is Hookup Culture harmful?

Hookup culture is a common part of lots people’s college experience, however, many people do not know or understand just how harmful this culture has the potential to be. My experience with hookup culture is not something I regret, but rather something that has formed me into who I am today and contributed to what I now believe. I have come to realize that what I previously thought was a sexually liberating and exciting experience was in reality extremely harmful to my perception of self, sex, and healthy relationships. 

Several factors such as my religious upbringing, pop culture, and societal norms shaped my early perceptions about sex, which ultimately led me to be heavily immersed in hookup culture during my first few years of college. It is worth noting the impact these factors had on me.

Growing up in the Catholic faith it was frequently conveyed to me that sex and sexual impulses were a big no-no and were a huge factor in my early perceptions of sex. This led to me having massive feelings of guilt and shame when not-so-pure thoughts and intentions would cross my mind. As I entered high school and began my first real relationship, the teachings of the church frequently crossed my mind, but I was able to mostly ignore those feelings because I began valuing the role of religion in my life less. When my mom forced me to tell her if we had sex, she broke down crying saying “you should want better for yourself as a Christian!” (BTW, not a great way to facilitate open and honest communication with your child.) This made me feel shitty and guilty but made me excited to be out of the supervision of my parents when I went off to college.

Before my freshman year of college, I began listening to the Call Her Daddy podcast and I ate that shit up. At that time, the podcast had two hosts, Alex Cooper and Sofia Franklyn, and they discussed relationship advice and shared stories of their sexual experiences. However, in the early days of the podcast, the ‘advice’ they were offering was actually extremely toxic and constantly objectified women, which I later came to realize, but the harm was already done. I began taking the advice to heart and believed that it was more beneficial for me to play men rather than get played and that my most prized possession is what I could offer sexually to men. I thought it was empowering to hook up with men and ‘use them’ so I myself didn’t feel used. 

In addition to my religious upbringing and listening to that dumpster fire of a podcast, the societal norms around hookup culture in college made me think casual, meaningless sex was normal and expected of college-age people. The use of dating apps like Tinder is common among college students and I was a frequent user during my first two years of college. These apps enabled me to find hookups and further contributed to my immersion into the culture.

After 2-3 years of participating in this culture, I began to realize the emotional toll it was taking on me. I was having a hard time forming real emotional connections with people, I hypersexualized myself and began feeling icky and used when I would hook up with men.

In a study published in the National Library of Medicine, researchers found there are positive and negative aspects of hookup culture among college students. Positive aspects of hookup culture are associated with feelings of empowerment, attractiveness, and excitement, while negative aspects are associated with a range of negative emotional, health, and social consequences. In addition to the negative feelings, casual sex is linked to psychological distress, including anxiety and depression, as well as low self-esteem and reduced life satisfaction. 

Many of the findings in the study resonated with me and made me feel comforted that other college students recognize the harm done by hookup culture. Participating in this culture did make me feel excited and liberated at first, but after doing it for many years the negative feelings associated with it began to creep in and alter my perceptions. I came to realize that it was not as fulfilling as I once thought, and in fact, ended up making me feel empty and discouraged. 

I think that hookup culture is a normal part of the college experience, but more people should be aware of the downsides of participating in it. I also think that maturing and wanting more meaningful relationships for myself contributed to my current views on hookup culture. As I said earlier, it is not something I fully regret because it has taught me a lot about myself and shaped me into who I am today. If hookup culture is your thing then by all means go for it. However, make sure you take time to check in with yourself and your emotions to evaluate the role hookup culture has in your life. 

9 thoughts on “is Hookup Culture harmful?

  1. I completely agree and relate to a lot of what you said! I thought I was the only one who found Call Her Daddy to be extremely toxic and objectifying.


  2. I never understood how the hosts of Call Her Daddy thought their experiences were / should be the same for every woman if they want to feel “empowered”.


  3. I totally agree. I think hookup culture is inevitable, especially on college campuses. As someone who has listened to a few episodes of Call Her Daddy, I have always found the show to be somewhat misogynistic. The host Alex Cooper loves to get tips about being able to ‘please your partner (especially your man)’ and all that stuff, but what about the other way around? I think someone with such a big platform as Alex Cooper should try to empower others by talking about her experience with hook culture/relationships. Because hookups are a topic many people shy away from, I do like how open and honest she can be.


  4. Honestly I never listened to the Call Her Daddy podcast but have heard several mixed reviews from the people who have – some find it empowering, some find it harmful. While I can see why some women find it empowering since women are the ones being “on top” and using the men rather than the other way around, but I can also see why it may be harmful. Instead of promoting using women or men for sex, there should be a talk regarding boundaries and positive/ equal sexual encounters from each self-identified gender.


  5. I also listened to call her daddy a lot and lived by what they said. I feel like the older I have become to more I find hookup culture toxic and not as “fun” as it us to be.


  6. I love what you talked about here, and I do agree that people should be aware of the downsides to hookup culture before choosing to participate in it.


  7. I love this post. I have always hated hook-up culture and have never been a part of it. Especially coming to college it’s crazy the way guys think and act. The emotional toll that it has taken on my friends is literally upsetting for me to even see.


  8. What you’re talking about in this post is so important. It is evident that the stigma around hookup culture changes the way so many people… especially young people… think about sex and romantic relationships and it’s truly harmful.


  9. I could not agree more with this post and the comments posted above. I personally have never taken part in hookup culture because I’ve always hated the idea around it and how it treats women, as well as having friends who have ‘lost themselves’ in the culture itself. I sadly think the cons of hookup culture outweigh the pros.


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