8 Articles You Need To Read If You’ve Ever Had A One-Night Stand
You’ve heard the stories. You’ve lived the stories. You meet someone cute at a bar. You share drinks. You uber home together. The clothes come off. You wake up with someone next to you. How do you feel? Accomplished? Regretful? Either way, you have officially joined the masses that have engaged in the infamous “one-night stand.”
Below are 8 articles that delve into the why and how of hookup culture. They discuss the bad, the good, the enduring value of casual sex, sexism, pornography, birth control, and everything in between.
1. “Hookup Culture:The High Costs of a Low “Price” for Sex”
Steven Rhoads. Springer Link. 10.18.12
Women who participate in casual sex make it harder for the majority of women to get dates and committed sex. They make…link.springer.com
“Catherine Grello, a clinical psychologist,..found that the college men who sleep around the most are the least likely to report symptoms of depression whereas female college students who engage in casual sex the most are the most likely to report depression.”
In the article titled, “Hookup Culture: The High Costs of a Low ‘Price’ for Sex”, Steven Rhoads discusses the apparent problems associated with hookup culture, especially on college campuses and how to address these problems. The article utilizes a wide range of data, from scientific experiments, to personal anecdotes, and research from social psychologists and evolutionary anthropologists, to emphasize the effect of hookup culture on individuals.
Rhoads addresses the gender gap on many college campuses, where women tend to outnumber men, and thus feel the need to compete with other women to achieve the illustrious “Saturday night hookup.” This competition ultimately leans to the advantage of men over women: “Women are the gatekeepers who determine how physical things will get, but… they have much more limited choices these days.”
The article then explains how sex culture has shifted from the 1950’s because there are more college-educated women to hook up with. Due to the sexual revolution of the 60’s, more women became available, as feminists proclaimed sexual liberation and had more access to the pill. While this increased the number of women having sex, it also caused a shift in how women viewed sex, which Rhoads argues is not “fit” for women’s natures.
After a poll at his college, Rhoads ultimately found that the vast majority of women are unsatisfied with the modern idea of “hooking up.” A student gave an emotional response when asked how she felt about the modern sex culture: “When it comes to sex, we are encouraged to do what we want, provided we protect ourselves from STD’s and pregnancy. Yet we are not taught how to protect ourselves emotionally.”
John Townshend, an evolutionary anthropologist, works to explain why women get more emotionally involved after a hookup, compared to their male counterparts. “Intercourse produces feelings of vulnerability and of being used when they cannot get the desired emotional investment from their partners.” Townshend hypothesizes that this difference is the product of our ancestors, when men with strong sexual inclinations passed on their genes, while also engaged with multiple partners to produce as many offspring as possible. On the other hand, women who had offspring from multiple men tended to not thrive as well as offspring from choosier women. This explains, evolutionarily, why women are more emotionally attached to partners after a sexual encounter. Thus today, “Women often dismiss talking about emotions after casual sex because they feel ashamed that they are about men who treat them like strangers the next day.”
Rhoads then goes on to explain how our generation can work to weaken casual sex culture: sex education, women’s centers, religious institutions, etc.
Overall, I related to this article as I often struggle with repressing emotions after a “hookup.” It’s a sad fact that while women and men participate in a what should be “equal encounter” while engaging in sex, the women tends to hope for more- at the very least, a desire for an emotional connection. I was intrigued that this can be explained on an evolutionary and biological level, which is both comforting and disrupting.
2. “The Pill’s Difficult Birth”
Margaret Talbot. The New Yorker. 11.11.14
To this day, the pill is the only medication we refer to as if it were the only medication. In fact, it's probably the…www.newyorker.com
“To this day, the pill is the only medication we refer to as if it were the only medication.”
In Margaret Talbot’s article, “The Pill’s Difficult Birth,” Talbot traces the interesting conception and development of contraceptives in the form of the pill, while noting its many criticisms along the way. “But the oral contraceptive-not Penicillin, or Prozac, or Viagra- is still the pill, because it matters so much, in ways both thrillingly intimate and sweepingly sociological.”
