OPINION: What Happened to Romance? A Look at College Hook-Up Culture

Prior to the modern era, traditionalists would often associate dating with courtship and romance, saving the act of sexual intercourse for a later time to initiate, whether it be kissing, oral sex, stimulation, or penetration. But, modern society’s meaning of dating has now become a string of casual sex or what we refer to as ‘hook-ups’ because of the development and increased use of dating apps, namely Bumble, Grindr, Tinder, and Hinge, as well as the influence of digital media that masks the harmful effects of casual sex to an individual despite its initial empowering feeling. Whatever happened to romance? The behavior of intimate, casual relationships made way for the notorious hook-up culture to prevail in today’s society, where people seek physical intimacy or sex from partners without the expectation of providing emotional commitment. 

The rising social trend of hook-up culture has become a hot topic among the recent generation, with concepts of one-night-stands, friends-with-benefits, or even the so-called ‘situationships’ being used as plot points in books, movies, TV shows, or content for various popular songs that we have come to know and love such as Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher’s 2011 No Strings Attached film, Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal’s 2010 Love and Other Drugs, and others. 

Modern entertainment, such as TV Shows, movies, books, and social media, has portrayed this culture as a common college or life experience, which does not stray from reality because of the frequency of memes, discussions, and other posts about participating in casual relationships, especially on social media that seems to currently push for the de-stigmatization of having non-marital sex. But with the thousands of opinions and media portrayals being circled around online, not all of the information may be accurate or as empowering as one may assume, but I digress…

The concept of casual sex was taboo, considering the social construct of virginity being a rampant force of influence on how society views intercourse outside of marriage. A research journal composed by Justin R. Garcia entitled ‘Sexual Hookup Culture: A Review’ mentioned the conceptualization of uncommitted sex in the 1920s due to the popularization of erotica being depicted in films and novels as well as the sexual liberation of young adults in the 1960s who gained better access to oral contraceptives, condoms, and invitations to college parties to satisfy their (wants). Although, it is noted that young single women were prohibited from purchasing these items at the time due to society’s negative patriarchal viewpoint on women’s sexual freedom and liberation. 

Sex became a symbol of power because it challenged harmful societal norms on both men and women, especially since hook-ups have associated themselves with the feminist movement to put an end to slut-shaming of women. Figuring out our sexual pleasures is not something that should be stigmatized by society. The benefits of hook-ups are beyond an individualistic scale because ideally, although it allows an individual to explore their bodies and personal pleasures, the culture should promote sex education where consenting adults are aware of the safe practices of sex whether in a committed relationship or not. 

It was only in recent times that the discovery of empowerment has prevailed in the sexually active crowd, especially for women who faced discrimination, but hook-ups may come with regret because of the normalization of only pursuing casual relationships that prevents the people who seek relationships to find someone that is willing to commit beyond a hook-up. The issue is not the participants of hook-up culture but more so the societal pressure or burden to not conform to such a culture that has influenced the viewpoints of the majority of society, and individuals may feel left out because of their resilience to partaking in casual sex since it may not align with what they want for their lives. 

There is no harm in participating in the hook-up culture of today’s society, whether it may empower an individual sexually, socially, or psychologically. The beneficial aspect of sex depends on their goal, whether or not they enjoy casual sex as it is or feel pressured because it is the current societal trend and feel diminished as someone who seeks a more emotionally intimate and committed relationship. 

Whether society continues to ride through the current trends of friends-with-benefits, one-night-stands, and hook-ups, further amplifying this casual culture or sooner or later shifting to a trend of committed relationships and settling down, it should not prevent individuals from feeling comfortable with the choices they make for their body and happiness, whether relationships make them feel empowered or if they feel like they can dominate society through hook-ups. 

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