News & Politics

Dating Diaries Roundtable: Hooking Up Vs. Dating

Today, our dating diarists debate whether dating is dead—and if hooking up is replacing it.

Meet our datersDana Neill | Sally Colson Cline | Michael Amesquita | Kate Searby | Max Schwartz | Lucas Wall | Jenn Heilman 

A New York Times op-ed columnist recently wrote that “dating is dead. Hooking up is here to stay.” Do you agree or disagree?

Sally Colson Cline: I just can’t seem to muster a lot of passion for the hooking-up/dating debate that some journalists get breathless over. Laura Sessions Stepp, I’m looking at you. I have friends who let hook-ups lead to relationships and friends who go on actual dates and would never just hook up. Neither type of friend seems to have any problems finding like-minded partners. Hooking up is part of the landscape for all genders and all sexual orientations, although to me it seems to be something for younger people to do. Who’s to say if the hooking-up generation will age into dating or if they’ll still be hooking up? Is hooking up here to stay?  Probably yes. Is that a tragedy? Hardly. Relationships will develop either way.

Michael Amesquita: I definitely think that the mindset of dating versus hooking up depends mostly on age and religion. Having taught high school, I know a lot of my students were just hooking up. I also know a lot of high schoolers who don’t drink or believe in premarital sex and still manage to have exciting dating lives. Maybe it does start at home with teaching your children values. As far as college and beyond, I think one needs to learn how to date—open doors, hold a conversation, take time to plan the date beforehand. 


Dana Neil: Wow. I agree with his final statement. That’s just sad. This article makes it seem like we’ve lost the ability and desire to get to know someone. Maybe it’s my age, but I don’t believe that “dating is dead and hooking up is here to stay.” This isn’t a new thing, maybe just a new facet of an old thing. It used to be called a one-night stand. For kids in college and young adults, at some point, they’ll want to meet someone special and build a life with them. And they will. I believe in emotional connections and feelings and commitment, and I don’t think our need for them will ever go away. I also understand that sometimes people only want the physical connections. There’s a time and a place for it all.

Lucas Wall: I agree with this perspective for the most part. I’ve long been frustrated by the difficulty in finding other guys who are looking for traditional dating. It has always seemed easier to find a hook-up than a true date. I feel this cultural trend favoring hook-ups is especially true in the gay community, where traditional dating has often been less of the scene because of the various degrees of comfort gay men have in being open and honest about their sexuality. While fully “out and proud” men are more likely to look for dates as they get older, there are many other men who have sex with men who are not at all looking for a boyfriend or husband. They want to stay in the closet relationship-wise while still fulfilling their sexual desires through anonymous sexual encounters.

One point in the article I disagree with is that hooking up only happens among friends. Perhaps that’s more true in the straight community, but in the gay world, my experience has been that hook-ups happen almost solely with total strangers met online or in a bar or club. Few of my friends have ever hooked up with each other—at least that I’m aware of. I have the sense that most gay male friendship circles are strictly platonic. The hook-up comes when you meet that hot stranger and want to get it on for the night without worrying about having to see him again.
Kate Searby: I totally disagree. Dating is alive and well, especially in Washington. If you’re sincerely interested in someone, you’ll naturally want to spend time getting to know him or her as a person. People who get physical before becoming emotionally intimate miss out on a lot. It very often ruins any chance of building a meaningful connection. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen—I’m sure it does sometimes—but hooking up first is not for me.


Jenn Heilman: Hooking up is here to stay, but dating is not dead. I’m not going to claim to be an expert on the subject of hooking up. I’ve never wanted to bring a guy home one night and not see him the next, but I’ve heard the stories of friends who have. Some live with no second thoughts about their decision. Others get their heart broken because if the occasional hook-up leads to a friends-with-benefits arrangement, more than likely one person will also be hoping that the relationship could turn out to be more while the other is satisfied with the way things are. I look at the hooking-up phenomenon as the 21st-century way of girls and guys experimenting with life, growing up, and figuring out what they eventually want out of a long-term, monogamous relationship. If this is the way they want to explore their sexuality, then more power to them. I’ve found that the idea of dating and really looking for someone to have a serious relationship with seems to kick in for guys between 27 and 30. Most people will seek long-term companionship—and it’s not the type of companionship you’re going to find with someone who’s gone the next morning before you even wake up.

Max Schwartz: I’d say that’s definitely true for college students. For the rest of us—even people like me who are only recently graduated—I’m not so sure. I do know people who aren’t really going on traditional dates with the people they’re “dating.” They just see each other at the same parties or go to bars with groups of friends, but nobody is really at the level of total informality I saw before I left school. Even the article only refers to college and high-school students.

I personally don’t have a lot of interest in it. If your social network looks like a wreath, with everyone hooking up with each other, then you’re just setting yourself up for serious problems later on when something inevitably goes sour.

What do you think, readers? Is hooking up here to stay, while dating is DOA? We want to know; let out your thoughts and responses to the dating diarists in the comments below!


>> See all Dating Diaries posts