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Hookups vs. Healthy Relationships

Hookups vs. Healthy Relationships

When people read Laid: Young People’s Experiences with Sex in an Easy-Access Culture, author Shannon Boodram hopes they will learn rather than judge.

One thing I learned was that the difference between a positive and negative hookup experience lies in the same things that make for a healthy relationship. It may be hard to believe that a positive hookup and a healthy relationship would have much in common, but they do.

Two stories from the book illustrate the point. In “The Lido Deck,” by Laurence Anthony, a guy meets a hot girl on a cruise ship. He describes his sexual experience: “Our lips met over and over again… We looked at each other and once I pushed inside, we didn’t stop until every position was explored … It was the cuddling, the spooning, and the honesty that came with it. It all felt natural and oddly comfortable.”

In Shannon Boodram’s own story, “Lane 2,” a girl meets a hot guy away competing at a track meet in Hungary. She describes her sexual experience: “I could feel his body stiffening inside mine, and I held tighter, not prepared to let him go just yet. …All of a sudden he yanked free of my grasp and rushed out of my body…‘I think I got out in time’. ‘No! I don’t think you did!’ ‘Sorry’. Now what? Alex glanced at his Timex. ‘It’s almost one. The bus will be leaving soon, and the coaches are going to get angry. . .’”

A hookup is a way to get your physical needs met—to desire and to be noticed with no strings, no commitment. You can hook up once or many times with the same person. And you can get any sex you desire, from kissing to intercourse. Of course, a hookup means different things to different people depending on what they’re shopping for. Laurence was shopping for “we’re not going to be together forever” sex, caring, pleasure, and spooning. Shannon wasn’t sure—maybe love, maybe a long distance relationship, maybe sex?

Needs are beautiful things, a deep part of ourselves. We all have the same needs but different wants. A want is the way we feel a need getting met. What wants do you notice first in a guy—hair, eyes, smile, height, body? What turns your head? Shannon noticed Alex was “mocha skinned, probably half black and half white, with a clean face and slanted eyes.” Laurence noticed Felicia was elegant—a combination of beauty and simplicity.

The need to notice influenced both of their choice to have sex. Chemistry! When chemistry happens we grow happy and, like magic, feel as if our needs are being met. But other than attraction, what criteria—met needs—do you shop for when deciding to have sex?

Not knowing what needs we’re responsible to meet for ourselves and others, and what to expect in return, makes it hard to make good choices. Shannon didn’t know what to expect from her hookup, or how to meet her own physical needs while respecting herself. Her story shows that it’s a good idea to know what your sexual wants are before you meet your desire need with a guy. What sexual acts do you desire—kissing, touching, hugging, oral sex, intercourse? And what are you ready for? Part of the answer lies in what makes you feel good. And part of the answer lies in “knowing what’s good for you,” how you’ll feel after the sex. Shannon wasn’t sure. During her hookup, Shannon says, “Things were moving too fast, and I was not sure how to stop it, or if I wanted to stop it.” After hooking up with Alex, she felt a physical letdown and emotional confusion.

How can we make good choices when we don’t know what our needs are, or recognize what it feels like to get them met? During sex, Shannon says: “I liked being so close to him in this way. It made me feel important, like I was the only one who could make his body roll this way.” To really get your need to feel important met, a guy has to include your feelings and needs in his choices. Alex didn’t. After “pulling out late” he left her to deal with any consequences, eager to avoid his own: his coach finding out.

Laurence, in contrast, says, “We chatted for hours about school, life, and whose country was better…It was perhaps the most honest and candid I had been with anyone—stranger or not.” He was getting some of his needs met—to notice Felicia, desire her, become familiar with her, listen to her, understand her, be interested in her, and value her (being able to tell her what he thinks and feels). And she got those same needs met in return.

Was Laurence really familiar with Felicia? To really be familiar with someone, you must know what their best and worst personality traits are. If we asked Laurence to describe Felicia, he’d say “elegant, drop-dead gorgeous, sincere, good listener, sharp sense of humor, comfortable in her own skin, and confident.” (If we asked Shannon to describe Alex, she’d list what she noticed: his physical qualities.) Sure, Laurence doesn’t know Felicia’s negative traits. But during her hookup with Alex, Shannon would—“selfish.”

What Laurence and Shannon experienced is directly related to what needs they got met before the hookup; their experience is also related to the need for mutual respect. You can tell if a person respects you by how they get their needs met from you. Do they ask for what they want and then leave it up to you? Do they use character—saying what they mean, doing what they say, knowing right from wrong—to get what they want?

Laurence got his needs met from Felicia while respecting her. Earlier in the week, when they were making out, Felicia said, “Stop…We don’t know each other.” She knows and respects herself. How did Laurence handle his disappointment? “I could think of no greater setting or stage for us to have had sex with one another, but instead of telling her that, I said okay.” They started talking. And Laurence found her interesting without the sex.

