Hookup Culture Amongst High Schoolers is Inevitable
Trying to explain hookup culture at Berkeley High School to anyone older than you are, especially parents, is one of the most difficult things you can do. A recent conversation with my mother, in which she asked me if two of my friends were “going steady,” highlighted this generational gap. My mom became even more confused when I responded that they were “just talking.”
At BHS, it is a fact that we have a culture where hooking up with someone is often seen as a better, if not easier, option than starting a relationship with someone. So, like everyone’s favorite fictional sex columnist Carrie Bradshaw does, I’d like to start this article with a question: what does hookup culture at Berkeley High really mean for our student body?
Publications like The New York Times have recently asked whether hookup culture has left our generation “Unhappy and Unprepared for Love.” We must assume that if other people are asking the question, maybe we should also think about what never defining a relationship does to us. High school is a time where it is completely acceptable to try new things and be with different people, as long as one is being safe. Despite many people associating hookup culture with loneliness and sadness, it does not necessarily have to be all bad. Perhaps as hookup culture becomes more accepted, it won’t hold so many negative connotations.
I conducted a survey of a random group of sixty students at BHS over the span of three lunches. I asked them the question, “Do you find hookup culture at BHS harmful or acceptable?” I switched the order I asked the question in, and made sure to target people of various grades. Nevertheless, the results showed that 90 percent of the people I surveyed consider hookup culture acceptable. This contradicts any conclusion I had ever read in an article written by someone not in our generation.
Even though the survey only covered a very small fraction of the student body at BHS, it shows the widespread acceptance of hookup culture at our school. A common explanation is that unlike relationships, hookups are not meaningful. However, this does not necessarily have to be true. Much like any experience you have, it is your choice to make it meaningful or not.
The fact of the matter is that when it comes to relationships, hookups, love, sexual encounters, or anything in that realm of personal experience, choice is very important. Making a choice is powerful — whether it is the choice to be in a relationship or to engage in hookups, a whole generation should not be judged for taking the reins of their own sexual experiences. We are part of an ever-changing youth culture, and it is very likely hookup norms are simply another component of this progression. Just because hookup culture at Berkeley High has a strong presence does not mean relationships are dead.
However, since hooking up is seen as a norm at our school, there is often pressure associated with finding someone to “talk to.” This is when hookup culture becomes harmful, when it is no longer your own decision, and rather something that feels necessary — to be like everyone else, or participate in what the majority of your peers seem to be doing.
Generational differences make it easy to categorize our generation as misunderstanding love, but the space to explore and have experiences such as those in hookup culture is essential to understanding human relationships. Hookup culture at BHS is really what you make it. It is important to understand you have a choice in what you do, and to make sure that “hookup” is not synonymous with “harm.”
We are part of an ever-changing culture and it is very likely hookup culture is simply another progression. Just because hookup culture at Berkeley High has a strong presence does not mean relationships are dead.