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September 29, 2008

Does Hooking Up Hurt You?

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Q: Do you think it's ever possible for women to have sex like men?
A: Sure, but nine times out of 10 they're going to feel something afterward. I have no data to back this up, but I am convinced that one reason we're seeing alcohol-consumption rates go up in women is that they are taking part in these sexual encounters, believing they should do so and be strong about it. And they're having to do it over and over again. At some point it denies their own biology and desires, so of course they drink in order to prepare for it, because it's not what they want to do. One of the girls in my book, Alicia, says hookup sex is very scripted. You turn off everything except your body and make yourself emotionally invulnerable. Who wants that? It's like saying I'm going to plunge down the roller coaster without anticipating the ride to the top. It's a cheap thrill.

Q: Besides the commonly known risks of casual sex, like STDs and AIDS, what are some of the other consequences of rampant hooking up?
A: Besides alcoholism? Depression. We know from surveys that have been done over the years that — again, due to oxytocin — the shorter a relationship, the more likely it is for depression to occur afterward. Breaking up a longer relationship tends to be less painful, and hookups are nothing if not brief. So this means that girls who hook up have to work really hard to squash or deny those natural feelings of connection, which again leads to depression. Also, casual sex may make later relationships more difficult, particularly if it becomes a pattern, because cheating is common. Trust is elusive. You don't learn how to trust someone; you don't learn how to treat someone in a caring way. And I think if you don't get to practice those things, it's going to be harder down the road to have a successful relationship or marriage.

Q: What's your advice to women who are planning to go out tonight and get it on with a stranger?
A: Besides packing a Trojan? I would advise them not to. Go out and find some guy who turns you on and have fun with him, but leave him wanting more. Wait until you know him better, and believe me, the sex is going to be better.

Q: Doesn't that seem terribly old-fashioned?
A: Maybe, but I think in our rush to condone or not be seen as disapproving of young women's independence — which I'm very much in favor of — we have gone too far in the opposite direction. We just need to put the brakes on a little bit. I wouldn't argue that you should never have casual sex. I just think that women need to think through how they're going to do it and with whom. Why cheat yourself out of a great relationship and great sex?

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