Dear Dr. Jenn,
Sometimes I have sex with a guy before I feel ready to have it. And then once I have sex, even if it’s just a hookup, it seem like I like the guy more than I want to. Why do I do these things?
Great questions, and you’re definitely not alone with these experiences! I think an important question to ask is whether hooking up works for you. And by this I mean, does it make you happy, satisfied, pleasured, or whatever positive experience you’re looking for, during and after sex?
There’s a notable difference between “hooking up” — which is having casual sexual interactions, and “hookup culture” — which is the set of beliefs around what is expected when hooking up. So when you talk about having sex before you feel ready, that is probably happening for two different reasons: First, because you think that sex is expected and that he won’t be like you if you don’t have sex; and second because the guy may be pushing for sex because he has the belief that you want and expect it or because he was taught growing up that guys are supposed to push for what they want sexually. These assumptions are all part of “hookup culture” and don’t allow for clear communication of wants and needs, and also don’t allow for the respect of differing sexual boundaries.
The other part you mentioned is that you seem to feel more emotionally attached to the guy than you want to. Some people are able to have sex and not feel attached to the person. Other people have a chemical reaction in their brains that makes them feel more connected to the other person after sex. Neither is right or wrong. But knowing how you’re wired, and honoring how you’re wired, is important to your happiness.
It’s up to each of us to recognize that the culture around hooking up might not work for us individually in terms of feeling comfortable speaking about and maintaining boundaries, and the emotional connection after the fact. Hooking up can be a really great experience, but not if we feel disempowered during or after. My suggestion is that you become clear on what you’re really hoping to get out of sex, know your boundaries and why you have them, and practice having conversations around this topic with your girlfriends. Seriously. I know it sounds cheesy and might feel embarrassing, but “role playing” like this can actually help us learn skills to apply when we’re afraid to speak up for ourselves!
If you want to specifically read more about this, check out College Women & Hookup Culture .
(This blog post was originally posted as part of the Real Deal Girls Project.)
~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego Sexologist, Sexuality Speaker, & Sociologist