In the previous two articles, explored why hook-up culture isn’t a unique phenomenon for our very selfish and egocentric Millennial generation, and what two factors drive our current situation. Part 3 examines the current situation caused by our evolving gender dichotomy, why finding someone compatible beyond a hook-up is more difficult today, and what we need to remember when it comes to approaching sex and satisfying more than just our basic physiological urges. Enjoy.
Ascending the Hierarchy of Needs
I enjoy pointing to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for many examples, and this situation is no exception. At the bottom are the basic physiological needs; this includes sex. If you are in the 20% bracket, your sexual appetite is satisfied. It’s the same situation of rarely being hungry because you have an ample supply of food in your house. Those constantly chasing sexual encounters need to ascend further up the pyramid or risk facing a depressing life due to a lack of personal development.
If you track further up the hierarchy, you will see that love, friendship, and sexual intimacy are at about the halfway point. The idea that one can only achieve these attributes through a monogamous, committed relationship is why opposition to hook-up culture exists. Individuals can still find love and acceptance through their friends and sexual intimacy through a casual partner. Perhaps they are further up the hierarchy, constantly engaged in creative works or problem solving, and as a result have their other needs satisfied.
The difference today is that instead of one gender being able to pursue these dreams of self-actualization, we now have both performing the same task. Imagine that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a mountain that you need to regularly summit in order to realize your full potential and be your happiest. All people in the world are mountaineers tasked with scaling the peak. In the past, it was primarily men who were given the freedom and the opportunity to scale the mountain all the way to the top; they had more O2 tanks and better gear.
The lower you are on the mountain, the more people you have the chance of meeting, and everyone at the bottom is looking to have sex to satisfy their most basic, physiological needs. Meeting someone further up at a level of intimacy or body security could be the grounds for a relationship, but meeting someone at the top when you are both engaged in your highest order practices provides the best chance that you will both be a great match.
For example, let’s say two rocket scientists exist in the same proximity. If they meet at the bottom of the pyramid, it’s safe to assume that they met at someplace like a bar where the only thing filtering their meeting was the fact that they wanted to get laid. Designing rockets is hard, lonely work, so sometimes you just need that stress release.
If they met further up, say at the love/belonging level, the two rocket scientists are likely more compatible because they fulfill the need the other is seeking, but it is not necessarily an ideal match. They’ve gone on a few dates, they feel comfortable with the other, but something may be lacking. When you meet someone in a situation on the level of self-actualization, like working on a complex project together, or solving a problem in tandem, that will produce the strongest match possible because the criteria are so specific and other needs are already fulfilled.
The constant flux up and down the summit provides a dynamic flow of individuals to meet. People would not stay on the same level indefinitely; they would constantly be moving depending on their needs, and those who decided to commit to each other would make the ascent together. In order to meet a more ideal partner, you would have to find them at one of the more specialized, higher levels, which is more difficult due to the smaller area (time) available for you to do so.
Fast forward to today, and now the climb to the top is a much more equalized scenario. For the first time, women can now ascend further up towards the summit as a result of entering the work force en masse, attending university in greater numbers than men, and having equal rights. Women sometimes meet men at the level of self-actualization, but because of the smaller base of this section of the mountain, these individuals cannot stay for long to search for a partner. As a result of the increased number of climbers moving up and down the mountain, meeting the right person has become increasingly difficult, and many resort to short-lived relationships at this level.
For those brave souls who dare to ascend the summit, they must eventually return to base camp to restock on their supplies to fulfill their most basic needs, which means there simply isn’t enough time available to build a long-term relationship for those driven by their careers.
At the base of the summit, there are far more people due to the amount of space available. Unfortunately, finding a partner in this sea of people who are united by the most basic of needs is incredibly difficult. Those who are driven by a higher purpose must ascend the peak to have a higher chance of finding a more suitable match.
This situation creates a rather incredible paradox: if you reach for the summit, you have a higher chance of finding a suitable partner, but with each step up the mountain, you also have less time available with which to find them. As someone advances further in their career and acquiring basic resources becomes an easier task, they can remain at the higher levels for longer, which creates more time to find an ideal partner. For those just starting out in their careers, time is incredibly limited.
Thinking About Sex Beyond the Realm of the Physiological
As a result of time being the limiting factor in this scenario, online dating apps have surged in popularity, giving those summit ascending self-actualizers a more efficient method to find a suitable mate, especially in those years of career establishment. The impact of time has been reduced. Those who are most efficient at gathering basic needs at the base of the pyramid and above will be able to spend more time at the summit searching for potential mates. If you are attractive, affluent, or a combination of the two, you will have no problem providing yourself with enough food, shelter, and sex to promptly begin the next trip to the top.
