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What Hook-Up Culture Taught Me

May 17, 2017

Photo by Regan Norton featuring Kyra Nickel for Mad Sounds Magazine Issue 23 

 

"You can't tell anyone, but no, I haven't had my first kiss."

 

Wait, what? Did I just read those very words from my phone screen? And no, I wasn't incredulous about my friend's lack of lip-locking experience. What shocked me was the unease that she felt towards this; how she commentated this confession with an all-caps "I'M EMBARRASSED." Here's this gorgeous, strong, warrior woman destined for success, and she's flustered over a measly kiss?

 

It brought me back to a year ago when I hadn't kissed anyone yet, semi-humorously joking with my friends that I was doomed to singledom forever. When I admitted to a boy that I hadn't kissed anyone, he shared the reaction I had with my friend: Wait, what? Except his came in the form of, "How have you not kissed anyone yet? Like, you actually haven't. Not once. Are you okay or something?" My inexperience felt like this mammoth beast, ripping my composure apart along with any semblance of confidence.

 

"Well, I mean, I just haven't liked anyone who has liked me back. You know, it's been people I'm not interested in."

 

An accurate fact, but one only shared in a time of insecurity. Desperation. When feeling an all-caps "I'M EMBARRASED." While I had given some concern to my dateless existence, this was the first time I truly felt apologetic about it. I was surrounded by people I loved and growing in ways I never knew I could, and I was supposed to care about kissing some boy? Yet I didn't find myself saying, "It just hasn't happened yet. Is that a problem?"

 

Instead, I defended my fuckability with my very being.

 

Sometimes, I think about this, how these arbitrary expectations seem so big to us. We're supposed to have our first kiss by 15, lose our virginity by 16, hook-up but not too many times. There's this pressure to shed off inexperience prematurely, as if it were some shameful character trait to be wiped off like cheap lipstick. When really, this timeline is just a meaningless social norm designed to make people feel lesser than, undesirable, broken. Not to mention how archaic the concept of virginity is -- you don't "lose" anything by having sex nor does it change you as a human being.

 

Sexuality is so personal, yet we compare ours to determine whether we're "normal." I'm not interested in hooking up, and that's perfectly okay. Even if I were, that's okay too. I can express my sexuality however I want to, and any way is the right way as long as I am comfortable. Anyone who questions that can go fuck themselves... literally.

 

How far you've gone doesn't matter. It's about feeling content in your skin and loving yourself regardless of some petty sexual timeline. My older self isn't going to look at my teenage years and lament how I wasn't in enough relationships. I'm going to see all the little moments that have contributed to my beautiful life, as I've fallen in love, with being alive and myself, chased my passions, laughed until I've cried, as I've exchanged some secrets, wrote cheesy poetry, danced the night away with my best friends, as I've grown, as I've fallen apart, as I've pieced myself back together. I'm going to see myself for all my quirks and flaws, and I'm going to continue living, with daring and joy and wonder.

 

I could go into all the intricacies of this culture: there is nothing wrong with being a certain age and not having done something. Virginity is a social construct. Sex is only sex if consent is involved. But what I really wanted to discuss was how meaningless all this pressure is. I've got friends who are waiting until marriage, who've lost their virginity just to get it over with, who don't really know... so what? They're all amazing people with big, happy lives, and I'm going to support them regardless.

 

If I had the courage to tell the boy I mentioned earlier off, I don't know if I'd be writing this article. If I related to hook-up culture, this would probably be a different piece. Honestly, this is just a weird girl's way of reclaiming her sexuality, like maybe there’s no right way to express yourself, and terms like “slut” or “prude” are meaningless. Maybe these sentiments are valid and normal.

 

Maybe what she’s feeling is completely okay.

The enemy is not lipstick, but guilt itself; we deserve lipstick, if we want it, AND free speech. We deserve to be sexual AND serious -- or whatever we please.

(Naomi Wolf)

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