St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Email editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message


Women offer the lowdown on the 'hookup'

Time was, men had the power in a one-night stand. But times are changing. Four local 20-somethings put this growing trend into perspective.

Published April 14, 2007


The words flow freely, with the formality of doing laundry or eating a Snickers bar: "We hooked up."

The word "hookup" has settled into the slang lexicon next to "McDreamy" and "snarky." The act has settled into young women's lives, in high school, college and beyond.

It's a fling with a stranger, acquaintance or friend. No-strings-attached pleasure. Kissing, full sex and everything in between, with no expectations for the morning after - or the next week, month or year.

The Institute for American Values found that 40 percent of surveyed college women have hooked up. One in 10 hooked up more than six times.

In Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both, journalist Laura Sessions Stepp examined the sexual and social lives of young women at book length.

While some women can handle loveless sex, she says, others are left "exhausted physically, emotionally and spiritually" by hookup culture.

In The Hookup Handbook: A Single Girl's Guide to Living it Up, Jessica Rozler and Andrea Lavinthal take a lighthearted approach, with quiz questions such as, "My longest relationship lasted for . . . a six months; b) six years; c) six beers."

Casual sex is not a new phenomenon. But Sessions Stepp points to a "cultural shift": As young women focus increasingly on education and careers, many put committed relationships on the back burner in favor of quick sexual encounters.

The St. Petersburg Times sat down with four young women at a Tampa Starbucks to get perspective on "hooking up."

- Roxanne Hensley, 23, lives in Clearwater and is a researcher at a staffing company.

- Meredith Peterson, 24, lives in Tampa and is an account executive at a medical company.

- Teneille Williams, 28, lives in Tampa and works in information technology.

- Ashley Reece, 24, lives in Lakeland and is an administrative assistant.

Meredith and Teneille are good friends. The others did not know each other before the discussion, but they had things in common - they've been through college, they're single and they're navigating the modern dating scene.

Roxanne and Teneille are looking to settle down into a relationship. Meredith and Ashley are not even close to ready. Here are excerpts from the coffee talk, which lasted more than an hour.


What is hooking up?

ROXANNE: I think we all define it differently. To me, either I made out with somebody, or I hooked up with somebody. For me, any form of sex.

TENEILLE: I know for me, hooking up would probably just be making out. I came to the U.S. from Trinidad and Tobago) and I was like, "I'm hooking up" if I made out with a boy or kissed. That's how I thought it was for everybody. Then I would be like, "Yeah, I hooked up with this guy," and people would be like, "You hooked up with him?" The way they said it . . . "Okay, what do you think I just said?"


Do you find yourself having to clarify?

TENEILLE: Yes, always. Like, no, that didn't happen.


When you say "hookup," is there a negative reaction from people?

MEREDITH: You're really not blacklisted. Not anymore. I feel like the tables have turned where your girlfriends are kind of giving you a high five now.


When do you think that change happens?

ASHLEY: College.

TENEILLE: It definitely changed for me right out of college. You have to make your own choices and learn from your mistakes without having Mom and Dad there.

MEREDITH: It stops becoming where you have a high school typical relationship of, "Hey, do you want to go out with me and stay at the lunchroom table together?" Now it's that casual where you're at a party and people get drunk and things happen.


There's one school of thought that says this is my body and if I want to do what I want with it, as long as I'm safe and not hurting anybody, it's my prerogative. There's another school that says this could be damaging behavior.

ASHLEY: I think it could, but I don't think a lasting relationship usually forms if you met a guy in a bar and go home with him that night.

ROXANNE: I think what's important is to set expectations. Clear expectations from yourself, clear expectations from the situation and the other person that's involved. If you don't have clear expectations, that's when it can get damaging.


Some say women don't have the biological makeup to have unemotional flings.

ASHLEY: I've been in situations where it's been purely physical. I didn't think everything was about something that could be long-lasting. But there have been a couple of them where I really liked the guys and it didn't work out.

TENEILLE: We go into these things thinking, I'm just here to have fun. But I feel as if 80 percent of the time we still end up getting hurt, because whether we want to or not, we still form an emotional attachment with the other person. By hooking up or sleeping with them, you still get attached to that person and you wonder, what if? What if I could possibly make something out of this? What if you were not that drunk and ugly? I had to like you for a reason. Then you nurse that disappointment the next day if he doesn't call . . . So you take that baggage with you to the next hookup and the next hookup and the next hookup. When do you stop? When do you figure out that this is damaging you in some way?


Sexuality is kind of thrown in your face, everywhere you go - movies, TV, music.

MEREDITH: All that kind of stuff you see on Sex and the City, sex without emotion . . . seeing that constantly in your face all the time, I think you're definitely going to adapt to that in society.

ASHLEY: I think our culture is moving more toward a dominant woman. She's capable of taking care of herself. And yeah, she's free to hook up.

MEREDITH: Guys automatically assume that you're looking for a relationship.

ROXANNE: All the time. Or they say, "You're going to get attached to me," and it's like, "wait, you might get attached to me." Think about that for a second. Now, it's all about women getting what they want and having more power.


If you're ready to settle down, how do you go out and get that?

ROXANNE: Definitely not at a bar. (Laughter) You almost have to change hats. If you meet somebody that you have a connection with on a mental level, you may not jump in bed with them. If you meet somebody where it's just purely physical, you may not try to make that into anything more than what it is.


Is there a double standard that guys can go out and hook up, but if a girl does it, she gets called a slut?

ASHLEY: Guys can be man whores, too.

MEREDITH: I think it's somewhat changing where women are more open and allowed to talk about their sex lives and are able to have discussions like we are now with each other without having to hush-hush. I think we're evolving a little bit.


Are there positives to hooking up?

MEREDITH: As long as those lines are clearly defined, I think you'll be fine. I know some people are getting ready to settle down. I'm not at all. I'm at my selfish stage where I want to focus on my career and I want to focus on getting my life on track. A relationship would be nice, but at the same time, I really don't want to have to deal with it.

ASHLEY: I'm in the same boat as you are. Straight out of college, I think I'm still trying to find myself before I can find a partner.


Does hooking up hurt you in the long run because you don't know how to have a functional relationship?

ASHLEY: I think you can learn from it. I don't think it prevents you from having a relationship.

MEREDITH: I don't think that it's going to prevent you from sustaining a relationship. I think that you'll learn from it and you might be a little bit cautious with what you're doing because you might have been there, done that; you might have been hurt before, you might have been lied to before. So you may have some trust issues you might not have had before if you weren't hooking up.

TENEILLE: I think I'm a little bit on the other end, because I've tried not to hook up. I've had maybe three relationships my whole life. One of them, I thought, was the one. I was going to get married, and that didn't work out. Sometimes I feel that maybe I haven't experienced a lot of the things that I could have.


Does hooking up with a guy allow him to treat you as a sex object?

ROXANNE: No, not at all. It's all about knowing what you want, and if that's all it's going to be, then there is no "I'm going to treat you this way," because that's how you know it is. I'm treating him this way, too. It's equal.


If you have little girls, what are you going to tell them about dating?

TENEILLE: It's bad. You're never going to have sex.

ASHLEY: Stay away from boys.

TENEILLE: Abstinence. (Laughter)

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at (813) 269-5303 or


[Last modified April 13, 2007, 12:50:38]

Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters