I've read several articles as to why the hook-up-culture is a myth — the premise being that no one really enjoys casual sex, and the art of dating is a dying art, being belittled by suggesting it has been replaced by hook-up-culture, and of course the subtext: hook-up-culture is a bad thing. One article that I read specifically about dating, and while the author was probably initially looking for a decent woman who does not play games, (communicates directly), or for a good relationship which doesn't end in pain, loss or grief (most of anything meaningful might also be painful when it ends, a part of life) decided to bash the entire notion of online dating, and hook-up-culture.
I believe sexuality is fluid. It evolves with us at each stage of our lives. Sometimes our life may call for monogamy, sometimes it may call for serial monogamy, sometimes it may call for various non-monogamy and sometimes it may call for hooking up. Let's try not to bash one another for the varying points of our lives which may differ from each other.
Let's not try to blame nor point fingers when someone's needs don't match our own. What might help us, of course, is more communication, which we'd might see more of if we knew people weren't going to judge us for our choices. In this ever-changing world of endless choices and changes, sometimes it can be hard to know up from down and bottom from top.
So, I've come up with a short list to help you stay focused in this vast world of dating, to have a more healthy and meaningful way to date by means of respect for yourself and others so that dating can actually be a peaceful and enjoyable experience. And of course, should you choose to hook up, you're not doing so blindly.
1. Be honest with yourself. This is basically knowing what you want out of dating. I am not talking about what qualities or what type of person you are looking for, but rather your long term goal. Do you want a long-term relationship? A traditional marriage with children? A good friend to hook up with, who is also respectful, honest, communicative and shares your passion for travel? I am serious about this one. What exactly are you looking for? What do you see for yourself? Where do you see yourself in a year, 2, 5 years? It's not about the ideal person, it's about the ideal relationship(s) for you.
2. Be steadfast. Basically, don't back down from what you want. Go for what you want from the start and it will be yours, maybe not tonight or this week, but eventually. In other words, always keep your eye on the prize. It's your life, you get to create it however you want.
3. Let it be known. COMMUNICATE it. Basically, don't play games with your dates/partners. So, you want sex, but not sure if he/she is going to be the long term partner type? It's okay. Don't let ye olde adage of getting into the sack be something "dirty," "sinful" or "shameful" get in your way. In this day and age, dating means getting intimate, having sex, what have you, with strangers. How else are you going to know if he/she will be good for you short or long term? Figure it out, and let them know exactly where you are at.
4. Revisit your goals. Our wants and desires change with each passing day, moment and minute. We are constantly evolving, growing, flowing, and ebbing, so check in with yourself. Do you want to keep dating? Maybe you met someone and your initial idea of hooking up only needs to be revised. Maybe you need to take a break. I like journaling, writing, exercising to clear my head or talking to a therapist, fleshing out feelings, emotions which can cloud long term goals.
5. Repeat. Repeat steps 1-4 as often as needed. Keep a dating journal — writing it down can help solidify your needs and desires, which are ever-changing.
When we are dating, it becomes our relationship. We should put the same intention into dating as we would put into our long term partner or even our jobs/careers. If you put focus into dating and have it be based on our own deliberate choices, then infuse this with honesty and respect for the people we come into contact with, we will have a much easier go with dating in this dynamic world.
Moushumi Ghose is a sex therapist, currently based in New York City.