Talbot focuses her attention on Jonathan Eig’s “4 crusaders,” as established in his book, “The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution.” Eig notes, “For as long as men and women have been making babies, they’ve been trying not to.” The use of birth control to prevent pregnancy has been seen by the Egyptians, who used vaginal plugs, and the Greeks, who attempted to medicinally prevent pregnancy with Frankincense and Myrrh. A shift occurred during the 1840’s when rubber became vulcanized, allowing the production of condoms and cervical caps.
However, these rubber methods still had two problems: they weren’t marketed toward women, and the government still prevented the sale of contraception. The spread of birth control to the masses changed the demographics and lifestyle of women. Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz published an article on the pill and found that it “directly lowered the costs of engaging in long-term career investments by giving women far greater certainty regarding the pregnancy consequence of sex.” Talbot then presents Eig’s “4 crusaders” that helped create modern- day contraception. Talbot traces the birth and evolution of the pill from Margaret Sanger to Pincus to Katherine McCormick to John Rock. Each individual either contributed socially or scientifically to the proliferation of the pill.
The last part of the article details the compelling impact of the pill on politics, social structures, and religious values. For example, the last “crusader”, John Rock, challenged the Catholic church’s conservative views on the pill, calling them obsolete. Rock in turn convinced many catholics there should be numerous exceptions as to when and under what circumstance a women should use birth control without being condemned to hell. As Rock informed his daugther, “Religion is a very poor scientist.” In politics, especially during the 2012 election, many conservatives had to take a more liberal view on birth control, advocating for over-the-counter contraceptives. However, Talbot expresses her concern that “the objectives to birth control raised by conservatives today are still shot through with the disapproval of female sexuality and the ambition to contain it.”
In relation to hookup culture, every one-night stand is accompanied by the nervous question, “Are you on the pill?” Hookup culture has certainly proliferated and expanded the sexual freedom of women, allowing for women and men to relax, knowing that they won’t be responsible for a child after a 30-minute escapade with a stranger. Talbot’s article describes the interesting journey the contraceptive pill has taken, and how it is viewed today.
3. “Overwhelmed and Creeped Out”
Ann Friedman. The New Yorker. 2.26.13
The eligible men are laid out like items on a menu that I can scroll through by flicking my thumb. I haven't even…www.newyorker.com
“So what do women want? If you look at the precious few dating sites and apps with female founders, a pattern emerges: women want authenticity, privacy, a more controlled environment, and a quick path to a safe, easy offline meeting.”
In this article, titled “Overwhelmed and Creeped Out,” Ann Friedman comments on the disparity between dating apps tailored towards men and those tailored to women, or lack thereof of apps tailored to women. This article, written in 2013, may have obsolete data on the lack of dating apps tailored to both men AND women, since the ever- popular app, Tinder, was created in late 2012, and didn’t have a surge until the later part of 2013. However, it’s still interesting to examine the views of women toward the then-current issue of the double-standard created by dating and hookup apps.
The article mainly discusses how there is no female equivalent to the dating app, called Grindr, that is used by gay men to randomly meet and hookup with other men in their area. Friedman speaks for women that want to be able to randomly hook-up with men and also pick out the men themselves, arguing that many of the popular dating apps are male-tailored, with men dominating the messaging- scene and abusing the app’s lack of interaction. This thus leads to women feeling “overwhelmed and creeped out” by the aggressiveness of male pursuers online. “The most desirable partners, especially the most desirable women, are likely to find the process of sifting through so many first-contact e-mails aversive, perhaps causing them to disengage from the process altogether,” says a researcher from Northwestern University.
So what is the proposed solution to this problem? A few apps have begun to address the problem, and create apps that empower women, while enabling them to be the pursuers and the ones being sought after. The app, Three Day Rule, “was created by women and for women: It shows just a few carefully selected matches at a time — bypassing the deluge problem, and saving busy professionals (who are a target demographic for online dating precisely because they’re too busy to meet people) from scrolling through pages and pages of profiles.” The app emphasized personality types, privacy, and encourages meeting “organically” as opposed to a partner hiding behind a phone screen.
I found this article very compelling; it is interesting to view the position women have in the dating world, and how the lack of options sparked a quiet outrage, but eventually lead to solutions being made by female entrepreneurs that want to take a stand against the lack of options available to women. Contrary to popular belief, women do want to hook up and do want the freedom to do so without judgement.
