In a survey of 7,000 college students conducted by American sociologist Michael Kimmel, it was found that by the time these students had made it to senior year, they averaged nearly seven hookups during their academic careers. Twenty-eight per cent of this pool had actually hooked up ten times or more and about one-fourth (24 per cent) said that they had never hooked up.
According to the prominent feminist Gail Dines, hookup sex is defined as, “Those encounters that can be anything from a grope to full sexual intercourse but have the common feature that there is no expectation of a relationship, intimacy, or connection. Sex is what you expect, and sex is what you get.”
One does not have to be an expert to realize that we are living in a hypersexualized global society. Our clothes and the importance we give to our physical appearance, the TV commercials that we mindlessly look over, the music videos we are exposed to, the TV series we tend to follow, and the movies we end up watching are all indicators of this hypersexuality. The underlying reasons for this hypersexuality have been discussed at great lengths by many prominent scholars around the world who continue to do groundbreaking research on this front. To go into the details of this topic would take me beyond the scope of this article and so the onus is on the reader to critically examine this claim. My intention is merely to shed light on a rather interesting association I have come across in my study of contemporary sociology. I will be drawing connections between modern day pornography which exists primarily in the virtual realm, is consumed mostly by the male population, and is supposedly locked away in a part of their brain never to become part of their reality, and I’ll be relating this to the modern day hookup culture that is continuing to gain momentum in modern society without any apparent thought to the possible ramifications on societal cohesion and our overall psychological states.
For the uninitiated, watching contemporary porn might be an overwhelming experience. With most of the mainstream content depicting borderline cruelty directed towards women sugar-coated with the pretext that these women are such nymphomaniacs that they actually enjoy utter debasement and physical torture to the extent where they are gagging (and puking in extreme cases), crying with makeup and mascara running as if they’ve gone through some excruciating emotional and physical trauma, and finally being left sore and battered to the extent that the only real conclusion you can reach is that no normal human being can enjoy such treatment. However, the multibillion-dollar porn machine has been at work for a few decades now, gradually and ever-so-slowly setting the foundation for us to be consumers that find nothing wrong with the modern version of hardcore porn. As we continue to allow our sexuality to be hijacked by the formulaic and plasticized sex offered by porn the more desensitized we become to the impact this consumption is having on us as individuals and as a collective society.
However, the purpose for this article is not to have a crack at pornography and what’s wrong with it (although this would make for a very interesting topic as it is) but rather, the point is to analyze the sort of sexual intimacy porn promotes. I could use my own words to explain what this version of sexual intimacy is, but I think it would be better if I borrowed this vision from the porn industry itself. According to Gail Dines’ book Pornland, the introductory text on a site called Gag Me Then F*** Me reads: “Do you know what we say to things like romance and foreplay? We say f*** off! This is not another site with half-erect weenies trying to impress bold sluts. We take gorgeous young bitches and do what every man would REALLY like to do. We make them gag till their makeup starts running, and then they get all other holes sore— vaginal, anal, double penetrations, anything brutal involving a cock and an orifice. And then we give them the sticky bath.” Now if reading that did not make you feel uneasy, bothered, horrified, and all-out upset, I’d have to say that there’s something wrong with you. But the actual fact of the matter is that most guys today are watching porn that is full of content that distorts sexual intimacy and displays it in such a light. The girls out there are either blind to this reality or choose not to give it any importance and in an increasing number of cases are beginning to accept this debasing porn reality as something to not be concerned about. After all, in most cases, porn is just a dirty little secret for all the guys and doesn’t really have a lot to do with the girls, right? If only it was this simple.
Bringing this discussion back to the ever growing hookup culture, let’s first go ahead and draw some comparisons. According to the definition presented earlier, hookup sex lacks commitment and the promise of an intimate connection, much like porn sex. If you think about it, the two individuals making a porn movie are definitely having sex for the sake of having sex, but as far as intimacy goes, the video is completely devoid of it. Lovemaking (or just plain sex) in the real world was never meant to be just an exercise. Sexual intimacy was all about developing a strong emotional connection with an individual you deeply, deeply cared about. But with the mainstreaming of pornography, porn sex has seeped into the real world to such an extent that it is being played out in everyday encounters with more frequency than ever before. Movies like No Strings Attached and Zack and Miri make a Porno are just a few examples of how the pornographic world is making a grand entry into the real world, and for most of us, there’s nothing we can even do about it.
The problem with so many males consuming contemporary porn in today’s world is that they’ve started taking porn as the authority on what women want. But as Robert Jensen aptly said, “If men are going to porn to learn about women’s sexuality, then they will certainly be disappointed.” And really, in most porn videos it would seem that all it took to bring a woman to orgasmic heaven was a man’s ability to have an erection. Clearly, this is not the case in the real world. Another point to note is that men and women inherently view hooking up with a different set of eyes. This is shown clearly by the sociologist Kathleen Bogle, who conducted a study of college-age students in which it was found that many of the women who were surveyed would actually have liked to turn hookup partners into boyfriends whereas the men were interested in no such thing and “preferred to hook up with no strings attached.” Also an interesting point to note was that most women hooked up with guys they knew or were comfortable around while the guys preferred the encounter to be as random as possible.
Clearly, there is a difference in opinion regarding how sexual intimacy should play out, right? Since there’s two people involved, their pleasure should be given equal consideration. And if one partner derives satisfaction through an emotional connection whereas the other doesn’t, then ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem that needs to be addressed. See, the thing with our generation is that we’re so caught up in trying to not fall behind in what everyone else is doing that we forget to pay attention to the things that really matter. In this case, it’s how the sexual experience in the real world has been hijacked by an economic juggernaut that only cares about turning a profit with no regard to the number of lives it destroys, directly and indirectly— and to be honest with you, unless we step up now to make things better, the situation might be too far gone beyond our control for us to even try. At that time we will all just stand at the sidelines and watch our humanity, our personal relationships, our intimate connections, and our understanding of what love was and is crumble away. So if you think that the trending culture of hooking up is not for you, there’s no need to feel bad about it. Remember, we weren’t all meant to be porn stars.