The recent scandal involving Aziz Ansari and “Grace” has brought to light the complications and the reality of the hook-up culture, it also sheds light on the underlying differences in attitudes towards sex between males and females. The case of the disastrous date between Aziz and “Grace” reveals how the hook-up culture works in favor of the male, and that women’s pursuit to be equal in the bedroom has led to many women feeling confused, conflicted and depressed when it comes to acknowledging the effects and fallout of the hook-up.
In “Grace’s” interview with babe.net, she stated that her hook-up with the comedian was “ by far the worst experience with a man I’ve ever had.” And while, some fault lies in Aziz aggressive nature and poor judgement, it is fair to say that this is another example of the complications of the “hook-up” culture we are now experiencing. Many women are feeling pressured to engage in the idea of playing the field like their male counterparts, another equality which has been pushed for by feminism. However, the “hook up” usually works in the male’s favor as discussed by Danielle M. Currier in Strategic Ambiguity: Protecting Emphasized Femininity and Hegemonic Masculinity in the Hookup Culture, the hook up allows “men to conform to and preserve components of hegemonic masculinity”. For men the pursuit of the woman is what drives them, which is detailed in Grace’s account, it was Aziz who approached her and asked for her number. Aziz assertiveness might be a result of his eagerness to reassert his control and authority over the opposite sex, or it could be that he was responding to his sexual desire. For many males, the hook-up can be seen as a way to prove their masculinity, as discussed by Rachel Kalish in Masculinities and Hooking up, previous studies into gender and the hooking up culture have indicated that “males prioritize sex over relationships and gives the impression that all males enthusiastically engage in complication-free hooking up.” There is a social pressure placed on men to appear sexual, Kalish goes on to discuss, “Although masculine scripts encourage sexual relations with women, the most condoned social relationships for men are with other men, again emphasizing the value of the male peer grouthe homosocial aspect of these relationships creates a risk of such intimacy being seen as sexual, so that in order to maintain a heterosexual identity, men must publicly enact their heterosexuality.” So to appear masculine to their peers, males are more inclined to participate in casual sex rather than to seek out long lasting relationships. It is also worth adding that Kalish describes how “a number of men reported that hooking up provides them with confidence, a trait highly valued among men, and prized, as well, among women in a potential mate” which implies rather than having a negative response to the hook-up as women do, many men regard it as a positive experience.
The concept of the “hook up” plays into the advantage of the male down to a number of biological reasons as well as social. In a study conducted by Roy Baumeister, a social psychologist at Florida State University, it was discovered that men report a higher amount of spontaneous sexual arousal and have more frequent and varied fantasies regarding sex compared to their female counterparts. This isn't just common in heterosexual relationships but in gay relationships too, where when compared to lesbian relationships, men have sex with each more frequently than their female counterparts. Whereas men are driven by more physical desires to feel satisfied (I.e. having sex), women are more concerned from sourcing pleasure and satisfaction from other sources, which is why women enjoy seeking comfort from a good old soak in a bubble bath or curling up on the sofa with a bar of chocolate. When women do require sex, it is because their sexual hormones are largely determined by two factors: the female reproductive cycle (menstruation, ovulation, pregnancy, menopause, etc.) and a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. Women's sex drives are more closely linked with their emotions, so we are more inclined to seek out intimacy which will last a longer period of time.
Males and females have different attitudes towards sex, men tend to be more
permissive with regard to their attitudes toward sex and are also more likely than women to view sex as an activity that does not have to take place within the context of a committed relationship. As detailed in Baumeister’s study (Is There a Gender Difference in Strength of Sex Drive? Theoretical Views, Conceptual Distinctions, and a Review of Relevant Evidence), men “have more frequent and more intense sexual desires than women, as reflected in spontaneous thoughts about sex, frequency and variety of sexual fantasies, desired frequency of intercourse, desired number of partners, masturbation, liking for various sexual practices, willingness to forego sex, initiating versus refusing sex, making sacrifices for sex, and other measures.” As Baumeister concluded, “the male sex drive is stronger than the female sex drive.”
While the odd hook-up here and there seems harmless enough, and it can be seen as a positive representation of the sexual liberation between males and females. For many young adults it can be seen as a form of dating as Kalish quotes from To hook up or date: Which gender benefits (Bradshaw, C., Kahn, A.S., & Saville, B.K. (2010)) “hooking up can be a pathway to relationships, leading some to suggest that it is a more common form of courtship than the traditional date.”
However, we should underestimate the complications young adults (especially those at college) face when trying to form lasting relationships with the opposite sex. A study cited in Sexual hook-up culture by Justin R Garcia, showed that out of a participation of 1,468 undergraduate students, 27.1 percent felt embarrassed, 24.7 percent reported emotional difficulties, 20.8 percent experienced loss of respect, and 10 percent reported difficulties with a steady partners. Interestingly this study does not specify the sex of the students. The negative effects felt by both sexes is also brought up in a study published in Journal of Sex Research which found that “regardless of gender, casual sex was negatively associated with psychological well-being and positively correlated with psychological distress.”
Although it would appear that it is increasingly women who feel more negatively after a hook-up incident as Garcia goes on to further to discuss another study which interviewed 152 female undergraduate students, “74 percent had either a few or some regrets from uncommitted sex: 61 percent had a few regrets, 23 percent had no regrets, 13 percent had some regrets and 3 percent had many regrets (Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008).” As “Grace” goes on to state in her interview for babe.net “I believe that I was taken advantage of by Aziz. I was not listened to and ignored. It was by far the worst experience with a man I’ve ever had.” This echoes many other women’s similar experiences to hooking up as seen in Garcia’s cited studies. A survey conducted by DrEd.com found that “81% of American women did not enjoy their brief encounters as much as they hoped they would.” And having sex outside of a regular relationship does not equal happiness or satisfaction in their sex lives as a survey conducted by Guardian “Sexual satisfaction levels are higher for those in a relationship than singles.” Although this is not to deter women from enjoying their hookups but to suggest that satisfaction does not come from just one source, and to be wary that the focus of their happiness should come from within.
Aside from the mental health implications of the hook-up, there is another complication that we should consider, that the fact that high levels of casual sex will increase an individual's chances of catching a sexually transmitted disease, a 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated that there were more than 2 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and syphilis reported in the United States. It is not just cases of increases of STDs between hetrosexual male and females but also between gay and lesbian individuals, as discussed by Joshua Rozovsky of the Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective the reasons for the increase in reported STD cases correlate to the “increase in the use of apps for hookups and because most people do not see oral sex as sex, it’s seen as a casual low-risk type of activity.” This statement from Rozovsky echoes a study cited by Garcia in which 71 college students (39 women and 32 men) were interviewed and it was found that “nearly half of participants were not concerned about contracting sexually transmitted diseases from intercourse during a hookup, and most were unconcerned about contracting diseases from fellatio or cunnilingus in hookups (Downing-Matibag & Geisinger, 2009).” It is important for anyone engaging in a sexual relationship to remember to use protection and to get regularly tested for any sexually transmitted infections or diseases.
What we can take away from the example of the Aziz and “Grace” date story is that the #metoo movement is a great platform for women to voice their reactions and experiences of traumatic sexual experiences, but the hookup culture needs to be re examined. Women and men shouldn’t need to wait until after the event has taken place to speak out. By tackling the casual approach towards hooking up, we can help both men and women in the short term but more importantly the long term, because as this article has discussed studies have shown that regret is felt by both parties and it is a lot more common than we would like to believe.
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