Being Proactive About Your Sexual Wellness in Hook-up Culture
For some of us, going away to college is the first time we are away from our village, in waters unknown and surrounded by complete strangers. There is this feeling that you need to make good on the sacrifices you made to get there and also enjoy your new found freedom. You are trying to do well enough to make something of yourself while taking your first crack at an adult social life… One thing is for sure—you can overcome those pressures without compromising your values. While snagging your degree comes first, college is also about making new friends and experiencing new things—getting out of your comfort zone in a healthy and safe way.
Whether you’re a late bloomer or very experienced, college years are often viewed as the season to explore both romantic and physical relationships. You finally feel like an adult, and with maturity comes sexual curiosity. Everyone around you is talking about it—sex and “hooking up,” that is. The former is self-explanatory, the latter…not so much.
And, here’s the catch—hook-up culture exists well beyond undergrad years.
Everyone seems to have their own definition of what exactly “hooking up” is. The term can range from a peck on the lips to sexual intercourse and everything in between. Typically, the term is used to describe a meaningless, “no strings attached,” sexual encounter. But, again, it’s an ambiguous term that is used in many ways. For our purposes, let’s define it as follows: a non-committal sexual encounter which implies sexual intercourse or penetration of some sort.
As Black women, we are aware of the hypersexualization we experience throughout the media. This objectification adds a new and complex layer to the version of hook-up culture that we experience throughout our young adulthood. Although it is important to be aware of this stereotype, we can attempt to make our own choices about how we approach our relationships and view our bodies. Obviously, not all of us feel comfortable with the concept of casual sexual interactions, and that is completely okay.
It is important that we each do what’s right for ourselves, no matter what society assumes about us or projects onto us. If you are into the “no strings attached” hook-up, go for it girl! If you’re not, don’t let anyone peer pressure you into doing something you are uncomfortable with. You have the power to experience the sexual pleasure you want and deserve, while also staying true to yourself and your values. There’s no wrong decision as long as you’re doing what’s best for you.
However, what’s best for you should always include being healthy. We’ve all heard it before—condoms, condoms, condoms. But, they are important for contraceptive purposes and a reliable way to prevent STIs. The truth is that as Black women we must promote our well-being at all costs. The statistics are not in our favor.
Research shows that in 2016, 4,560 Black women were diagnosed with HIV, compared to 1,450 white women (Source). Black women are diagnosed with chlamydia at a rate 5.1 times higher than white women; they are diagnosed with gonorrhea at a rate 8.4 times higher than white women, and they are diagnosed with syphilis at a rate 7 times higher than white women (Source).
The next time you are hooking up with someone be sure to enjoy yourself AND prioritize your health. You have a right to speak up for your desire to have protected sex or change your mind if the circumstances don’t feel right. Your sexual health is valuable, and it is possible to safely engage in the culture of hooking up.
Be empowered, stay informed, and be true to yourself.