Hookup Culture and Its Oppression of Women

“Woman is not born: she is made. In the making, her humanity is destroyed. She becomes symbol of this, symbol of that: mother of the earth, slut of the universe; but she never becomes herself because it is forbidden for her to do so.”

– Andrea Dworkin

I’ve never turned a blind eye to sexism in society. I saw it in the workforce, I saw it within hookup culture and I saw it in politics. But that’s it …  I never really questioned how we as a society got to this point, what progresses society has made, where we’ve lacked and what consequences current oppressions have on women, especially minority women. But I’ve been taking a sexism class that has given me insight on things that hadn’t really occurred to me before. For me, never having questioned the status quo much makes me a) a little disappointed in myself and b) frustrated that these oppressions are so norm that men and women don’t recognize them.

This semester I’ve been taking a feminism course called Sexism in the 21st Century. I have to be honest, while I did find the description of the course interesting, I had preconceived notions going into the class. Since I was taking the class to fill a requirement, I didn’t expect to get much out of it. I figured I’d sit in the back, complete readings, hand in assignments and get an A. The reality is – I’m getting so much more than I bargained for and I couldn’t be more grateful.

“Beware of the man who denounces woman writers; his penis is tiny and he cannot spell.”

– Erica Jong

Sexism has so many facets that it’d be impossible to explain and comment on it in one blog post. Man created gender roles and sexism that society has sustained throughout history. Of course, sexism has transformed to align with each era it existed. For example, after WWII, a lot of nuclear family/housewife propaganda was published through the government in order to get women out of the workforce and into the home (to make room for returning veterans.) Today, sexism is seen in many facets. One of the most common and maybe less obvious is the hookup culture.

I think that it’s possible for women to have casual (and safe of course) sex and enjoy it, without feeling any emotional attachments to her sexual partner. However, I don’t think this is the case for most of us. I think women have this subconscious connection between physical activity and confidence. I’ve gotten this belief from personal experience, sexism books and my peers. Essentially, society tells women our value is based on our physical appearance. It tells us this, most often, through the media. We often see sexualized and (sometimes violent) images of women in advertisements, commercials and magazines. We as consumers are left with the subliminal message that to be this or that, we need to look like those women to be good. Therefore, if we parade our bodies for others to see and get noticed … then we have value.

“Men are from Earth, women are from Earth. Deal with it.”

– George Carlin

I don’t think many people realize this. I definitely didn’t. I certainly used to be the person that judged other girls for wearing something too revealing or acting inappropriately with men without seeing the bigger picture. Obviously, there are women who choose to engage in casual sex. And of course, there are those who are victims of violence, which is an incredibly important issue but one that I will not be addressing in this post. For those who choose to engage in casual sex, I would argue that for many of them, they are not doing it because they want to claim their sexual agency. I think they’re looking to validate themselves. and I have to ask …. what’s so free about that?

One of the worst aspects of all of this is the way it affects men. Because many people don’t realize the sexism and gender roles hookup culture reinforces, they accept it, and this works in men’s favor. Firstly, the real boneheads don’t look at their own actions as part of the cause but rather see women as the cause and result of the problem. Secondly, most women engaging in casual sex aren’t as sexually satisfied as those in romantic partnerships. A study in England found that men in relationships look to please their partner, while men engaging in casual sex are mainly focused on their own needs.   For women, their desire to please their partner went unchanged whether single or in a relationship. So, not only do women get branded names aligned with their sexual activity but the sexual activity they partake in is not always pleasing.

“A woman knows very well that, though a wit sends her his poems, praises her judgment, solicits her criticism, and drinks her tea, this by no means signifies that he respects her opinions, admires her understanding, or will refuse, though the rapier is denied him, to run through the body with his pen.”

– Virginis Woolf

Now I recognize that this isn’t the case for everyone. In fact, I’m sure some women enjoy casual sex. With that being said though, I think this group borders more on exception rather than the rule. I also understand that relationships, especially for young adults, can be challenging, too time-consuming, difficult (especially if you’re still not sure of who you are) and abusive. It makes sense why women would rather sleep with men they meet out rather than get involved in relationships. The problem with this is that society, as a whole, looks down on women for doing this. It’s basic Madonna/whore.

Ladies, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. We’re called prudes and teases if a man buys us a drink and we do not go home with him or we’re easy if we do. Sure, sometimes these one night stands develop into something nice, but again, I say this is an exception, not a rule. Men however, generally aren’t harmed by gender norms applied to hookup culture. Because one aspect of masculinity is being sexually experienced. The more a man has sex, the better his reputation becomes. The more a woman has sex, the worse hers becomes. I know the term “man whore” has been thrown around a lot. But its effect is nowhere near that of slut or whore.

“Woman’s degradation is in mans idea of his sexual rights. Our religion, laws, customs, are all founded on the belief that woman was made for man.”

– Elizabeth Cady Stanton

So the next time you go out for a drink with friends and you meet someone you’re interested in, think twice if you decide to go home with him (or her!). If you’re doing it because you want it … then go for it (but be safe!) But if there’s even a sliver of a doubt that there’s a hidden reason as to why you’re going home with the person … don’t do it. Pull back and reflect on the real reason why you wanted to go home with someone.

Until next time,




  1. […] Hookup Culture and Its Oppression of Women (speakingthroughcurls.wordpress.com) […]

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