There was an interesting Modern Love piece in the NY times a week or so ago. It was written by Gabrielle Ulubay, and is titled, For Best Hookup Results, Use Your Words, O.K.? Right off the bat, I was suspicious of the title and after reading it, definitely see a different way to get to a better outcome.
To begin with, just the term hookup conveys sex with no strings. It’s a coming together of two strangers who are looking for fun without commitment and a relationship. If this author truly wanted just a fun sexual experience, why would she be upset when she doesn’t ever hear from the guy again? According to Gabrielle, guys should just be honest during a hookup—not expressing any attraction/interest/admiration beyond the physical act. Then somehow, the experience would feel better/be better for anyone who participates in it.
Maybe I just can’t help myself, but when I read between Gabrielle’s lines, I heard her express a desire for something more than a one-night stand. She wanted to hear the words, though they frightened her because she feared they were not genuine. However she wanted to believe they were—which tells me that she wants more than a hookup.
I am not suggesting that Gabrielle should not enjoy sex “as much as a guy does.” There is nothing wrong with that. But by not being completely honest with herself about what she wants beyond the sex, is helping to keep her in this unhappy pattern. She even references her fears that this guy will find out that she hooks up a lot, and will see her differently. This suggests she is not truly OK with how she sees herself, and no amount of loving and adoring words from someone else can change that. Nor will doing the same thing over and over again bring different results—unless she just gets lucky.
If Gabrielle were my client, I would begin by talking to her about her relationship goals/dreams/desires, or lack thereof. I would encourage her to explore her own heart—without the voices of the larger culture weighing in. For instance, is she telling herself she only wants to have a good time, to enjoy the sex and the guy’s brief company without strings? Or somewhere deep down, is there a hope for something more—a best friend, lover, and partner? If so, why can’t she admit this to herself? Is there a fear she will seem desperate, weak, an un-feminist? So what, is her goal is to find her heart’s desire, what does it matter what other might think?
Then I would encourage Gabrielle to approach dating differently. I would suggest no sex for a number of dates or even months. This way, she and the guy (if he is still interested when she says no) will get to know each other a bit as people without an intimacy that is not really intimacy—just sex. They can actually go on fun dates, play together, talk about their passions and hopes, share stories of growing up, turn one another on with their shared sense of humor or intellectual connection. Then sex will happen “organically,” with an openness, greater honesty, and a sense that they really do know each other in some ways and so far have liked what they see and want to see more.
Old-fashioned, maybe. But if your goal is a relationship, it’s a better path to follow.