The Trouble With Hookup Culture


When I tell people that I’m doing the whole casual hookup thing and that I’ve comfortably maintained strings of fuckbuddies and one night stands, I’m always met with a blend of shock and awe. They tell me how modern I am, how great it is that I’m so comfortable with myself that I don’t need a commitment, and that I’m brave for not being afraid of such a harshly judged lifestyle.

To some extent, they’re right. I am focusing on myself. I am pursuing my sexuality unabashedly. And I’m not afraid of what people may say. But what they don’t realize is that I’m exhausted and it took me a long time to learn to be this way and sometimes I wonder if I haven’t permanently ruined myself. I’ve learned more about men and human connection in these past two years of hooking up than I learned from any long term relationship prior, and I don’t like what I’m learning.

It’s great to do things for yourself; to pursue the things that you want for you and you alone without having to compromise with someone else. It’s good to have a healthy approach to sex. What’s not good is the realization that you live behind a shell labeled “hardass” because that’s the only way you can survive.

The first time I had a one-night stand, it felt so strange. I wanted more, I felt like I was entitled to a connection, even though I knew I wasn’t. I was hurt that the man in question didn’t call me and ask for some commitment, even though I knew that I didn’t want a boyfriend. I was asking for someone to care about me, even when I didn’t care about them and knew I had no right to ask that of them.

You learn to harden yourself against expectations because happiness is reality minus expectations. You learn how to be both brutally honest and carefully guarded. I say things to my hookups that I would never say to anyone else, precisely because we have a limited window of togetherness and I have a small amount of time to establish myself as strong and independent. But I never care too much or ask too many questions or let them know how content I really am, because that makes me clingy and crazy.

You learn early on how to tell when someone doesn’t give a shit about you and, nine times out of ten, a hookup doesn’t give a shit about you. Even when he spends his weekends in your bed and kisses your forehead and laughs with you as you talk in the darkness, he doesn’t really care. What you mean to each other only goes as far as the door to your apartment. The trouble with hookup culture is that it is, at the same time, empowering and crippling. The very same moments that make you feel strong and content are the ones that leave you hollow and haunted.

And I’m so tired.

I’m tired of giving to someone who is only going to disappear and I’m tired of taking from someone while being fully aware that they are replaceable. No one thinks they are replaceable. I’m tired of being more armor and hard logic and cynicism than I am heart. I’m tired of my friends telling me that I love like a man when I am at my very core all woman. I’m tired of doubting whether or not I’ve ever been able to love at all.