The drastic changes in dating habits of the last fifty years are never more apparent than experiencing Tinder or Bumble as a twenty-year-old woman, with an almost equal number of cheesy pick-up lines and straight-up propositions being thrown at you. With these changes, it has become easier for women to feel able to experiment with their sexuality through flings or hook-ups, avoiding the stigma that would follow these actions in the past. Of course, it’s undeniable that there is still a particular stigma around women with a higher ‘body count’, and the dichotomy between the way society reacts to men and women who sleep around is part of the issue women face when participating in hook-up culture. Men are often lauded for sleeping with someone on a night out, whilst women are hypersexualised and branded a ‘slut’.
In the past, women who have lots of sexual partners were looked down upon, despite being ruthlessly objectified and commodified by a society dominated by men. Women appearing promiscuous or as if they were ‘asking for it’ were judged by both men and other women, and collective shaming, or ‘slut shaming’, is common within both younger and older generations. Hayley Farless argues that although casual sex can be liberating for women, it forces them into a ‘prude-slut dichotomy’ where women are characterised by their sexual activity with no in-between.
The rise in casual sex is inadvertently tied to the assumption that everyone is willing to engage in casual sex or one-night stands, which can blur the line between casual sex and assault. Hook-up culture can hide sexual predation, and with the rise of spikings and date-rape drugs women can never be too careful about their personal safety.
Claiming back these ideas of hypersexuality, having a ‘hoe phase’ has become something women can celebrate after a relationship ends, using their new free time to explore sexually and have fun at the same time as fighting the patriarchal views women are confined by day to day. The culture around hookups and casual flings has enabled women to reclaim their sexuality and level the playing field between men and women with the normalisation of casual sex. Hook-up culture encourages confidence both in body and self, and if practiced safely can be a great way to relieve stress and have some fun.
By taking back the power, women are paving the way for feminism and positive attitudes towards sex to grow in the coming generations and encouraging conversations around sex, making the subject less taboo and thereby helping women and men to speak out if they have experienced a traumatic sexual encounter.
Either way you look at it, sexual encounters are personal choice, and respecting these choices whilst encouraging confidence and fun is the best way to advance society's opinions of women and their sexualities.