The reason why online dating apps have become so popular is the 80/20 scenario presented before: obtaining sex is a physiological deficiency for 80% of the population. This is why in North America, where food, shelter, and other basic needs are so widely available, we place such an importance on obtaining sex through a variety of means; sex is the one thing holding many of us back from starting that ascent to the top. It is also why pornography and other means of obtaining the basic physiological parts of sex have become so popular in the past few decades, but these methods fail to provide us with the intimate levels of need that a real sexual encounter can.
Despite what we might convince ourselves, the basis for starting a relationship is physical attraction with the goal of having sex. What we forget is that despite it being listed at the physiological level first, sex is also present further up as intimacy, achievement (especially if you have a threesome with two supermodels), and confidence. When we only treat it as a one-dimensional act, we are dooming ourselves to a vacant state of mind void of true fulfillment.
Is hook-up culture ruining relationships as we know it? Not necessarily.
What is ruining relationships is people treating sex as one-dimensional in a transactional manner and failing to satisfy their higher order needs as a human being. Without a sense of confidence, intimacy, or achievement, no amount of sex will cure those conditions; they need to think about their sexual needs in a transcendental manner. Those who are comfortable with hook-up culture are more often than not also comfortable with themselves.
Let’s entertain a little thought experiment: Who is happier?
The guy that hooks up with a new girl every weekend? The girl in a committed relationship of over three years? The guy who is a 25 year old virgin? The girl who can’t seem to remain in a relationship longer than a month?
That guy who hooks up with a new girl every weekend could seem like “the man” to the guys, but perhaps he’s simply lashing out at the world because he was a loser in high school and still has major self-esteem and image issues. He tries to compensate by having a high number of sexual partners, which he equated to being popular based on what he grew up admiring in high school. Or perhaps he’s a genuinely awesome guy who just doesn’t have time to commit to a relationship and as a by-product of his awesomeness, girls throw themselves at him.
The girl in a committed relationship of over three years may love her partner unconditionally and be very happy. Or she may feel trapped, bored, and desire a change, which could lead to her cheating on her partner or simply breaking up with them. She could also be scared of meeting new people because she’s so used to the same partner, so she is socially withdrawn and anxious.
The 25 year-old virgin could be in a committed relationship where he has chosen to abstain from sex for religious reasons or personal beliefs, yet he may still be happy because he has other passions in life that outweigh those of the sexual nature. He could be someone who achieves happiness through his work or hobbies. Or he could be miserable, socially awkward, and so desperate for female contact that he is considering hiring a prostitute.
The girl who can’t remain in a relationship for over a month may seem distant, uncommitted, and frustrate all the men she has relationships with. Her parents and friends may worry about her inability to hold on to a partner for more than a month. She may have commitment issues because of things that happened in her past. She may get bored of men easily and lack maturity and self-control. Or she’s an incredibly busy and driven medical student and doesn’t have time to commit to a relationship, or simply hasn’t found her match yet, but she’s clearly content with how her life is proceeding.
So who is happiest? Impossible to say. Someone’s sexual history or habits is not necessarily indicative of their overall happiness and sense of self-worth.
To build on this model of thinking, we also need to stop raising men to think that their worth as males should be based on the number of sexual encounters they have. This type of behaviour is driving a lot of men to be very depressed because they are constantly seeking validation from an empty purpose. Your self worth as a male should not be based around whether or not you got laid last night; it should be based on what you’re doing with your life.
It’s a juvenile mode of thinking to treat sexual encounters as the single most important thing you should be doing as a young adult male. Once this attitude spreads, violence against women will decrease, violence against other men will decrease, and more attractive lifestyles will be created.
How many times have you seen a guy at a bar get overly aggressive towards a girl because he’s desperate to get laid? How many times have you seen a guy punch another guy out because of aggression caused by competition or interference when it came to hooking up with someone? A lot of bar fights between men are caused – either directly or indirectly – by the fact that one guy didn’t get laid and he’s angry about it because of how he pedestalizes sexual encounters. As a photographer at a nightclub, part my job is to observe people, and I’ve witnessed this happen hundreds of times even before I held that position.
Our boys need to be raised to be quality individuals and realize that they should care about developing themselves as people first, and realizing that quality relationships or those sexual encounters they desire will happen as a result of building an attractive lifestyle. It’s like using cheat codes for a video game just so can get the prize at the end. You’ll never be as satisfied beating the game that way as you would be going through the motions and improving until your skills and practice paid off. That’s why game designers create games in a specific way.
When hook-up culture is criticized, it is evident that those doing so are looking at the situation through a narrow scope. They’re viewing it simply by the numbers. So much more factors into happiness than sexual encounters, and while these may contribute to them, humans are sentient beings, and we operate on a level beyond that of the simply physiological.
We all derive happiness through a variety of activities, so it is time we stop judging others for their choices when it comes to relationships. The key is to stop trying to be happy, but instead live a life where happiness is the byproduct of your achievements and goals, instead of the lone goal. We lose sight of what makes us happy, and instead simply try to be happy.