College. The 4+ years that you will look back on fondly when you are established and nostalgic. The personal growth you experience in this condensed amount of time is astounding. You learn new things about the world around you, and I'm not just talking about your career path. This is the time when you are able to dabble in adulthood without the strings fully attached. This pertains to finances and, you guessed it, relationships. Chances are you know somebody who was/is a party animal and who lost track of their sexual encounters when they were young adults. Maybe that person is you. However, this article isn't about your drinking or partying habits. This article is about something that many underestimate to be important to how you grow as an individual-- hook-up culture. 

DISCLAIMER: I am in no way trying to diss people who enjoy sexual freedom in its many forms. I am not shaming anybody. This is your life and you can live it how you want. I am just presenting my personal opinion on the matter and providing statistical evidence -- interpret it how you will. Just be happy. 

We see hook-up culture glamorized everywhere we look. Romanticized movie scenes of clumsy encounters in dingy bar bathrooms and the embarrassing morning after. Waking up in a random person's bed with your bra hanging from the lamp? I know that is not how it usually goes. As assumed, the media does a good job of making things seem more exaggerated than they actually are. Despite the fact that not everything happens the way it does in the movies, hooking up is still a phenomenon that is widely accepted in our day and age. In fact, history suggests that hook-up culture was consequently born from the invention and accessibility of cars and movie theaters. Ah, the freedom of the youth. Interesting.

How do we justify it? It varies from person to person, but the general theme tends to be the same: we are only young once and we want to experience everything the world has to offer. We need to figure out what we enjoy and dislike in a sexual or romantic partner so we can fulfill our desires and find a deeper level of happiness. We need to work out a socially acceptable level of sexual angst and frustration so we can find it easier to be a committed and faithful partner when we are ready to settle down. What a big word. Fulfilled. What an equally big word -- commitment. 

The questions that I think about often: Why does our culture encourage us to pursue connections that are emotionally void? Why do we preach a sense of immediate distrust in others instead of seeking to create a positive environment for relational growth? 

Disclaimer -- This is a generalization: Our 21st century habits are still assessed and addressed with our 20th century mentality. When a young male comes of age and begins to explore his sexual needs and desires, he is generally met with an encouraging slap on the back and an educational talk on contraception (if he's lucky.) For young women? Not so much. But the analysis of gender roles, slut-shaming and their impact on hook-up culture is a discussion for another article. 

In sociology we discuss the rapidly changing nature of family and relationships. It is a fact that common-law relationships are steadily rising while marriage, (and success thereof,) is rapidly declining. It seems to be easier for couples to simply live together than place a moral or legal label on it. There are many reasons for this: the collapse of the nuclear family, access to equal opportunity for women and a general decrease in the desire for bringing children into an increasingly hectic and messy world. Does hook-up culture encourage a lack of commitment in this area? Is hooking up just the fast food of our sexuality? Quick and easy -- with minimal effort? Yet another question I'm not addressing in this specific article. Maybe marriage or commitment isn't everybody's cup of tea -- and that's okay.

So here's the point you have been looking for:

The correlation we simply cannot ignore is the impact that hooking up has on our health.

It's time for some statistics:

According to research from The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Research Unit of New Zealand, "Increasing numbers of sex partners were associated with increasing risk of substance dependency disorders." 

According to an analysis from the National Library of Medicine, hooking up has a positive correlation with psychological distress, regardless of gender. 

A study by The American Psychological Association held an online survey, in which 1,468 undergraduate students responded. The numbers showed that over 1/4 of respondents felt embarrassed of their encounters, while 1/5 reported having struggles with their own self-respect after the fact. In addition, 10% of respondents reported that their past hookups caused severe problems in their current committed partnerships. 

Due to the lack of sex education and resource accessibility in certain parts of our country, STD's are rapidly on the rise. According to the American Sexual Health Association, "one in two sexually active persons will have an STD in their lifetime." Hook-up culture and the lack of a strong desire for safe practice contribute to this fully. And yes, this includes oral sex. The top ranking diseases are chlamydia, herpes and syphilis. HPV, or Human Papillomavirus Infection, is also prevalent and has strong links to cancer of multiple reproductive organs later on in your life. Yikes.

If you find yourself to be a person who enjoys meaningful connections (like myself,) then hook-up culture might not be right for you. There are many negative or questionable health impacts that hook-up culture can have on your mental and physical health -- and there is also evidence that there are positives to the practice (I have to mention the other side of the argument and give it a certain level of credit.) Personally, I think hook-up culture is encouraging our lack of commitment and is feeding surface level interactions. If you get bored of small talk and physicality and you crave a conversation and a direction, hooking up will continually leave you feeling unsatisfied. Your frequent hookups will find a way to leak into future relationships and may cause arguments or further emotional division. In a culture where we are consistently striving for bigger and better in our individual accomplishments, dating itself is a commitment of time and effort we don't perceive we have. Like my reference to fast food earlier in the article -- we can get our rush of endorphins, we can clean ourselves up after the matter and we can move forward. There are pros and cons to hook-up culture, just like there are two sides to every occurrence in the natural world.

But for me? A person who knows that I feel everything deeply? I'll pass.