If you ask a teen what “hooking up” means, chances are you’ll get some type of vague and mumbled response before they try to change the topic of conversation.
While the definition may vary, the phrase almost certainly doesn’t mean going to the mall or catching a movie with friends. Let’s be clear here: Hooking up almost always means sex.
No Strings Attached
To teenagers, hooking up means casual sex with no strings attached. Hooking up could be anything from kissing to oral sex to sexual intercourse. Kids don’t date anymore. Instead, they go out in groups that lead to sexual encounters. Sometimes these encounters lead to relationships, other times they are “just sex.” But many teens feel that if they do not hook up, they will be left out. In fact, a 2010 survey from the Centers for Disease Control revealed that between 42 and 43 percent of kids between the ages of 15 and 19 are “sexually experienced,” meaning they have had sexual intercouse at least once.
Debate is lively on the psychological effects of hook ups, especially where girls are concerned. Hook ups give women the freedom to behave sexually more as men traditionally have, without people judging them as “whores.” But teenagers of both genders are new to romantic intimacy, and may find themselves overwhelmed with unexpected emotions when these casual encounters do not typically lend themselves to creating real relationships.
The History of the Hook Up
Hooking up is not new. It has been around for at least 50 years, as of 2010, at least according to WebMD. In past decades, some teens would get together at a party and engage in petting or sexual activity. The difference between now and then is that hooking up is now the norm and is not confined to occasional party behavior.
Kids as young as 11 or 12, are starting to engage in heavy petting and oral sex. Casual sex themes on TV and in movies have in part contributed to the increase in younger kids hooking up. The advance of social networking and text messaging make it easier for kids to be bolder than they would be in person. Kids tend to set up encounters electronically and then follow through with them.
What You Can Do
If the thought of your teenager or tween hooking up concerns you, you should have a frank discussion with your child. It’s better to have this talk before your child becomes sexually active, but if you missed that chance, you can still keep the lines of communication open. Talk to your teen about pregnancy prevention, contraceptives and safe sex. And don’t be afraid to start a conversation about intimacy and relationships – your kids will benefit from hearing your perspective on sex and love.