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March 2, 2023
Experiences with hookup culture can differ greatly for many reasons, one of the most prominent being gender.
“From my experience, it seems like guys are more likely to be the ones to initiate hookups,” an anonymous source said. “I feel like girls are more likely to want something more from it. Whereas [with] guys, it’s just a hookup, and then you’re done.”
Another anonymous source feels that men’s intentions are often misunderstood.
“In hookups in general, the guy is more painted as a bad guy instead of the girl. It’s like guys only want one thing, but girls can want the same thing as well,” the anonymous source said.
Haylett has observed how gender stereotypes can cause miscommunications within hookups.
“I think what we end up doing is having men and women hooking up and performing those expectations,” Haylett said. “They assume, as a woman, I’m supposed to want more or the man assumes she’s going to want more. [The guy] may be trying to play it cool, like he doesn’t [want a relationship] but he does.”
These preconceived notions in hookup culture stem from stereotypes surrounding gender and emotional expression. According to scientific journal Frontiers in Psychology, stereotypes bring a consistent pattern of different emotional expressions between genders: men tend to express powerful emotions, such as anger, with less tolerance for vulnerable emotions, like sadness, while women are the opposite.
“Boys tend to feel pressured to hook up to prove their masculinity and gain status,” Mikucki-Enyart said. “However, hookups, which often lack communication, aren’t really fertile grounds for developing sexual skills and competency. Hookup culture encourages [boys] to deny feeling an emotional connection ever and that acknowledging emotions is bad.”
Similarly, women deal with double standards. Mikucki-Enyart has observed these negative expectations.
“Girls often engage in hookups because they feel like they have to if they flirted or it’s just ‘what you do,’” Mikucki-Enyart said. “Unlike boys, who are praised for hooking up [by] peers, girls must tread a fine line of not seeming too prudish or too slutty when engaging in hookup culture. Girls lose status for hooking up, whereas boys gain status.”
Unlike boys, who are praised for hooking up [by] peers, girls must tread a fine line of not seeming too prudish or too slutty when engaging in hookup culture.” — Sylvia Mikucki-Enyart, UIowa Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies
Unlike boys, who are praised for hooking up [by] peers, girls must tread a fine line of not seeming too prudish or too slutty when engaging in hookup culture.”
— Sylvia Mikucki-Enyart, UIowa Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies
An anonymous source notices the disparities between gender expectations at West.
“If a guy has a lot of [sexual relations, peers say], ‘Oh my gosh, you are the king; you can get anyone you want,’” the anonymous source said. “But if a girl does it, she’s a slut, she’s a whore, she belongs in the streets.”
Powell describes how society often views women as the ones ultimately responsible for any consequences of sexual acts they partake in.
“The gender hierarchies we have certainly [imply] women are responsible for sexual gatekeeping — they’re the ones who are sort of responsible for controlling men’s uncontrollable impulses,” Powell said. “But if they fail at that, then we slut-shame them and say they’re making it up and so on.”
Slut-shaming is the act of condemning someone, often a woman, for sexual behavior deemed indecent. Powell notes that slut-shaming occurs not only in hookup culture but also overlaps with rape culture, an environment where sexual violence is normalized and excused.
“The questions that we ask in rape culture are: ‘Why was she wearing that? Why would she be drinking with them anyways? Shouldn’t she know that if she does this, then this is gonna happen?’ Whereas we’re not asking these questions [like] ‘Why is he assaulting her?’” Powell said. “It’s an environment where we blame victims and hold them responsible for their own assault and don’t allow them to safely report — to seek justice and accountability for things that have happened to them.”
Powell believes early education is crucial to disband rape culture.
“I think the best thing is early sex education and even before sex education, consent education,” Powell said. “It warms my heart now to see a movement even in elementary schools where people … talk about boundaries and respecting those boundaries. I think that’s a really good way to start.”
I think the best thing is early sex education and even before sex education, consent education.”
— Amber Powell, UIowa Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminology
In order to overcome gender stereotypes and the stigmas surrounding hookups, Mikucki-Enyart advises creating safe spaces to encourage open conversations.
“These conversations do not have to be weird or awkward,” Mikucki-Enyart said. “We as a society make them so, but when you make them part of everyday normal conversation, we take the stigma and potential secrecy out of sex.”