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Engaging in safe sex amidst hookup culture

Hookup culture isn’t anything new, but its definition and impact evolve with each new generation.

And like each generation before, young people have to find out for themselves how to be involved in hookup culture in the safest and healthiest ways. Many articles like, “Here’s Everything We Know For Sure About Millennials And Sex“, write that millennials and Generation Z are having less sex than previous generations, but leave out the crucial information of what they consider the definition of sex. Sex is no longer referred to as one definition.

How this generation defines sex counters what has been previously studied and claimed about this topic. Further, they seem to miss the pointthat ‘hookup’ is not always synonymous with ‘sex.’ The word ‘hookup’ is defined specifically as a purposefully vague and ambiguous term. Each individual has their own definitions of ‘sex’ and ‘hookup’. Mills first-year Gwenn Jergens describes hooking up as “everything from kissing to sexual intercourse.” One Urban Dictionary post states that it is usually used to “minimize or exaggerate what actually happened.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that in 2016, cases of chlamydia were at an all-time high. Nearly 50 percent of all reported cases of STDs last year were among people ages 15 to 24. The communities at highest risk are queer communities. The CDC writes that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are “disproportionately impacted by syphilis, HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases.” The CDC recommends that sexually active young people, especially women, are tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV only annually. Jergens gets tested each time she visits the doctor or plans to hook up with a new person.

It is necessary that hookups include conversations about testing and sexual health history. This goes beyond disease prevention; it is also a part of respect and communication in any sexual encounter. Jergens takes advantage of the tools at her disposal.

“I share my location with friends and tell them the plan for where I am going and what I will be doing,” Jergens said. “If I have never met the person, I will plan to meet in a public place and see if I’m comfortable enough with them and the situation to proceed to more intimate activities.”

Discussions of safe sex don’t begin and end with one’s partners though. Sex-positive dialogues between peers and families lead to more sex-positive communities. Sex-positivity is, again, an ambiguous term, but generally refers to an ideology where consensual, healthy expressions of sexuality are seen as good and are not judged or shamed.

“I feel like [Mills] is a space I would be comfortable discussing questions and concerns and seeking help if necessary,” Jergens said.

The main shifts that have occurred between generations in terms of their views on sex are that it is now more common to have active, informed conversations about sexThe Community Health and Resource Center located in Cowell 108 offers students resources (such as internal and external condoms, dental dams, lube, STI and UTI test strips) and information at no cost. Vera Whole Health isn’t currently able to offer STI screenings, but beginning in mid-November they will be able to. Clinics such as Planned Parenthood can offer most birth control options as well as other gynecological services at little or no cost.

As convoluted as the discourse surrounding ‘hookup culture’ can be, the most important thing is to keep dialogues going and learning and exploring for oneself.