Subscribe to FII's WhatsApp

Posted By Shivani Ekkanath 

As a young adult, the concepts of ‘no strings attached’, ‘casual’, ‘booty calls’ and ‘friends with benefits’ are not unfamiliar or even uncommon. As we get caught in the hurry and bustle of everyday life, the dynamics of modern-day relationships and romances have begun to alter drastically. We can argue that few really adhere to the so-called ‘rules’ of romance because gone are the days of courtship, ‘old school love’, exchanging phone numbers and casual flirtation at coffee houses from the world of 90s sitcom romances. 

Though still stigmatised, hook-up culture is steadily becoming a norm among millennials and university students, especially given the high incidence of dating apps like Tinder and  Bumble. As they become more commonplace and widespread, they are growing to be even more accepted as hook-up culture is becoming especially common in fast-paced bustling metropolises and cities. 

Most notably, this so-called revolution is becoming a great opportunity for women to experiment and express their sexual freedoms to a greater extent. The youth population is on the rise, and so are the number of liberal and free-thinking young adults with a penchant for hedonism and a strong unwavering will to ‘live out their youths.’ 

Another Regressive Narrative?

The spectre of entrenched patriarchy and gender norms still continues to perpetually cast a shadow on a women’s right to freedom, especially in this particular regard. We often wonder why platitudes like ‘men are trash’ are a part of such conversations as young women rant and vent their frustrations over the indecisiveness, emotional distance and severe lack of communication from men. Of course, the problem is faced on both sides as well, but it is undeniable that men currently continue to hold patriarchal power over women in most cases. For instance, let us observe how men usually greet women or start a conversation when they match on Tinder. It is usually a comment about their profile pic, followed by a sexually suggestive comment that is repulsive enough for the girl to roll her eyes and not open the message at all. 

en are often cheered on by their friends for ‘scoring’ while women often have to endure the stressful ‘walk of shame’ and endure quite a bit of judgement at the same time.

To shed more light on the matter, why not also study the stark differences in the behaviour when men and women hook up? Men are often cheered on by their friends for ‘scoring’ while women often have to endure the stressful ‘walk of shame’ and endure quite a bit of judgement at the same time. Unfortunately, there is almost always a double standard associated with women in this case. Women are hypersexualised and fall prey to labels like ‘slut’ and are shamed for engaging in casual relationships. Collective shaming and hate including ‘slut-shaming’ are also becoming rather common.

As a result, young women need to be constantly weary about their actions and behaviour. The internet age of social media has exacerbated this problem further. A phenomenon known as ‘Enlightened Sexism’ that was coined in Susan J Douglas’ book is in fact, aggravating toxic gendered narratives. Though this concept does promote women in its depiction, it remains inadvertently sexist owing to its lack of motive as women supposedly attain powerful positions to ‘please’ men and remain objects of sexual desire and pleasure. Rather than serving as a useful complement to feminism, it seeks to reverse and undo its effects by dividing and subjugating women for being powerful and individualistic, especially because it commodifies and objectifies women. The normalisation of these patterns is especially damaging because it re-enforces harmful gender stereotypes and once again, contributes to the ruthless oppression of women. 

In addition to this, the dilemmas posed by hook up culture also bear stark similarities to the issue and question of rape culture and its dangerous ‘normalisation’ where women are crippled and branded. Victim-blaming and shaming for rape and sexual assault, an unfortunate but widespread practice in our society, continues to exist because women are viciously branded and incur society’s patronising judgement. This problem is exacerbated due to the double standard embedded in hook-up culture where women are seen as ‘doubly deviant’ should they display even a hint of promiscuity through aspects as inconspicuous as the type of clothing or make-up they wear. 

In addition to this, the dilemmas posed by hook up culture also bear stark similarities to the issue and question of rape culture and its dangerous ‘normalisation’ where women are crippled and branded.

Even though hook up culture does entail a powerful feminist message in theory, it does not always add up in practice because the ease of supposedly emotionless and casual relationships may not always come to fruition in reality. It is a wicked paradox that a trend that is meant to be socially liberating for women, results in a lot of regret, betrayal and even heartbreak. Without the shackles of commitment in a casual relationship, signs of vulnerability and commitment displayed by either women or men are shown as weak. Men also receive the short end of the stick because they are expected to not discuss their relationships and refrain from getting too attached as it is a sign of emotional vulnerability.

Also read: When Love And Sex Collide: Navigating Mismatched Expectations In Relationships | #JustNotInterested

As a result, people often end up hurting each other simply because they once again get adversely impacted by the expectations and supposed ‘rules’ of a hook-up relationship. This is definitely not at all, unlike the same problem people face in most modern romantic relationships as well. Women may also be affected by the pressures to adopt this new trend by their fellow ‘enlightened’ and ‘liberated’ peers and perform a role they may not be comfortable with, simply for the sake of proving a point. 

Questions on Intersectionality, Sexism and Discrimination 

The problem here appears to relate and be more about society as a whole rather than the individual behaviour of specific individuals- be it men or women. Gender norms and roles continue to influence the way we treat each other regardless of progress in this regard. This issue also poses questions pertaining to intersectionality as many women may not be in the position to relate or even understand this implication and the epoch of this topic due to socioeconomic status and other immobilises. The situation also grows more complex while considering LGBTQIA+ individuals who have to contend with other aggravated stigmas. Therefore, perhaps we can pose the question, Is Hook-Up Culture a radical trend that is limited to the modern-day big-city woman? 

More women are trying to reclaim their narratives. Events like Amber Rose’s Slutwalk, though perceived as controversial by many seeks to reclaim regressive and one-sided narratives that adversely impact women, particularly speaking out about issues like rape culture and its toxicity. Slutwalk protest marches have now graduated to become a global movement that seeks to revolutionise as well as complement the ongoing feminist and women’s revolution. Similarly, The Vagina Monologues and the Slut: The Play, have proved to be important forms of political and social theatre that have helped remediate the situation through its representation of women and honest accounts of themes like gender, sexuality and sexual freedom.

Also read: NotOK, Cupid! Misogyny in Online Dating

In principle, hook up culture is a testament even to the great headway feminism and women’s rights women have made so far, yet it is important to limit the negative ramifications they may entail for women so that women can someday attain a greater sense of freedom without judgements and the interplay of the toxic societal status quo. At the end of the day, hook-up culture is definitely is ingrained in social patterns among the youth, and is definitely here to stay! 


Shivani is currently a political science undergraduate student enrolled at Sciences Po Paris. She hopes to embark on a career in investigative reporting and journalism. Shivani is a lover of coffee, obscure films, sitcoms, political podcasts, and siestas. In her free time, she enjoys writing and curating her next Spotify playlist. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram.

Featured Image Source: The Campanile

Leave a Reply