The Hookup Culture: A Detrimental Trend to the Teenage Mind

The Hookup Culture: a detrimental trend to the teenage mind



I decided to research the hookup culture because it is something that surrounds my community and has had a negative effect on a lot of people that I care about.  I have witnessed many girls in particular, struggling to make meaningful relationships with the people they actually care about.  I connected this “symptom” of the hu culture with the symptoms of many mental disorders: an inability to properly communicate or form meaningful relationships.  which made me think that mental disorders can cause an inability to form meaningful relationships.  The hookup culture is synonymous with a mental disorder in some ways, which is why I felt the need to study it and interview people in my community.

*Important! Hu means Hookup, it is the term used when texting or writing casually*


(I have given the individuals in this story aliases to hide their identity) “Anna” used to hookup with “Ryan” who is friends with “Carter”.  Carter wanted to hang out with Anna and some other people, without Ryan.  Anna went to his house and she felt like he expected her to hook-up with him even though they had only spoken a few times over Snapchat and had never met in person.  Anna didn’t really want to hookup with Carter but thought that it was no big deal, she recalls saying “Oh F*ck it!”, and proceeded to hook up with him.  After interviewing “Anna” about this situation, she claims that she believes that she should have been more excited about the encounter.  However, she doesn’t have regrets, because she felt it was a “good” hookup.             



What is it?

The Hookup Culture “accepts and encourages casual sexual encounters, including one-night stands and other related activity, without necessarily including emotional bonding or long-term commitment” (according to Wikipedia).  According to the dictionary, a “hookup” is “a casual sexual encounter: he was tired of meaningless hookups”, or, “a person with whom someone has a casual sexual encounter: she’s hurt that her hookup didn’t even bother to stick around long enough to say good morning”.  The example sentences show the universal understanding that a hookup is generally something that is meaningless or emotionless. The second example even shows how women are often disheartened from these relationships. 

The teenage definitions that I collected are so vast; though most people said something along the lines of “Making out”, we generally don’t understand what exactly a hookup is.

Some more telling definitions that I found from teenagers were:

  1. “go to a party, find someone you’re attracted to, go make out somewhere and if it’s good maybe go further than making out”
  2. “making out w someone for a prolonged period of time but it can progress sexually and can include sex it depends on your definition”.  
  3. “They could have done anything from kiss to have sex. It’s a pretty vague term.
  4. “Honestly not sure making out or something?”

Teenage years are crucial to personal development, but the point is that teens are developing.  We, as teenagers, are on the cusp of adulthood and are far from knowing everything, which is why it is difficult to try to learn about relationships on our own.  This is probably why a lot of people that answered my survey saying they didn’t know exactly what a hookup was.  Being attracted to people and learning how to discover yourself along with your sexuality is extremely hard, and the pressures that follow the hookup culture only increase the difficulties and misunderstandings.

I decided to focus on teenage girls in particular because I feel that more of my female friends complain about the effects of this culture in comparison to my male friends.  My male friends are a lot more casual about sexual encounters and tend to expect praise after telling me or other people about a sexual encounter.

Here is one of my audio interviews with a 17-year-old female student at my school:




Parents and other adults: Most parents already teach their children about values and lessons every day.  But it is arguably more challenging to teach their children about sex, whether the child doesn’t want to hear about it or whether the parent feels awkward about it.  The leap that would make this process more manageable for both parties, according to Shafia Zaloom (a sexual educator), is to “guide kids to understand what those values sound, look and feel like within the context of sexuality”. The most important quality that separates a mature person who is able to form meaningful relationships from one that isn’t ready to fully commit or understand how to properly communicate (a person that might be more susceptible to the hook-up culture) is the level of empathy that one has.  Adults should be teaching children how to properly empathize with others, one way to do this is to explain their own romantic successes and failures so that they can learn from an adult’s mistakes and understand that no relationship is perfect. Empathy is most certainly the cure that will allow the generation of the hookup culture to learn how to form real relationships because being able to develop empathy for others will instill the idea of meaningful relationships rather than physical ones that might hurt somebody.           

Teens: Teens can and should still discuss their lives with their friends, it is always good to talk about struggles or successes with somebody.  It is extremely important to talk about relationships with somebody that has learned about them in their life, your parents.  Most parents know what they are talking about when it comes to relationships, despite what teens might think.  Talking about love and what to do in compromising situations with parents will provide more preparedness and ability to communicate and empathize. However, it is most important for teens to understand themselves, and who they are in a sexual context before they start engaging in sexual relationships or more serious ones.


(These are some texts about hooking up that one of my friends received)


What would happen if young adults started communicating with their parents instead of learning about sex from porn? How can people start talking about sex in a healthy way that is more respectful to women?

