who’s wrong for not partaking in it, right?
It wasn’t until several years later, when I came to university, that I realized the toxicity of hookup culture and how horrible it was that I felt I had no other choice. When I started my first relationship, I had to shift my entire mindset to teach myself that communicating my feelings is not only okay, but is an essential factor in a relationship — because unfortunately, hookup culture is centered around the concept of zero communication. Essentially, hookup culture is like saying, “Hey, let’s have an intense makeout session, but afterward, we’ll never talk about it and pretend we’ve never met.” And that’s just not my cup of tea.
When I finally left the hookup-central community I was in, I suddenly became aware of my mistake to give into a culture I wasn’t interested in exploring. Unfortunately, I didn’t know any better and suffered because of it. I finally realized that in order to engage in any sort of sexual act with someone, I need to have an emotional connection with them first. It’s important for me to know that their primary intention is to connect with me instead of to fulfill their own sexual desires. Simply put, I can’t enjoy it unless I feel a strong bond to the person; at 13, I had no idea this was even a possibility, nor did I know that it was a common and healthy choice to make.
If I could say one thing to myself at 13, it would be this: hookup culture is far from the only option. It’s okay to say no, and it’s okay to get to know someone before venturing into the physical aspect of the relationship. It’s time we realize the toxicity that hookup culture can present in order to prevent any more stories like mine from occurring.