On Hooking Up, Freedom and Consent

We’re often called the hook-up generation. And hooking-up itself elicits a lot of reactions. People say hook-up culture is liberating, meaningless, destructive, it’s ruining love and everything in between.

Good or bad, it is all around us. Whether we engage or not, there’s no denying that apps are making it much easier to find new partners. And this new availability is opening up previously hush-hush conversations about relationships, including things like sex and consent. Topics that were earlier restricted to our close networks are making their way into our everyday chats. Whether we are having sex or not, we are talking about it a lot more: its nuances, awkwardness and grey areas. No matter your opinion on hooking up, this is definitely a good thing.

We are breaking down the good, bad and ugly sides of relationships. Concepts like consent, which had never been dissected as much as they are now, are becoming part of our lexicon. Not so long ago, we all debated the Aziz Ansari case in great detail on social media. And in a big change, most people didn’t just see it as a ‘bad date’ but a hazy mix of consent violation and power dynamics.

We are setting new precedents for relationships by just starting to have such conversations in public forums. As we develop a language for the discomfort and violations we face, we are able to demand more from our partners. What might have been dismissed as ‘not really abuse’ or ‘not that bad’ is being recognised as problematic at the very least.

Similarly, knowledge about abuse – and resources to address it – is becoming more easily accessible through increasingly open conversations. Most assaults are perpetrated by someone close, or at least known, to the victim, and we’re finally ready to drag this uncomfortable fact out from under the rug and speak about it.

Silence only helps abusers, and now, especially with the help of the many brave women and men who have spoken out over the last few months, are we on the road to discussing sexual abuse by known perpetrators. This has helped push forward the discourse on marital rape, which in of itself is a huge feat in our society. Although the Supreme Court hasn’t yet criminalised the offence, as the battle rages on more people are realising that issues of consent don’t disappear in long-term relationships.

Inadvertently, hook-up culture also helps us disentangle the misogynous web of myths about female purity and virginity. Ingrained moral codes are being questioned, and the sexism behind them is being re-imagined, even if only by incremental amounts.

We are on the road to undo traditions that tie a woman’s worth to her body, and bodily autonomy for women is on the rise. Ideas about female pleasure and women reclaiming their (often sexual) agency are on the road to being normalised.

Hook-up culture, here, is like an equaliser – letting women chose their partners and be in control. The control of our own bodies and sexuality is a basic human right, and one that is critical for our empowerment. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has even linked this to other human rights, such as the right to non-discrimination or the right to freedom and expression, highlighting the importance of sexual rights.

We are now in an age where we are more open and free than ever before. And we are using this freedom to talk about love and sex in more nuanced, critical ways. We are understanding ourselves better, and are more open to re-imagining the traditional heteronormative idea of love – and understanding of other genders and sexual orientations as well. Hook-up culture fosters dialogue about previously un-discussed issues, and in doing so opens us up to a new world of choices, freedoms and understandings.

The key takeaway from this is the rising awareness that no one else gets to decide what is best for you and what kind of love you should have. We may re-define it and ruin it, but now it’s ours to decide.