Post Classifieds

Ambiguity causes hook-up confusion

On The Sly

By Erica Sylvester Campus Talk editor
On October 11, 2011

It's Sunday morning and you're blissfully hibernating in your bed after a late night out. Your roommate attempts to sneak in to the room in a less-than-quiet manner, bringing you out of your slumber. Later, when you're both fully conscious, you'll inevitably ask about it and he or she will say, "I hooked up with so-and-so last night."

Insert the million-dollar evasive maneuver. You find out something did happen, while your roommate doesn't have to confess any details about the previous night's shenanigans. However, if you both interpret "hooking up" to mean different scenarios, the situation gets complicated. defines hooking up as "An incredibly ambiguous phrase that drives me absolutely insane when people use it." It's a pretty accurate description, as I have yet to find a universally accepted definition of the term.

To some, hooking up implies a pretty heavy make-out session, with potentially some caressing or groping added in. To others, hooking up implies nothing short of sex. There's a wide range on the hook-up spectrum, so unless you try to explain yourself, it's leaving your night open to misinterpretation from others.

A lot of people are OK with this. We use the phrase because it's ambiguous, not in spite of that fact. If you say you made out with a guy last night, people know what you did. Along the same lines, if you say you "got it in" with a girl the night before, it's pretty self-explanatory. But by saying you hooked up with so-and-so, you're adding a level of mystery that others will have to accept.

At times, people will say they hooked up or "messed around" with someone in order for their night to be misconstrued. Instead of putting imaginations to rest, they allow others to think more transpired than what actually did. A guy will say he hooked up with a girl and allow his friends to think he's implying sex, when all they did was kiss. It's a pretty sleazy move, but it happens.

Similarly, saying you hooked up with someone is like using a get-out-of-jail-free card. If you had sex with someone and regret it, you can save face by shrugging it off and making it seem like less happened.

"Hooking up" adds a level of mystery that is sometimes necessary. Your core group of friends does not need to know every gritty detail about your canoodling sessions, especially if you and your partner have a lot of mutual friends. And if they're the type of people to constantly bring up a situation to use against you later, it's sometimes best to just leave it at "we hooked up."

Everyone places a different level of importance on what hooking up means, but let's not forget there are multiple meanings behind the phrase. I told my roommate one time I was going to hook up with a friend later on, and she believed I was going to have sex with a friend from home. It was miscommunication at its finest, but it made me remember that hooking up is not always a sexual implication.

In a college setting, it seems like hooking up is more commonly practiced than dating. Dating implies a serious commitment between two people. Hooking up implies a more casual relationship, whether it leads to something more later on or not.

There's a stigma for people who have sex on the first date, but it seems like there's less judgment toward people who hook up with someone they just met. I'm not saying hooking up implies the most casual, frivolous forms of sex. You can definitely find a deeper, romantic meaning in sex even in a relaxed setting. The term "hooking up" just seems like a more casual alternative to dating. You hang out with the person to get to know them better, on both an emotional and physical level, without being pressured to commit to just one person.

 There's a social stigma for people who casually hook up as well. It's far less scandalous if you're doing whatever it is that you're doing, with your boyfriend or girlfriend. People are less likely to care that you just had sex if you've been with the same person for months.

 We're a society obsessed with labels. We label people before we get to know them and we label relationships between two people before they even have time to make sense of it themselves. We have an undying need to understand situations, and categorize people and events.

By saying two people are hooking up, you imply they have some sort of relationship to each other, but are still getting to know one another.

You're not implying that the girl is loose or the guy is a player. Just because they aren't committed to one another doesn't mean it's disgraceful. It's merely testing boundraries.

 Hooking up, in as many forms as it isn't, is like love in one sense. Everyone has their own definition and interpretation of the word, but it's always awesome.


Top 5 people you should avoid hooking up with

1. Your best friend

     Same or opposite sex, hooking up with your best friend is ultimately going to lead to a multitude of awkward situations.

     2. The girl passed out on the couch

     Go to bed looking for fun, wake up with a lawsuit. It's unnecessary and completely avoidable drama.


3. Your friend's ex

Bro code or girl code, it's not cool, especially if they still have feelings for their ex. If there are plenty of fish in the sea, leave their Nemo alone.

4. Your roommate's boyfriend/girlfriend

     There's no reason to ruin their relationship, even if it's on the outs, or one of them is cheating, etc. And you'll be destroying your relationship with your roommate in the process.

5. Your roommate's siblings

      You have to live with your roommate for the rest of the year. If they know you hooked up with their sibling, it puts them in an awkward position.

      Honorable mentions:

      The stage-five Clinger

      Your roommate

      Matt Driffill (Managing editor)

      Your hot professor


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