Hook-up Culture and the Modern Day Feminist

Words by: S.L.B Smith
Photos by: Hannah Taylor

It’s a Saturday afternoon and I am lying in bed and fraught with the worst hangover. I look at myself in the mirror and what was once a smoky eye is now just coal black and I look less human, more panda.

Last night’s clothes are strewn all over the floor and I stare at my hands. The remnants of cheese under my finger nails leads me to believe that in my drunken state, I ordered cheesy chips. I vow never to drink again…. the same vow I make every week. But interestingly… today is different.

I am not at home; so, I can’t go into the kitchen and make mountains of toast and fountains of tea. Instead I am laying in a stranger’s bed. I stare at the clothes that are thrown all over the floor and I feel bliss.


Yet, as I lay next to Mr. One-night stand, I am overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and shame.

I ponder these emotions… I start to wonder why on earth I would ever feel guilty for doing something so natural? Why should exploring one’s sexuality fall into this dark pit that is a culture of shame?

Why should sexual liberation feel so disgusting?

“Hook-up” culture is an interesting topic for many young adults in the twenty first century, but what’s even more thought provoking is thinking about what sex means for twenty-eighteen feminists? And most importantly is “hook-up” culture detrimental to female empowerment?

Male and Female feminists born between Watergate and nine-eleven, have seen the rise of technology, the boom of social media and female empowerment becoming the forefront for womanly deliverance.

So, what does sex mean for these people? Is it liberating or subjugating?

To myself, it doesn’t seem transgressive to be able to enjoy intimacy with another individual without being in a relationship. If anything, I celebrate the people who don’t feel the traditional burden of “needing a significant other to fulfil oneself ”. I celebrate the people who don’t feel the doubled edged sword that embeds our notions of sexuality.

Now, that’s not to say that being in a relationship is “anti-feminist”. The point to be made is those without relationships fall easily into a trap of tradition.

That is to say, I do not feel that the only way in which I can explore my sexuality in a “socially acceptable” way is in a relationship. It does not also mean that I believe being in a relationship entails one has lost self-empowerment. On the contrary, I am an advocate for “do whatever your heart or head desires”.

I am not an advocate for a society which stigmatises sexuality. The society in which we reside in is in a constant state of fluctuating ideologies. As technology develops, one thing that always seems to never adapt to the current climate is tradition.

Tradition is the enemy of liberation. I for one define myself as sexually liberated. I do not think having sex with a stranger is so outrageous and I certainly do not feel like I am not allowed to explore my sexuality.

Yet, despite my general feelings of “I don’t care”, I tend to have a mental argument surrounding whether sex does in fact lead one to become an anti-feminist.

This then leads to the ever so attractive debate within my mind about what it means to be a feminist in the twenty-first century.

Feminism has become a dirty adjective; affiliated with power-hungry, animalistic women who crave ultimate equality by destroying man all together and creating a society whereby we watch cheesy romantic comedies, drink barrels of wine and eat tons of chocolate.

If you can’t detect the sarcasm…you have misunderstood. To put it pointedly, do you believe
in equality between genders? Yes? Then you beith a feminist. All these negative connotations arise from misconceptions and movements that happened many a year ago. Many people have mentioned disassociating oneself from feminism due to the different “waves” but what one forgets is that they are after all a product of a contemporary moment. What never seems to change is the concrete definition of “feminism” and that being the belief of equality between genders.

Therefore, to disregard the label of Feminism because of the concepts attached to it is ludicrous. One must consider the fact that to negate the definition would suggest the word has lost its definition. Thus, by saying they believe in a definition of feminism which is in fact
not “feminism” surely suggests they are no longer a “feminist”.

This argument surrounding the definition of feminism plagues my mind every day especially when one considers the notion of “hook-up culture”. What is so wrong and dirty with having intimacies with another person? What is so “unequal” about two people having sex?

There is nothing unequal about sex. In fact, it is a moment that is shared between two consenting adults who explore their pleasures and enjoy the time shared together.

Consequently, I ponder whether stigma arises because of the idea that women are still seen as two archetypes: the virgin and the mistress. If one is the “virgin” and decides to partake in sex, then their power goes because they are being manipulated by the evil, patriarchal male whom of course wants to make women appear as inferior by sexually deceiving them.

Then on the flip side, you have the “mistress” a being whom has no power because they regularly divulge in sex and this excess of sexuality means they become part of the machine that is our society which aims to degrade women through their bodies.

These theories are toxic for the twenty-first century feminist. These concepts create discord within my mind and it’s through this disharmony that suggests we as a society will never change.

As opposed to generalising men and women and viewing the sexually liberal ones as the “other”, we should celebrate subjective difference.

Judgement, stigma and disgrace should not be attached to the act of “sex” or to individuals that cultivate their passions. Instead of comprehending sex as a term with political, religious and societal concepts attached to it, we, as the future generation should promote choice over
expectation. Freedom over confinement.

Doing whatever the hell we want over what society expects us to do.

To become truly liberated and feel like one can enjoy themselves without the shame attached, would mean we will need to move into a society free from the traditional values that underline sexual femininity. As a result, I call out to all young men and women to embrace this society free from sexual complications and promote a world whereby no one would feel shame when waking up in a stranger’s bed after a night out.

Even if they do have cheese stuck under their fingernails.