Hooking up is easy; noncommittal, thoughtless, and, for some, gratifying. The definition of “hooking up” itself can vary from a multiple-encounter physical relationship to a one-time experience, but no matter how it is defined it has a common trend: total lack of emotional commitment. I can understand how, for indifferent and hormonal teens, this is attractive. But when it becomes the norm for high school relationships, I think we are missing out on critical parts of our maturity process. The aggressive rise of hookup culture amongst teenagers is giving way to a generation of people who lack social consciousness, conflict resolution skills, and respect and empathy for one another.
According to a September survey of all grades at Urban, 14% of the population is in a hookup relationship and just 7% in a committed relationship. Lack of commitment can be attributed to laziness on the part of students. Urban is an academically rigorous environment, and I know that my own time is stretched and divvied up between homework, sports, and other extracurricular enrichments leaving me no time to spend on things that won’t help me get into college.
“Because Urban is so competitive, there’s barely any time for the extra stuff… It makes sense to me why people would want something short and fun,” said Andrei Dolezal (‘15), echoing my plight.
In addition to the time-commitment aspect of a relationship, hooking up can be a way to opt out of the awkwardness and pain of rejection, or the turmoil of actual attachments. In simple terms, hooking up removes the aspects of relationships that take maturity and effort.
“What is attractive seems to be the ‘no strings attached.’ (Kids) get to participate in the physical side, but don’t have to work at a relationship or put any thought into it,” says Jenn Epstein, an Urban health educator.
“You don’t have to use emotions, so there’s less risk of heartbreak. When you’re really into someone, it takes work and there’s more potential for experiencing personal growth through the work it takes to sustain something,” said Dolezal.
While hooking up may be physically gratifying and exciting in the moment, there’s little personal growth and maturity that comes from the type of relationship where there is a small amount communication and no problem-solving.
The gossip and drama of high school life, although expected, is another area in which there is little growth and maturity. I believe that the simplicity and spectacle of casual hookups oftentimes stems from the perception that “everyone is doing it,” or that it makes one look cooler.
“I know that people love being part of the gossip, it gives everyone something to talk about. It makes you look ‘cool’, I guess” says Dolezal.
It takes two very disinterested people to engage in a completely unattached physical encounter, and I wonder why the act would be enjoyable if the participants are so unengaged with each other and themselves. Because hooking up is “the norm now,” according to Veronica Henderson (’15), it’s just one more way people feel pressure to fit in.
Some “go with the flow because they don’t want to appear needy… apparently wanting to talk to someone you’ve been intimate with is unacceptable,” says Epstein.
The social expectation to participate in hookup culture furthers the immature nature of the beast; it allows teenagers to indulge the side of them that doesn’t want to face or deal with the feelings of others or even themselves.
Whether the prevalence of hookup culture can be attributed to an overwhelming schedule, desire for empty physical gratification or perhaps a higher rung on the social ladder, all reasons point to a lack of maturity on the behalf of the participants. When we are twenty-five and the relationship experience we have amounts to a bunch of unemotional hookups, we will be a generation unable to have the kind of adult conversations that are conducive to successful longer-term dating. While hooking up has positive short-term outcomes such as bolstering one’s reputation or providing physical gratification, the lessons learned in relationships with mutual reliance and respect far outnumber those learned from uncommitted and fleeting encounters.