Published: Sunday, November 18, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
It’s exciting, it’s challenging, and it brings out a primal competitiveness about us. That’s why it’s called “The Chase.” The thrill of the chase has an edge of unpredictability and suspense about it—a sense of fun without commitment. But once the chasing part is over, the end of the road is no longer novel and exciting, but, to many, bland and monotonous.
“I feel like a lot of times, I convince myself that I like a guy, but then there’s a certain point where, after I hook up with him, it becomes too easy,” Sarah (all names have been changed for privacy purposes) told me. Indeed, men are often notoriously associated with womanizing, but women too, often without realizing it, fall into the fast-paced chase-with-no-destination game. “I get bored because I’m impatient,” she said. “And I hate the idea of being tied down when I can go to a party next weekend and find another.”
Hook-up culture offers a bountiful supply of “insignificant others,” willing to be a spontaneous, often long night out. Such companions aren’t too difficult to find, particularly if the insignificant other is tipsy and lowers their standards. You don’t have a random hook-up because you’re hoping to start a relationship, you have one because you “want some” and, whether you realize it or not, you like the mini-challenge it offers.
The concept of “challenge” intertwines itself in the script of hook-up culture. Katherine, for example, hooked up with a guy she had never met before at a Mod party last weekend. “I knew there would never be follow-up,” she told me. “I didn’t hook up with him to find a relationship, I hooked up with him because he was cute, he was there, and I just wanted to get with him, even if it was partially just to see if I could.”
There are surely exceptions, but if you think about it, hook-up culture all narrows down to two things: the idea of a challenge, and an ego-booster. “A lot of guys will see a hot girl at a party, and if she looks a bit drunk then we’ll go up to her,” Rob told me. I asked Rob if “the chase” had any role in that situation, and he responded, “It is a challenge. If she’s hot, you might challenge yourself subconsciously to see if you can get with her, and then you do and you can brag about your win the next day.”
Now, not all guys think like Rob, and not all girls think like Katherine or Sarah, but it’s true that everything about hook-up culture revolves around this passionate, intense, fast-paced, and thrilling chase. Once your chase has a destination, however, everything slows down and you realize that maybe the person you’ve been running with is not the person you want to settle with.
Hooking-up is a form of flattery. It temporarily delivers a sense of confidence that philosophy professor Kerry Cronin estimated to last about 48 hours. It’s a small challenge with an easy solution, and then you move on to the next one. But after those 48 hours are up and a few days pass, it’d be silly to still be talking about your casual Saturday hook-up on a Wednesday, so the next weekend you go out again to re-inflate your ego.
“Of course hooking up with a guy is flattering,” Katherine said. “Because hooking up is based on a physical relationship, it usually implies he thinks you’re pretty or hot. It makes you feel good about yourself if it’s not a regrettable hook-up.”
Sarah agreed that hooking-up is a subconscious method to boost self-confidence, “This guy ended it with me after a few weeks of hooking up, so I got with someone the weekend after,” she told me. “I guess now that I really think about it, I had that rebound hook-up in order to feel better about myself.”
Girls want to feel desirable, and hook-up culture offers that and convinces them that they are. The hook-up culture is also centered around the concept of “the chase.” It’s temporarily satisfying and it’s a dive into spontaneity and unpredictability. Hopefully someday everyone will find that person who they can stop running after and settle down with, because it’s true that, at the end of the day, everyone wants something more.