Create your own user feedback survey

I am talking to my friends about the hookup culture, especially the ones that are not happy about the hookup culture, to help them understand that they do not have to participate.  I am working with my guidance counselor and figuring out how we can make the hookup culture less of an issue in our community.  I plan on talking to the leader of sex ed in my school to ask her about how she can better incorporate the issues of the hookup culture, consent, and teaching teens about how to have safe LGBTQ+ sex. I am explaining the psychological benefits of having a real relationship, versus a hookup.


“APA Dictionary of Psychology.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association,

“Hookup Culture.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Apr. 2018,

“How to Teach Teens About Love, Consent and Emotional Intelligence.” KQED, 8 Feb. 2018,

“Types of Personality Disorders.” Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library,,P00760.

Weissbourd , Richard, et al. The Talk: How Adults Can Promote Young People’s Healthy Relationships and Prevent Misogyny and Sexual Harassment. pp. 1–7

“What Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 Feb. 2018,


Share this project
  1. April 26, 2018 by Ava.Carter

    I think your project is especially relevant given the recent emergence of The Me Too Movement. How we learn and how we’re taught about sex informs our future sexual encounters. Additionally, it is important that we continue to redefine what an appropriate sexual interaction looks like, so teens have a healthy example to go off of.

    • April 29, 2018 by Lindsey

      I agree, a lot of the confusion around what a sexual interaction should look like that is involved in the hookup culture could cause future problems such as those discussed in the Me Too movement. Yes, the way that you learn about and initially interact with sex has a huge impact on who you will become as a sexual being, which is why it is crucial that young adults are getting healthy exposure to sex through discussing consent, how to make sure both parties are happy, and how to know who you are a sexual person. Thanks for looking at my project!

  2. April 26, 2018 by Coley Goren

    The central message in your project is super relatable to my school and community as well. I think this is a pervasive issue for all teenagers and I’m glad someone is addressing it and has a structured catalyst for change. Good job!

    • April 29, 2018 by Lindsey

      Thank you! I find that the hookup culture is becoming more normal around schools all over America, I am not surprised that there might be some of it around your school. I’m happy to see that you understand that this is an issue and things need to change.

  3. April 27, 2018 by Abigail.Kelley

    This is such an interesting and relevant topic! Hu culture is becoming more prevalent than ever in high schools and this is definitely impacting relationships among teens. You have a lot of great info and I loved that you included one of your interviews. Awesome job!

    • April 29, 2018 by Lindsey

      Thanks for looking at my project, I am really passionate about the need for change in the hookup culture! I’m glad that you agree that relationships are being changed and affected in a negative way, this is exactly what needs to be recognized in order to foster change.

  4. April 27, 2018 by Kayla Adams

    As a teenager, this is all too prevalent amongst my friends and the social sphere that I’m in. In the interview that you had with the girl at your school I found it interesting when you inquired about whether or not they feel like there is an obligation to hook up with someone if they find out that they’re interested and she responds that she’d be flattered, she then goes on to say later on that from what she’s seen most hookups are purely for physical reasons. Do you think that this type of thinking that a hookup is purely physical is what contributes to the prevalence of mental illnesses and disorders such as anorexia in teenagers today? The connection between someone feeling flattered that someone wants to hook up with them and hookups being mainly a physical thing I feel causes so many teenagers to focus way too much on their appearance because it’s what they think it’s one of the few things that they can be appreciated for. What are your thoughts on the type of atmosphere that hookups perpetuate?

    • April 27, 2018 by Lindsey

      Hi Kayla! I agree completely, the superficiality of hookups creates even more pressure on people to be perfect. I believe that the pressures from the hookup culture are definitely a contributing factor to the increase in low self-esteem and levels of body dysmorphia in teens, which can lead to mental disorders and eating disorders. If teens were forming real relationships they would feel less pressure for their bodies to be “perfect”, because they would be comfortable with somebody that likes them for who they are (versus somebody who only likes them for what they look like on the outside or if they are a “good hookup”). If attraction and looks are the basis of relationships (hu partners) then the only way to form “relationships” is by making yourself more attractive. This whole idea is extremely unacceptable and unhealthy, people have a lot more to offer than just their looks and their bodies and they should be with somebody that accepts them.

  5. April 27, 2018 by Jane MacRae

    This message is super important to understand for teenagers (especially teenage girls) in high school. It’s such a culture in my high school and it’s not even as extreme as in other schools. It’s definitely affected how I see myself and how I feel about my image. Thank you so much for shedding light on this very important topic!!