4. “Making Sense of Modern Pornography”
Katrina Forrester. The New Yorker. 9.26.16
If you watch pornography, it's likely that you do so on the Internet. The days when consuming pornography meant buying…www.newyorker.com
“Porn is abundantly more, in every way: there are more people, more acts, more clips, more categories. It has permeated everyday life, to the point where we talk easily of food porn, disaster porn, war porn, real-estate porn — not because culture has been sexualized, or sex pornified, but because porn’s patterns of excess, fantasy, desire, and shame are so familiar.”
In the article, “Making Sense of Modern Pornography,” Katrina Forrester addresses the apparent decline in the porn industry, due to its ubiquitous nature on the Internet, while presenting the views of both anti-porn activists and porn advocates. The decline can be attributed to a few issues; it’s not as lucrative because it can be accessed in the comfort of your own home, as opposed to “pinup magazines”, and those who “track down adult-video stores.”
Most porn nowadays is viewed on YouPorn, Redtube, and Pornhub. A recent CNBC report showed that “70% of American-online porn access occurs during the 9–5 workday.” The industry, while in decline, has changed from it originally was, including more hard-core, penetrative porn. The most popular search terms being “anal,” “amateur”, “teen,” and “mom and son.” This prompts some discussion on the objectification associated with modern porn. Feminists of the 70’s and 80’s were against the growing porn industry, saying they: “condemned pornography not on the ground of obscenity but on the ground of harm.” Since porn is such a sensitive and vulgar topic, Forrester notes: “The atmosphere of controversy makes it hard to avoid more positions. Even to suspend judgement may be to take sides.” Right she is, it seems either side you take: for, or against, the industry,reveals your religious and social opinions.
Because of the decline, most films have cheap production costs, while riskier acts are “incentivized.” An interesting statistic found that women entering the porn scene in the 80’s waited about 2 years before experimenting with anal, while today it is 6 months. This speed is often correlated with the now average porn actress career span of 4–6 months, possibly due to long hours, few or no benefits, contraction of STDs, and the excessive grooming and transportation costs.
Forrester then goes on to present each argument viewing porn. While some view porn as a form of sexual slavery, saying “pornography is equivalent to graphic sexual explicit subordination of women,” others argued that as long as it was consensual, it might also be empowering. The sexual slavery argument argues that porn desensitizes rape, which has actually been proven from studies. The latter argument emphasizes that porn is liberating for women, arguing it makes them more independent beings, having a say in their sexual freedom. Along with the latter argument, such minority groups of “lesbians, gay, and queer defenders saw porn as an opportunity to challenge sexual norms and taboos.”
The last argument that is “pro-porn” argues that porn is an industry, and is a job for some people-so it deserves attention and praise as people make a living off of it. However, young-feminists are working to make a porn-industry that not only creates profit for women in the industry but “protects performers from profit-seeking managers.” Today, performers are seeking to reform the industry from the “inside-out” by doing away with the objectifying categories that tube-sites have that are racist and sexist. However, there’s not a lot of massive support for this movement as Forrester notes, “Few people want ethics with their porn.”
The pro-porn argument has some flaws and its clear that the decline in the porn industry is not helping the diversification of the industry, which remains “conservative, brutal, and anonymous.” The porn industry is harder to control these days, as sites become more ubiquitous and free just like the Internet.
If you’ve ever participated in a “hook up” , you may have noticed the effect that porn has on how males/females believe they should act or perform in bed. Porn also has its downsides regarding hookup culture, as it can somewhat encourage abusive and non-consensual sex. However, on the other side, some view porn as a liberating experience for women, who now have greater control over their sexuality by viewing, and performing in it.
5. “Casual Sex:Everything is Doing It”
Maria Konnikova. The New Yorker. 6.25.16
Zhana Vrangalova had hit a problem. On a blustery day in early spring, sitting in a small coffee shop near the campus…www.newyorker.com
“The dirty little secret of casual sex today is not that we’re having it but that we’re not sharing our experiences of it in the best way.”
