According to Ohio State University’s e-history website, hookups had a huge upswing in frequency between 1920 and 1960. This was due to the growing popularity of automobiles, advancements such as movie theatres, access to birth control and increasingly open public discussions about premarital sexual experimentation. In 2023, hookup culture in Hatfield is a wanton phenomenon fuelled by liquid courage, academic stress, healthy curiosity and a shocking amount of space in the toilet stalls in bars at the Strip. Here are ten tips for surviving hookup culture in Hatfield.

Ask for consent.

Sexual consent happens when all parties involved in a sexual exchange agree to participate of their own volition. Whenever you are about to hook up with someone, make sure that they are taking part in it enthusiastically. It is not cringy to ask directly whether someone wants to have sex with you, however you must respect their answer. Furthermore, ensure that you are consenting as well and remember to exercise your right to say no whenever you want to.

Use contraception.

You have probably heard the phrase “no glove, no love” enough times to remember it for the rest of your life. While condoms are incredibly effective at reducing the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), they are not the only form of contraception. There are many options to choose from, such as pills, injections and intrauterine devices. Research the available options well in advance to protect yourself from STIs and surprise pregnancies, and carry some form of protection with you every time.

Do not do anything you are not ready for.

Dr Denise Acevedo of Michigan State University compiled a collection of humanities scholars’ reflections on hookup culture and its psychological effects on college students. These reflections suggest that “college students hooking up [is] connected to isolation, loneliness and boredom”. Hooking up is infamous for being an emotionally removed, transactional experience. If you are prone to feeling emotions like loneliness and isolation, hookup culture might not provide the support system that could guide you through that or help you to evade those feelings. If you are not ready, whether due to emotional reasons or sexual qualms, do not feel pressured into taking part in hookup culture.

Safety comes first.

Send a trusted friend or family member your location if you leave with someone you do not know or trust, or end up somewhere you do not recognise. Always have a way to get back home, whether in the form of Uber money, your own car or a friend on standby in case you get stranded. Above all, trust your gut feeling. Instinct and situational analysis can make for a killer, life-saving combo.

Set the tone.

Make your expectations known from the start, and find out what the other party expects so that you can determine whether these expectations align or not. If you are looking for something casual, inform any other parties explicitly. If you just want a fun night or two, let them know. If you are looking for a relationship, move out of Hatfield.

Get tested regularly.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that sexually active people should get tested at least once a year for gonorrhoea and chlamydia. If you have multiple sexual partners, the center suggests getting tested every three to six months and having an HIV test conducted at least once. A huge part of safe sex practices is knowing your status and remaining as informed as possible for the sexual health of both you and your sexual partners.

Do not hook up in shady places.

The dangerous climate of South Africa is apparent enough when you are walking down the street. Much more so when you are hooking up with someone (likely, a stranger). It is important to be street smart by trusting your gut instinct and taking certain precautions to ensure your safety. Sometimes that might mean choosing the lesser of two evils, like hooking up in the backseat of their car by that Engen garage opposite the Strip instead of driving to their place 30 minutes away, where you might feel unsafe.

Do not hook up with your friends.

Unless you can set and maintain clear boundaries, this might not be the right call for many friendships and could lead to awkward changes in the friendship dynamic. It might help to discuss boundaries with your friends pre- or post-hookup to navigate those changes.

Try everything once. 

Being in university provides a great opportunity to explore new things. You can try things you have always wondered about, figure out your likes and dislikes and make memories you will either cherish forever or try very hard to forget. Trying everything once will help you keep an open mind about all the unknowns yet to be discovered.

Not included: hooking up with your friends, or frequenting the Engen/Caltex garages on Lynnwood Road or any toilets on the Strip.

Look out for yourself.

As hooking up is known for being a fun experience that leads to an eventful night and a story to tell, it is easy to get so caught up in trying to impress sexual partners that you do not get to enjoy it. Make sure that it is pleasurable for you too by keeping open communication and prioritising your pleasure and comfort as much as possible.

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