    • April 29, 2018 by Lindsey

      Thank you I’m happy that I could provide some information! I agree that this culture is especially affecting teenage girls and how they view themselves, and I am sorry to hear that it has affected you. It seems like you have the right idea, try not to care about what you may look like through the eyes of those who participate in the hookup culture because you don’t have to be a part of it to be beautiful and you will actually be more able to form real meaningful relationships with people in the future! Something that you might find interesting is that only one girl that answered my survey so far claimed that the hookup culture was less than 50% centered around pleasing men. This shows that there are a lot of young women that understand that this culture isn’t for their benefit, we just have to stick together! (most of the young men that answered my survey claimed that the hu culture was more than 50% centered around pleasing men, only one answered that it was 0% centered around pleasing men)

  6. April 27, 2018 by izzy horio

    one thing that really hit me was when you said hookups are “meaningless and emotionless”. i’ve always heard the word meaningless attached to hookup, but this is the fist time anyone has ever used emotionless as well. using the word emotionless carries a lot more weight than just meaningless. it kind of gives the word “hookup” a more negative connotation because, personally, i feel like emotionless is a lot more negative than meaningless. overall, i think this is such an interesting topic to do research on, and i hope that you’re able to spark change in your community!!

    • April 29, 2018 by Lindsey

      Thank you I hope that I can make a change too! I’m glad that this idea really stuck with you because it is true; emotions are what separate a hookup from a real relationship. This is why empathy is so important to forming relationships because it allows for there to be emotions which means that it isn’t a purely physical relationship (which is what hookups are, purely physical). Even though some people hookup and then date it shows that there is some sort of trial, you have to see if you are sexually attracted to somebody by testing it out before you start to get emotionally involved with them, which is why so many young women (and in rare cases men) are getting hurt. It is more important to develop an emotional relationship so that you can feel comfortable being sexual with somebody. Thanks for looking at my project!

  7. April 28, 2018 by Rory Smith

    Hi Lindsey! I really enjoyed your presentation, mostly because the hookup culture is one that is extremely pervasive in high schools and similar environments today. I have seen this culture emerge since my freshman year of high school, and I often have questions similar to yours about the implications that this culture has on the student body. I am currently taking Ab Psych for my GOA class, and I was wondering what kind of an impact that this culture could have on the mental health of students and how this can be repaired. I really liked your incorporation of empathy into the solution, because it is a theme that we have talked about often in psychology as well. What precautions should be taken to ensure a positive mental health for students who are exposed to these notions of sexual behavior and hookups today?

    • April 29, 2018 by Lindsey

      Hi Rory! I believe that the hookup culture is creating a mental health of teenagers that are more susceptible to disorders such as depression and anxiety disorders because of all of the pressures that surround the hookup culture. The hookup culture could also lead to eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia (especially for girls) because hookups are based on purely physical and superficial reasons which create the idea that young women can only be attractive with their body and their outside features, which is simply false. This can be repaired by creating an understanding of your own beauty and self-worth and knowing that you aren’t only pretty because of what you look like. By increasing your self-confidence and understanding what you are comfortable with sexually and not crossing that line you will be less susceptible to the pressures that are created by the hookup culture. I think that communication is one of the best ways to ensure a positive mental health and not participating in purely physical hookups all of the time. In discussing relationships and sex with trusted adults and peers people will gain a healthy relationship with sex and be able to understand who they are sexual, this is something that you should think about before engaging in sexual experiences and learn with somebody that you are completely comfortable and emotionally attached with. In my brief unit of positive psychology last semester in intro to psychology, I learned that the key ingredient to happiness is through building relationships through social connections as well as romantic relationships. Without a stable meaningful relationship with emotions it is very difficult to be happy, therefore, it is better to wait to have a relationship with somebody that actually cares about you, rather than having a hookup with somebody that only cares about being physical. (sorry for the long-winded answer, hopefully I have helped). Thanks for the nice comment!

  8. April 29, 2018 by Eden Aharoni

    I think that you did a really great job at getting information from other teens. I especially like the story that you shared with us in the beginning. Another component that I really liked was the definition writing. I think it is so interesting how a teen could text their friends “I just hued with Jackson” but then when asked what “hu” means, they really don’t know. How can you be saying that you do something but you don’t even know what that doing is. It is an interesting thought… One thing that I am a bit confused about is why the first piece of data for your solution is a graph or whether or not someone has watched porn or not. I participated in the survey monkey that you had created but one thing I wish was to be able to see the responses that other students wrote. While the survey was interesting I would have gotten more out of it if I was able to see the larger response to it.

    • April 30, 2018 by Lindsey

      Thank you! I think that not knowing what hooking up actually means is part of the problem. Everyone has their own comfort levels and they need to find out what how they understand hooking up. I tried to include live answers to the survey but I couldn’t figure out how to do that so I used the first few answers I received, such as the porn question, and the question as to what a hookup is (as seen in the quotes in the picture of people kissing). I sent this survey out to a lot of young adults in my school before creating my presentation and used it as a research tool so I could understand how the usage of porn may affect other things like your definition of a hookup or how young you start hooking up.