In the article, “Casual Sex,’ Maria Konnikova describes an unofficial, online research project devoted to figuring out the why’s and how’s of casual sex. The project that Konnikova is analyzing is online as casualsexproject.com, a site started by Zhana Vrangalova, where users describe their various hookup stories. Vrangalova, for the past decade, has studied the psychology of human sexuality, and the kinds of sexual encounters that occur in the contemporary world, the ones outside the norm of committed relationships. The Casual Sex Project, which “began as a small endeavor fueled by personal referrals, but has since grown to 5,000 visitors a day,” was designed to open up the somewhat taboo subject of hookup culture.
The experiment was meant to answer those dying questions that we would all like to know the answers to: Why do we do it and are we enjoying it? Konnikova notes that our experimental subjects on this topic seemed to skewed, as most assume casual sex is fairly limited to college students, which is not all that wrong since 80% of college students report “engaging in sexual acts outside of committed relationships.” This number has been thought to be proliferated by the increased use of drugs and alcohol among college students and the “increasingly lax social mores” associated with millennial culture.
However, two views have erupted that either argue against or support this proliferation of casual sex. Some argue that hookup culture is “demeaning women and wreaking havoc on our ability to establish stable, fulfilling relationships,” while others argue it as a sign of social progress. A psychologist, Hanna Rosin, urged women to “avoid serious suitors so they could focus on own needs and careers.” But this again is contrasted with the view that humans ultimately and, on an evolutionary level, crave a deeper connection with those of opposite sexes. Vrangalova, the creator of the research project, wants people to know it is not only college students participating, and that it doesn’t have to always be viewed in a negative way, especially towards women.
Ultimately, the Casual Sex Project became the “largest repository of information about causal-sex relationships in the world.” Its users come from a surprisingly diverse background: teens, elders, suburbanites, city-dwellers, graduate students, those without a G.E.D, etc. A surprising number of responses come in from women AND men, which can be explained by a number of reasons: free love idea of 60’s never shifted back, casual sex isn’t really a norm, but simply something that individuals have sought after, or the most popular theory is that people are hooking up for different reasons. While alcohol and social pressuring tends to be the reason college students engage in it, elders who engage in casual sex seem to simply disregard the social standard.
Something Vrangalova found the most interesting, after always viewing causal-sex as a positive thing, is the surprising amount of responses from young-users of their feelings of “stressed, anxious, guilt, and disgust” that arose in the responses the day after a hookup. Vrangalova now sees both sides of the coin of casual sex, whereas before she primarily saw only the good that came from it. Vrangalova hopes that her project will help people feel more comfortable and less ashamed of their sexual experiences, which psychologist James Pernebaker has proven as an effective form of therapy. This study may not yield experimental data that can be easily analyzed, but it may help erase the stigma of casual sex as an evil, and help those participating feel more comfortable with their experiences- something that has an unmeasurable effect on our society.
Pertaining to casual sex and hookup culture, the article by Konnikova attempts to answer the why of this aboriginal culture, while also investigating into the effects the website has on its users, as it attempts to dilute the intensity of casual sex in everyday life. If you’ve ever struggled with your identity and emotions after a casual sex encounter, The Casual Sex Project may also be a good tool for you to cope and discuss your feelings in a judgement free environment.
6. “ ‘Future Sex’:Adventures in an Erotic Wonderland”
Emily Witt. The New Yorker. 10.17.16
Few places are less conducive to erotic optimism than the packed waiting room of a public health clinic in Brooklyn…www.newyorker.com
“Never before has such a wide variety of sexual preferences and behaviors enjoyed such social sanctions, or been as easy to explore by typing a few words into a search engine in the privacy and the safety of one’s own home.”
In this book review of “Future Sex,” written by Emily Witt, Alexandra Schwartz gives a detailed description of the novel and what the book reveals about the author’s desires. In the article, Schwartz describes Witt’s book as risqué, which is not far from accurate as it delves into somewhat promiscuous topics of BDSM photoshoots, orgasmic meditation clinics, and live-masturbation video chats. But Scwartz really encompasses what the book is really about: how to find one’s place sexually when there is such a wide variety of options. The author of “Future Sex,” Witt experiments and goes outside of her comfort zone in this honest account of “ contemporary pursuit of connection and pleasure, and an inspiring new model of female sexuality — open, forgiving, and unafraid.”
