(This post originally appeared HERE in SDGLN media partner Gay San Diego.)
While everybody is talking about hooking up, no one is exactly sure what it means. Here are some characteristics I discovered:
• Almost any sexual act. A hookup can range from a make-out session to full out sex;
• Sexual activity outside the context of a romantic relationship;
• No commitment involved. If you hook up, the other person might have no expectations of hooking up with you again.
I define hookup culture as choosing a pattern of unemotional, unattached sex. From my observations as a therapist to the San Diego LGBT community, hooking up has become extremely popular.
But I wonder if it really working for us. Let’s check it out.
Some older folks in our community see hooking up as a form of sexual experimentation. Maybe it used to be, but no more. For many of us today in the LGBT community, it’s become the norm. Dating is passé and commitment-free sex is the new normal.
For many of my clients, having lots of fast, uncaring, unthinking sex isn’t very exciting. In fact, it can be downright boring. Yet hooking up has become the defining aspect of social life for many people in the community: so common that it leaves little room for experimentation.
“If you’re not hooking up, people laugh at you and think you’re a loser,” one of my 20-something clients told me last week. Another said, “If you’re not hooking up, you better lie about it and pretend you are or people will wonder what’s wrong with you.”
Wow, this is pretty rigid, isn’t it? Are we so afraid to challenge hookup culture that we just go along with it?
A handsome go-go dancer in one of Hillcrest’s clubs told me, “It’s so boring to hook up, but what else is there?”
I wonder if we’re all going along with something that doesn’t work well, because if we don’t, we’re afraid we’ll end up sitting at home every night watching bad reality TV.
What are the alternatives? Are we doomed to boredom because there’s nothing else out there? I think not. Let me throw out some words for your consideration: connecting, attachment and caring.
These words have a completely different feel, don’t they? Also, what about real excitement, not just mechanical sex? What about delayed gratification? How about knowing what you want and not settling for less? Don’t these concepts offer us more than just getting off?
When hooking up is what we’re expected to do, it becomes boring, not daring.
Many of my clients tell me that even if they don’t like hooking up, they pretend they do because it’s a big part of San Diego LGBT social life and they want to fit in. Ideas like dating and get-to-know-you conversations before sex are mocked as unsophisticated. We’re encouraged to obey the guiding commandment of hookup culture: thou shalt not become attached to your partner.
While this may sound good in theory, in reality it leaves many of us emotionally half dead and encourages us to give up on any ideas of emotional connection, sexual intimacy or romance. No wonder we’re depressed.
Please be clear: I’m not against hooking up. For some folks, it’s like a delicious, high-fat dessert that’s fun to indulge in occasionally. But if hooking up has become your main course, don’t be surprised if it leaves you feeling empty and unloved.
If you want to be a real rebel, consider a timeout from sex. Taking a step back from being sexually active – for even a weekend – can be empowering. A respite from hooking up can give you time and space to reflect on what you really want out of sex, and how and when you want to have it.
Being a rebel could even look like getting to know someone before having sex, holding out for dates and an emotional connection focused on romance rather than sex.
We in the LGBT community are known for being societal rebels, doing things our own way and making our own rules. If hooking up has become boring, maybe it’s time for some new and more rebellious ways of living.
Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping LGBT clients achieve their goals and deal with anxiety, depression, grief, sexually addictive behavior, coming out, relationship challenges and homophobia. Michael is currently accepting new clients. Contact him at 619-955-3311 or visit lifebeyondtherapy.com.