Dating Vocab: What is a “Hookup”?

Dating Vocab: What is a “Hookup”?

The term “hookup” is one that is often discussed in modern discourse. It is a noun form of an older verb phrase “to hook up,” which refers to the act of meeting someone usually for casual sex, or possibly even an affair. The sexual connotations behind “hookup” and “to hook up” have long been there. Where the idea of “hooking up” may once have also referred to friends getting together for some normal social activity, it has by 2022 become a word almost exclusively denoting sexual activities.

In today’s blog, we’ll be taking a deeper look at the idea of a hookup, what it means, what it usually involves, some do’s and don’ts, and more.

Hookup: A Quick Definition

When people talk about “looking for hookups,” or “using hookup apps,” and “hookup culture,” they are invariably referring to having casual sex with others. A hookup is essentially a compact form of date in which the two people agree to meet up often exclusively for sex, before then going their separate ways again.

It’s not to say that nothing more can come of a hookup, but those who are engaged in it, and especially those using apps such as Tinder to connect with other hookup-searchers, are generally in agreement that the chief motivation behind what they’re both doing when meeting up is looking for some no-strings fun.

What Do People Do In a Hookup?

So, how does the usual hookup situation go down? There are always a lot of possible variations, of course, but the basic process works as follows:

Step 1: Connection

Many people looking for hookups do so through the use of a smartphone hookup app. The most popular ones (among many) include Tinder, Pure, and Badoo for heterosexual hookups, Grindr for gay men, and HER for lesbians.

These apps have slightly different mechanics, but largely they work by showing you who is in your area and ready for a hookup right now. They usually feature a profile with photo(s), a brief bio describing what they’re looking for, and perhaps some other details.

In some of these apps, you can just message directly anyone who is nearby. In others, they use a kind of matching algorithm where you are shown profiles and you swipe left for no, and right for yes. If two profiles right swipe each other, they are matched and notified.

Step 2. Chat

Once a connection has been established, the two will start to chat. When it comes to hookup, however, the chatting period is not very long, or very involved. The most likely topic of conversation will concern what kinds of sexual positions and activities they enjoy, exchanging private image (sometimes even full nudes), before the two finally agree a time and place to get together and have sex.

In some cases, there may be more of a conversation first, and possibly an agreement to meet up for a drink or coffee before they go back to someone’s place for sex.

Step 3. Action

At this stage, what usually happens is a great deal of sexual action. It might start with a fun date night meeting in a pub or club where they will kiss and/or dance together before going back to someone’s place, or alternatively one will agree to come to the other’s place, or meet in a neutral spot like a hotel.

Step 4. Departure

At the end of it all, the two will perhaps leave each other and not see one another again. If the sex was great, they might make thier hookup a regular thing while maintaining the no-strings attached vibe. In a few cases, it might still lead to something more substantial.

What is “Hookup Culture”?

One can’t really talk about any hookup activity without also discussing the concept of so-called hookup culture. This refers to society’s apparent acceptance of hookups as a normal and standard part of dating life in the 21st century. Internet-based tools have made hookups easier than ever before, with a minimum or real-life interaction or conversation required before sex or other intimate contact occurs.

One study carried out by students at Elon University that included polls of students at the University of Miami and the University of Texas at Austin found some interesting statistics when it comes to hookup culture:

  • 6% of respondents said that had kissed someone the same night they met
  • 8% said that they had slept with someone the same night they met
  • 4% said that they have slept with someone from a dating app
  • 6% said that they only enjoy sex with people they don’t know well

What’s interesting about these numbers and more is that while they do indicate that there’s a valid reason to assume that hookup culture exists, it’s not yet the dominant force even among famously (supposedly) wild and promiscuous college students. College students still meet most of the people the kiss or sleep with at parties rather than on apps, and the majority still do not have sex on the first night they meet someone.

Numbers are sometimes a bit different between different orientations, with gay men historically being the most willing to sleep with people on the first date or first night of knowing them. An old 2014 survey shown on showed that while 33 percent of heterosexual men thought about sex on the first date, a huge 61 percent of gay men said the same thing.

Sexual Liberation

In 2022, hookup culture is more talked about in regard to young women, sometimes in a positive light as a form of liberation for young women, but by some in a negative light as a decline in moral standards and a cheapening of sex between men and women.

Some argue that hookup culture, especially thanks to apps such as Tinder, helps women gain more equity in the dating space since in many social spaces there are still strange power dynamics — men being expected to pay for drinks, risks of men getting too physical or handsy with women, etc. — whereas in the online space these are diminished or even eliminated.

Critics of hookup culture say that it makes sex transacational, and promotes “loose values” in young women and men, the former of whom lower and debase themselves to please men, and the latter of whom see women as meaningless sexual objects rather than meaningful pursuits.

What’s the Difference Between a Hookup and Casual Dating?

After reading all of this about hookups, many people out there might be wondering what exactly the difference is between hookups and the older idea of “casual dating.” Is there one? Casual dating always meant seeing many different people in a short time (sometimes even simultaneously), being somewhat care-free about sex, and not pursuing serious or meaningful relationships.

The main difference is perhaps the stronger emphasis on sex that exists within hookups. There’s no dating element necessary at all when talking about or organizing hookups. Many people discussing and planning hookups won’t include any kind of dating aspect, but instead focus entirely on the sex. That’s different when you talk about casual dating, which is more about seeing different people in a dating context, at the end of which you might get a hookup with those people, but you equally might not.

What Are Some Don’ts for Hookups?

To wrap up, let’s take a look at some of the unwritten rules for hookup culture. Most of the don’ts when it comes to hookups are designed to keep both parties safe, but especially to keep single women safe, since they are arguably at the most physical risk in a hookup situation where strangers are involved.

  • Don’t invite total strangers into your home the first time you meet; using a neutral spot like a hotel for at least the first time is safer (and often more fun).
  • Never share your personal details or information online with strangers.
  • Don’t continue to talk with app users who start to talk about money, investing money, or lending money. These are more likely “Catfish” scammers.
  • Don’t post nude photos as your main profile pictures, or in your public photo gallery.
  • Don’t have unprotected sex with hookup friends.
  • Don’t get into hookups with close friends or co-workers.
  • Don’t read too much into or get too emotionally invested in a hookup.
  • Don’t leave cash, spare keys, identification, or other valuables lying around your home if you invite a hookup date over.
  • Don’t overstay your welcome – read between the lines.