Emily Witt comes from a shy background of becoming attached to men she had slept with and having to move on from that emotionally, saying: “I still envisioned my sexual experience reaching a terminus, like a monorail gliding to a stop at Epcot Center..and there we would remain in our permanent station in life: the future.” But as Scwartz says, “But love failed to arrive. Her monorail glided on, Epcot nowhere in sight.” This turning point leads to the sexual experimentation of contemporary San Francisco, a hub of modern-sexual culture. Witt’s many exploits begin with online dating and then shift to a company by the name of OneTaste, which specializes in orgasmic meditation. Here, women can “openly give themselves over to pleasure without the pressure to reciprocate.” Contrary to today’s somewhat awkward hookup culture, Schwartz notes, “Its terms, unlike those of casual sex, didn’t have to be negotiated every time.The woman didn’t have to wonder about her partners intentions.” Following this, Witt attends a BDSM photoshoot, where she is left in awe of the comfort with which the actors and actresses flow between the scenes. Witt describes in her book: “…I was admired was the ease with which they went in and out of it, the comfort with which they inhabited their bodies, their total sense of self-assurance and sense of unity against those who condemned their practice.” The more Witt goes into this sexual “Wonderland,” the more confused but accepting, interested, and intrigued she becomes-wondering if this is right for her. The article concludes along the same lines the book ends-with Witt accepting her sex freedom. “I had wanted to seek out a higher principle of life than to search for more contentment, to pursue emotional experiences that could not be immediately transposed to a party of young people in a cell phone ad, even if it meant delving into ugliness, contracting an STD, or lifting my shirt to entice someone’s jerking off over the Internet.”
My favorite line from the article is “Contentment doesn’t have to mean complacency,” which describes the feelings with which all people of all ages should endure when succumbing to such a confusing and liberating act of hookup culture- our generation’s drug of choice.
I chose this article as it pertains to the future of hookup culture and how it can also be a scary, yet liberating experience when one begins to expand their sexual knowledge and experiement in ways that they have not previously explored.
7. “Foreign Story”
Rebecca Mead. The New Yorker. 5.6.13
In an early chapter of "The Portrait of a Lady," Isabel Archer fends off Caspar Goodwood, her persistent American…www.newyorker.com
“In this respect, if in no other, her experience is not so different from that of many young American women now, caught in a post-post-feminist narrative in which it is proposed that sexual emancipation may be achieved through emotional disengagement.”
In the article,“Foriegn Story,” Rebecca Mead comments on the relationship between the infamous Amanda Knox trial and her promiscuous nature amplified by the media. In 2007, Amanda Knox moved from Seattle to Perugia as a naive and adventurous student, ready to explore new terrain and experiment with her sexuality. However, only 2 months into her stay, she was convicted of one of the most publicized sex and murder cases of the decade. Knox, with the help of her newly found boyfriend, were convicted and imprisoned for the murder of Knox’s roommate, Meredith Kercher.
The story seemed to be a typical murder/rape story, but was exaggerated by the media, which emphasized Amanda Knox as a sex-crazed, drugged up individual, who would go to extreme lengths to defy the law. Knox, a foreigner in a new land, describes herself as “an American naif: innocent not only in the legal sense but in the moral dimension, too.” Upon arriving in Perugia, Knox was not aware that her “social codes of the American Northwest will be perceived in her host country as aberrant and even malign.” These childlike-behaviors and actions bewildered natives-cartwheels during trial lobby, sarcastic and quirky remarks to cops, etc. The European media also exaggerated her apparent promiscuity to emphasize her guile nature. Knox notes, “Casual sex was, for my generation, simply what you did.” Knox argues that these abnormal behaviors and her experiments with sexuality were used as “evidence of depravity against her.”
This story certainly captured the attention worldwide not for its extreme circumstance, but on the notion that she was guilty because of her promiscuous behavior, as opposed to tangible evidence. Mead connects this with the experience that young American women deal with today about feeling equally trapped and liberated by today’s views on hookup culture. “It is not new for students to ‘give casual sex a chance,’..It is new for girls to adopt the sexual behavior of the most opportunistic guy on campus.”
