Hook-up survey reveals troubling incongruities

Peggy Li

Since arriving at Whitman, I’ve heard the word “hook-up” more times than I care to count –– mostly within the context of attractive people doing things together –– but I honestly couldn’t tell you what it actually means. Coming from a fairly conservative high school, it was pretty shocking the first time I saw people making out in the Tau Kappa Epsilon basement. Since I had friends explain to me roughly what it means, I’ve been ambivalent towards the idea, but after thinking about it more, I feel hooking up is rather more complicated than it at first appears.

Out of sheer curiosity, I sent out a dorm-wide survey to get a better understanding of the romantic lives of my peers. Turns out, no one really knows what “hooking up” is. Of 50 participants, 20 percent of people thought it meant sex, 35 percent of people thought it meant making out and 27 percent of people thought it meant anything in between making out and sex. For the “other” option on the survey, one person suggested that any physical contact, even a hug, counts as a hookup. Yet what concerned me more was how few people actually enjoyed their hookups. Only 30 percent of people replied “Yes, it’s great, love it” when asked about hookups. All other responses ranged between “It’s O.K.” to “I dislike it,” suggesting that most people merely tolerate hookups.

Hooking up can lead to a mentality towards other people that makes it difficult to form relationships. I’m not saying that hookups are bad. There are people that have met boyfriends or significant others through random hookups, or just enjoy the general pleasure they bring. But there is a problem when it’s a drunken one-night hookup just because both people are in the mood. To me, that would cause people to see their hookup partners as just an attractive bodies rather than as other people with thoughts and feelings.

Of the 20 percent of hookups that happen between people who have just met that day or night, respondents primarily said that they don’t try to consistently hook up with the same person. For these people it’s literally a one-night show, no repeats. But most people do want to hook up with the same person consistently, so it’s the one-nighters that are the minority. Of the participants, 75 percent wanted to hook up with the same person consistently if at all possible, so with the people that just want a one-night thing, it’s almost unavoidable that someone will get their feelings hurt.

Also, the fact that the majority of people want to hook up with the same person leads me to wonder what they want from the other person. My initial assumption is that dating is more scary or awkward. Given that hooking up provides the same physical intimacy and is far less complicated than an official relationship, hooking up seems far more convenient but less meaningful. I don’t want to generalize that hookups aren’t meaningful because I have friends that like it and are enjoying themselves just fine. However, hookups usually aren’t done “correctly” per se –– that is, done without a variety of unforeseen consequences. Some people truly don’t want a commitment, and for these people, hooking up is the way to go. But most people who do want a relationship are afraid of the hassle that commitment entails.