  9. April 29, 2018 by Jennifer.Bernardez

    I clicked on this project because it is an interesting and relevant issue that is never shown in media or anywhere else. I doubt many others have done a project like this. I think the word art was very interesting because it shows that defining a hook up is difficult even for people in this time. I was a bit confused about the poll at the beginning of the solution, because it didn’t seem to have much context. Overall, this was a really interesting and well done project!

    • April 30, 2018 by Lindsey

      Thank you I believe that it is a relevant topic that needs to be changed as well. The survey was used before making the project and I used it to make my research more about my own community. I put the poll in the end to show the types of questions that I asked students in my school and the types of question people can ask themselves to figure out how involved they are in the hookup culture.

  10. April 30, 2018 by leilani.ahina

    What an informative topic – I think lots of adults would benefit from knowing and empathizing with the new HU culture and understanding the challenges with texting and online porn as well – such powerful influences on sexual development. In reading the comments as well, it’s so clear that you touched on a topic deserving of more conversation and awareness. Great start to doing exactly this.

    • April 30, 2018 by Lindsey

      Thank you so much! I think that it is extremely important that adults learn about this too because they have the power to change how young men and women view sex and the hookup culture. In teaching people at a younger age how to properly form relationships we can foster a more healthy mental state for future generations.

  11. April 30, 2018 by hannah filby

    Your project is amazing!! HU culture is also so prevalent in my life like you said it is yours, and it honestly makes me really sad. I think that the teenagers in our generation are growing more and more detached from hookups, because a hookup is almost seen as a prize to be won. You are tackling such an important issue, and even though it is prominent in our culture today, I don’t think people often talk about the issues which it is causing. Im curious to know whether or not you think this is a trend which will eventually stop or if it is engrained now as the norm?

    • April 30, 2018 by Lindsey

      Thank you so much! I think that it is so interesting that you bring up the idea that a hookup is like a prize because this is so very true! In a lot of the interviews, there were stories of young men high fiving or hugging each other, congratulating them for hooking up with somebody. I find that this proves that a hookup is only a physical action and that there are no emotions or empathy involved because this hurts the women. I think that there is potential for change because I have gotten such a positive response and people have explained that they don’t like the hookup culture. However, a lot of people, especially young men, are completely supporting the hookup culture, which means that if there is a change it will take a long time. The hookup culture is becoming more and more normal with each hookup, which means that it is becoming increasingly normal as we are trying to make the change. Change can be made, but only through communication and explanation of the benefits of a real relationship and an explanation of how detrimental purely physical relationships can be to the teenage psyche.

  12. April 30, 2018 by Trinity.Rollins

    This is a super interesting topic because not many people think that it could be hazardous for our mental health. Though the TED talk was long, I learned a whole lot from it, and I also liked your idea to include a case study. The TED speaker said something I thought was interesting – that once moms started going to work and stopped staying home that this issue arose. How do you think we can solve the issues of little family time or trust with adults without hindering a woman’s career?

    • April 30, 2018 by Lindsey

      It’s interesting that you bring this up, because I thought that idea was a bit controversial and I didn’t like that it implied that women should stay home to take care of children. I think a better solution to this is that children can understand that they don’t need to talk to their mom, they can talk to their dad or other trusted adults such as a guidance counselor or uncle. This doesn’t mean that parents with jobs can’t talk to their children at all, it just means that they have more pressure to make the time to do so, but they HAVE to make this time because it is crucial. A lot of people are growing up with babysitters or au pair because a lot of parents are both going to work, this means that children can learn to trust and discuss things with this adult (should be an adult).

  13. May 01, 2018 by Caroline Creamer

    This is such a relevant subject in teens today. You did a great job discussing this and the video was so helpful and informative.

  14. May 04, 2018 by Jerome Nashed

    I think this is such a good topic to choose! I think the idea of the hu culture has prevented people from being able to enter into legitimate, meaningful relationships. I think, as alluded to in the presentation, a lot of men define their masculinity based on their ‘body count’ which seems to be a problematic aspect in society. In that sense, men become to shield themselves from entering into intimate relationships because they’ll be viewed as ‘whipped’ which is another indication of the hypermasculinity that permeates through society. I love how you discussed these points to discuss the problems with the culture and I’m glad I got to read your presentation!

  15. May 04, 2018 by Natalie

    Really good job! I loved the topic–it’s so relevant, especially in this day and age. I love all of the different ways you used to represent this topic. I especially loved the texts that one of your friends received, it really made the topic personal and I’ve received and seen people receive so many messages like that. I also really like how you tied this topic to larger themes.

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