Lilly Chimes in on Hook Up Debate: Why Should Girls Be Like Boys?

By | March 9th, 2010 | 6 comments

Lately, I’ve been thinking about hooking up. Before you blame my hormones (go ahead and exhale, Mom and Dad) let me explain. First I read Rachel’s blog about whether hooking up is good for girls (her answer, not so much). Then I read the countless, insightful reader comments and bloggersthought provoking responses. Finally, I saw a flowchart created by a sophomore girl and boy at my high school.

The chart illustrated who hooked up (made out) with each other at the school dance two weeks ago. Among a web of arrows, there are the names of dozens of students. The chart does not even begin to fully document all of the hook ups that occurred that night. Many, many tongue-happy students slipped under the radars of the sophomore documenters and, clearly, of the chaperones. Yet the majority of the school has seen the chart. With this in mind, I sit down to write about hooking up.

I’m not entirely convinced that hooking up with guys, without being in a relationship, is a bad thing. Hooking up can be a positive experience young women should be able to enjoy without fearing judgment. Furthermore, learning how to relate to others is a process and it should be understood that for many of my peers being sexually active is part of this natural process.

But, on the other hand, I see a lot of validity in people’s concern over hook up culture. I agree with Rachel, acting now and asking for a relationship later puts girls in a fundamentally powerless position. As commenter Dr. Elise Rose points out, we cannot forget that promiscuity can be a physically risky behavior and sexually transmitted infections, diseases and unplanned pregnancies do become a reality for many girls. (In all fairness, someone in a committed relationship can be confronted with these issues as well but the risk is not as great.)

When it comes to whether….prolific sexual expression is empowering for young women, I’m on the same fence I sit on during the “can you reclaim derogatory words?” debate (let’s hope it’s not a picket fence. Ouchies). I do find one thing curious though. Doesn’t it strike you as odd that whenever we speak about girls and women being empowered we refer to behavior typically associated with boys and men?

Acting upon every sexual urge is generally attributed to teenage boys (an admittedly unfair assumption). Now that some teenage girls are doing the same, they are considered empowered. I think it is troublesome to apply if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-em’ logic to matters of being empowered. The day that boys who do “female” things (like crave relationships) are called empowered we’ll know that hell has frozen over and pigs have flown.

That worries me. We cry foul when boys are told not to throw like girls yet pat each other on the backs when we play like boys in the halls of Congress, in boardrooms, and in high school dances.

So I don’t know whether hooking up is good for girls or not. And truthfully I don’t think anyone can say with much authority if it is empowering or not because, like snowflakes or Rihanna’s outfits, no two girls are the same. What feels empowering for one girl may not be another’s cup of sexy tea. But, while sipping (that cup of tea) or kissing we should contemplate why our prototype of empowered behavior continues to be overwhelmingly male.

6 Responses to “Lilly Chimes in on Hook Up Debate: Why Should Girls Be Like Boys?”

  • BookAuthor says:

    Hi, Lilly —

    Just wanted to congratulate you on this excellent and thought provoking blog. I am the author of Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus, so I guess I helped start this discussion in a way (since Rachel Simmons wrote her blog after reading my book).

    Anyway, I wanted to write to tell you how much I enjoyed reading what you had to say. I may even share your thoughts with one of my classes (I am a college professor) to get their feedback on the argument you make.

    Knowing there are young women like you makes me very hopeful about the future. 🙂

    I will be sure to stay tuned to your work!

    Kathleen Bogle

    • Lilly says:

      Hi Kathleen,
      Thank you very much for your support. I’d be interested to hear what your class thought about the blog. Thank you for prompting discussions like this one, hook up culture is a rarely addressed yet incredibly formative element of young women’s lives.
      Best,
      Lilly

  • JenR says:

    A running joke among my fellow 40 year olds is that if we’d been taught that girls can masturbate (which I honestly didn’t know until I was 20), then a lot of the crap decisions girls make about guys would go away. I think back to the hooking up I did because of the hormones coursing through me, and I know for a fact that if I had known I could “meet my own needs,” I would’ve been a stronger, more straightforward person when dealing with boyfriends or crushes.

    Joking aside, I think girls need to think about what they want honestly, and then pursue that in a way that works for them. I don’t think a fear of hooking because then a girl will “lose power” in the relationship is a healthy way of looking at it. But then, changing how girls handle hooking up is only half the equation — let’s change the way we look at boys hooking up too.

  • patra d says:

    Dear Lilly, If living a half century of life gives me any authority to comment on what I’ve learned, good and bad, then here is my wisdom. Casual hookups are NOT empowering. The fact that you hesitate to engage in or endorse this activity says something. Honor your instincts and doubts. Often what is done cannot be undone.

    What is it about hooking up that you believe to be “positive”? Physical pleasure? Adrenaline thrill? Becoming part of a clique that seems glamorous and mature and liberated?

    I just wonder if the physical pleasure or excitement of a quick temporary sexual encounter is enough to carry you through the next half century of your life (or even the next day week or month) feeling positive about your decision.

    I do know that the emotional pain, regret and embarrassment of engaging in a quick sexual adventure with a boy who the next day (or week or month) avoids even looking at you – can last for 50 years.

    Now, multiply that short term sexual and emotional thrill-seeking to encounters with multiple partners and hookups. How truly happy are the girls who you see doing this? How much do they respect themselves for being “empowered” and how well respected are they by their (and your) peers? Is it turning out positive for those who have already chosen to go down that path you are considering?

    Please ponder this as you evaluate the positives and negatives. Sometimes there is neither choice that seems unreservedly right and positive. You have to decide to go with something, or give up something. But don’t ignore that wee small voice inside you that is telling you not to rush forward, something is not right. I do know that even after 50 years, it will always be there. Sometimes it says “I’m so glad you did that” and other times it says “How I wish I could go back and do it differently”

  • Kaycee Jane says:

    Dear Lilly

    What an insightful post. I too have found it odd “that whenever we speak about girls and women being empowered we refer to behavior typically associated with boys and men.” And just as often, when we speak about girls and women being empowered we refer to sexual issues not about other things…

    We go out with a guy (or hookup) not knowing what needs we’re responsible to meet for ourselves and others, and what to expect in return. Or clear about how to respect ourselves and others while getting our needs met, and how to get others to do the same. Have boyfriends without knowing what dating aggression is… And have hookups without knowing what we’re shopping for, or how to meet our physical needs respecting ourselves. Frankly, this is what we should be talking about…

    I believe that the answer to “whether hooking up is good for girls or not” lies in how well a girl knows and likes herself, and whether or not she has the information and skills to make a deliberate choice. I did a piece on “Hookups vs Healthy Relationships” for the “Laid” website.
    Would love to know what you think? http://laidthebook.com/blog/2010/02/hookups-vs-healthy-relationships/

    best,
    kaycee jane

    • Lilly says:

      Dear Kaycee,
      I really enjoyed your piece. I am especially interested in what you said about wants vs needs. I definitely plan to incorporate this new vocabulary into the way I think and speak about hooking up and I would encourage others to the same.
      Warmly,
      Lilly

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