I chose this article as it makes a compelling connection between a convicted murderer and the average college American girl. Today, women are still struggling to freely express themselves sexually without feeling trapped by societal norms and a pressure to fit in. The freedom to declare oneself independent of these dehumanizing stereotypes is a “common desire of young women,” which sharply contrasts from the feminists movement that declares sexuality as empowering and pleasure-driven. Mead argues that this “freedom…is elusive now, as it was then.”
8. “Boys on the Side”
Hanna Rosin. The Atlantic. 9.12
The hookup culture that has largely replaced dating on college campuses has been viewed, in many quarters, as socially…www.theatlantic.com
“ To put it crudely, feminist progress right now largely depends on the existence of the hookup culture. And to a surprising degree, it is women — not men — who are perpetuating the culture, especially in school, cannily manipulating it to make space for their success, always keeping their own ends in mind.”
In the widely blown up article, “Boys on the Side,” Hanna Rosin compiles numerous stats and arguments surrounding modern day hookup culture. Is it helping or hurting women? While Rosin notes of many arguments against the “evil hookup culture” that includes “ubiquitous pain, young women so injured to ubiquitous porn that they don’t bother to protest, young women behaving exactly like frat boys, and no one guarding the virtues of humor, chivalry, or everlasting love,” Rosin ultimately disagrees with these stances. On the contrary, Rosin believes the sexual liberation of college kids these days is setting young women up for future success.
Rosin disagrees with an argument made by the Caitlin Flanagan, author of “Girl Land,” who ultimately says, “Sexual liberation…primarily liberated men-to act as cads, using women for their own pleasures and taking no responsibility for the emotional wreckage their behavior created.” However, Rosin argues that this argument is not addressing the social, political, and financial advances women have made that ultimately “depend on sexual liberation.” For example, for the first time in history, women in 20’s and early 30’s are making more money, on average, than single young men around them. Rosin notes, “What makes this remarkable development possible is not just the pill or legal abortion but the whole new landscape of sexual freedom — the ability to delay marriage and have temporary relationships that don’t derail education or career.”
Another argument was made on Yale’s campus that “hookup culture is fertile ground for acts of sexual selfishness, insensitivity, cruelty, and malice.” However, after Rosin interviewed many female students, she found that women do not want to completely eradicate hookup culture, because, “many women enjoy it.” Rather, they want more innocent goals when it comes to intimacy: simply to be asked out on a date.
Rosin argues that women are putting their careers first, hookups second. This sexual liberation is allowing young women to focus on their education and careers, while still being able to enjoy frequent and temporary sexual availability. The commitment associated with relationships in college are far too excessive for a college student, who simply wants to make good grades and have fun. “The sexual culture may be more coarse these days, but young women are more than adequately equipped to handle it, because unlike the women in earlier ages, they have more-important things on their minds, such as good grades and internships and job interviews and a financial future of their own.”
Rosin also disagrees with the notion that hookup culture is perpetrating abusive relationships and the emotional dependence associated with women. Women are enjoying their hookups more, and are continuing to become more financially independent- eradicating the “weepy-women stereotype,” amplified by the media who believe casual sex is the devil of the era. “When women were financially dependent on men, leaving an abusive situation was much harder for them. But now women who in earlier eras might have stayed in such relationships can leave or, more often, kick men out of the house.”
While Rosin argues that this newfound independence, confidence, and knowledge associated with sexual liberation, she ultimately agrees that eventually “the desire for a deeper human connection always wins out, for both men and women.”
I chose this article because it effectively makes the case against the “hookup-culture” haters. It also referenced in many of the above articles, so it is only necessary that I include this one, as well. The anecdotes mentioned in the article are very relatable to the average college-student-girl who is interested in advancing her education, while enjoying herself in one-night stands.
In conclusion, as a freshmen in college, constantly surrounded by the pressures and elusiveness of casual sex, I personally enjoy the escapade that so many tend to denounce. While I do agree that it can be frustrating at times when I develop feelings for someone that may only view me as a “one-night” thing, the overall experience is liberating and central to collegiate culture.