Shannon gets her physical needs met from Alex, but without respecting herself or him. Ditto for him. One way to respect ourselves is to meet our own needs—such as to keep ourselves safe from harm. Shannon lacked character because she compromised her sense of right and wrong, exposing herself to the negative consequences of sex—infection, pregnancy, possibly even death (AIDS). (I’m just saying, not judging.)

We all need a bar—standards—for which needs we deserve to get met in any type of hookup or relationship, and for what types of behavior we’ll accept from a guy or girl.

What do we deserve in a hookup? If you’re shopping for sex with no strings, you’re shopping for fulfillment of a sexual want. You deserve to feel good and to have safe sex. And so does your partner. Each of you has to be able to happily accept the way the other treats you.

Needs are beautiful things. Each need has to be met in three ways to feel “just right” and “good.” If your need to desire is truly met you’ll know what your sexual wants are —what makes you feel good; you desire him (want to make him feel good) and he desires you (wants to make you feel good) in turn. And you each deserve to be treated with respect. If your desire need isn’t met in these three ways, your hookup won’t be a positive sexual experience.

Heart-saving shortcut: Unmet needs are good reasons to exit. How to tell? Feelings bubble up. Say you’re in the middle of a hookup and where it’s going, or what he wants, doesn’t feel good. What to do? Stop and exit. Yes, even if you’re so far along that you’re naked. Such self-respect choices build self-worth.

Some girls set their bar too low. A girl might hook up with a guy because she uses sex to get popularity or she wants to get closer to the boyfriend stage, or she believes she loves him. If you’re shopping for more than release (to be pleasured and give pleasure)—like caring or spooning—reset your bar. Needs help us make deliberate choices. If you’re interested in a person, find out more about them—like their traits and how they get their needs met from you—making sure you really know and like them before getting seriously involved. 

Heart-saving shortcut: When a guy is shopping for release, he only needs to notice one little thing about you to feel desire. For Alex, it was Shannon’s beautiful eyes.

Here’s the thing: When we get a need met, we feel happy, no longer wanting. Each choice we make creates a consequence—a met need (good feeling) or unmet need (mixed, confused or hurt feeling). Let’s say you’re hooking up with a guy. Sure, to notice and be noticed, to desire and be desired feel wonderful before (and during) the hookup. But what kind of feelings bubble up after? If you know and like yourself, you’re growing happy—building yourself a beautiful life—not expecting a phone call, not secretly hoping for more, chances are you’re a player. But if you’re waiting for the guy to make your relationship official, sleeping with him is probably leaving you feeling hurt, empty and confused—or worse, feeling nothing at all.

Needs are beautiful things. I know guys can think we’re “needy.” But self-respect is knowing what our needs and wants are, learning to recognize what it feels like to get them met, and using that self-knowledge to make deliberate choices.

Knowing what to expect from a hookup would have helped Shannon get a more positive experience. Knowing what she was shopping for, and how to shop for it, would have helped her. Inform your choices using what needs you deserve to have met, and how you deserve to be treated. Every woman has her own beliefs about when to have sex. The choice is very personal, and partly dependent on your beliefs. A big part of self-respect is making deliberate choices—choices that include your own feelings, needs and beliefs. And that help you decide not only when to have sex, but—as important—who to have it with.

We all have different rules for how we want to be treated and what needs we deserve to get met. The common factor: in a healthy relationship, our most important needs are met, there are heart-to-heart conversations, and the respect—self-respect, respect for others, and the expectation to be treated respectfully—is mutual.

These stories show that by using healthy relationship criteria, you can close the gap between negative sexual experiences and the positive encounters you’re shopping for and deserve to experience. Healthy relationship criteria help you make better choices—whether it’s choosing a guy to hook up with, choosing a boyfriend, or choosing whether to stay in a relationship or exit.


Kaycee Jane

Kaycee Jane is the author of Frog or Prince? The Smart Girl’s Guide to Boyfriends (Amazon). Jane blogs at frogorprince.ca. When life seems overwhelming, try TeenCentral.net and get anonymous help from a professional.

Heart-saving shortcut by Dr. Julius Licata of TeenCentral: Thought of abstinence as a choice? When you choose the right time to have sex, you’ll experience being in control; having control builds self-esteem. There’s a right time to have sex. Not knowing the person makes sex meaningless and empty. What does the guy like? Who is he? Why are you and he connecting? Abstinence keeps you safe—no fear of pregnancy or STD’s. And abstinence gives you time to build real love and understanding, so when sex does happen, it’s not just mutual masturbation but the sincere act of caring and affection.

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One Response to “Hookups vs. Healthy Relationships”

  1. Beau Flaggs says:

    I’d like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this post. You have been enlightening for me. I have passed this on to a friend of mine.

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