June 10, 2018 • Sarah Jean Gosney
Hookup culture is alive and well these days, aided by apps like Tinder and supported by mainstream media and “sex positive” feminists alike. Despite how they spin it, I think this is incredibly destructive. (For my older readers, “hookup culture” is basically a culture of casual sex.)
How do I know it’s destructive? Well, I participated in it. I slept around a bit in my college years, egged on by seemingly everyone around me. My current (very serious) relationship even began with a hookup.
Why do I tell you this? This isn’t something I’m proud of, and it would be much easier for me to bury my mistakes and never speak of them again. I tell you because I am not some nun judging from up on high. I am not the perfect girl who waited for marriage and always made the right choices. I want you to know that I understand what it’s like out there, and that I’ve experienced some (luckily not all) of the drawbacks first hand.
This is a common pitfall of hookup culture, and is probably the one of most discussed risks of casual sex. What’s the mainstream answer? Get tested regularly and wear a condom. But I’m here to tell you that that’s not good enough. Condoms are NOT 100% effective at preventing STDs. (If you read through the CDC’s fact sheet about condoms you’ll find chilling phrases like “latex condoms provide limited protection against syphilis and herpes simplex virus-2 transmission.”) There’s also the fact that gonorrhea is now becoming antibiotic resistant. Now if you read that STD fact sheet I linked, you would have seen the phrase “Latex condoms […] reduce the risk of transmission of STDs such as gonorrhea.” While there is still an option for treatment of gonorrhea, there very well may not be in the near future.
Let me translate a possible future scenario. You are listening to the mainstream advice of “wear condoms and get tested.” Your partner wears a condom, yet you still contract gonorrhea because condoms aren’t 100% effective against transmission. So, you go to the doctor to get tested. They reveal you have gonorrhea, and then apologize, saying there’s nothing they can do for you. But you were safe, weren’t you?
Now maybe they can still cure gonorrhea today, but that door is rapidly closing. And you can contract it even without having what’s considered “high risk” sex. And that’s not even considering other viral (read: non-curable) STDs that can cause cancer and birth defects and which are not prevented by condom use.
This is the other most commonly discussed side effect of casual sex. This is much more easily prevented with condoms and other forms of birth control than STDs are, but pregnancy can easily occur with one slip up (or even occasionally without). But this of course assumes that hormonal birth control is risk-free, which, like any medication significantly altering your hormonal profile, it isn’t. Pregnancy is serious business, and as someone who doesn’t support abortion, had I gotten pregnant it would have meant making the heart-wrenching choice of giving up the baby for adoption or raising the baby in a sub-optimal environment. Believe me when I say that not all the men I chose were fit to be fathers.
Even though I am risking making women sound like meat for sale, we are all in a sexual marketplace and have an accompanying sexual market value. It should be understood (though it doesn’t seem to be anymore), that men don’t really like sluts. Rather, they may like them for a night or two, but they don’t want to commit to a woman who has slept with many men. I know my market value is lower than that of a 20 year old virgin, and there’s nothing I can do to change that.
This is something many young women are lied to about. We are told (I know I was) to “sow our wild oats” while we are young and free, and that “young love doesn’t last.” This is toxic advice that leads many young women to engage in casual sex when that’s not what they really wanted in the first place. I know I wasn’t exactly in love with the idea of casual sex and was on the side arguing in favor of love and commitment, but hearing this repeatedly from trusted sources encouraged me to make damaging choices.
This is the risk that is most obfuscated by our culture today. We live in a Sex and the City world where sex is always shown as consequence free, but that simply isn’t the case in reality. Being used for sex is a terrible feeling. It’s not empowering or fun. At least for me it wasn’t. It made me feel lonely, dirty, dissatisfied, and empty. Ever been kicked out of bed after sex, only to have your favorite earring vacuumed up by the guy the next day? I hope not. It’s enough to make you feel like less than garbage.
Luckily I didn’t do this so much that I permanently damaged my ability to love and trust men, but I certainly damaged my self worth and my ability to be proud of my choices. Many women tread this path for so long that they no longer believe men are trustworthy or that love exists, all because they believed the lies that were practically forced on us all. This is a tragic state of affairs.
I engaged in casual sex for a few reasons. For me, low self-worth was a big motivator, as having sex was quick (and fleeting) validation. Intense pressure was another. If I hadn’t had a whole culture and my own personal cheerleading squad telling me that sleeping around was empowering and fun, I doubt I would have made the choices I made. The last, but very important reason I made the decisions I did was that I was told by society (well, feminists, to be specific) that “men are pigs” and “men only want one thing.” This message convinced me that men only wanted women for sex, and that any desire for commitment would be seen as needy, clingy, and creepy. So I adjusted my actions accordingly. I still craved male affection, so I got what I thought was the only version of it available to me: sex.
My years of early adulthood are a blueprint of what not to do. I made it out okay without any grave consequences, but that is more of a result of luck and grace than any decisions I made. Please take it from me when I say sex is a gift for someone who loves you (ideally in the context of marriage, though that ship has sailed for me), not for anyone who will have you.
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