What is a Hook-Up? Booty Calls, FWBs & Everything In Between

“What is a hook-up? Let’s get into the specifics.

When it comes to sex, modern society offers a lot of options. The popularity of online dating means that people are stepping out of their comfort zones, finding partners outside of regular social circles, and trying new things in the bedroom.\n

Hook-up: a sexual encounter that’s too short or too casual to be considered a romantic relationship.

Hooking up isn’t new. Humans have been doing the deed since the beginning of our existence. What has changed is the fact that we’re talking about it.

Well, I am, anyway.

When I first started picking up guys in my twenties, I assumed ‘hook-up’ meant the same thing as ‘one-night stand.’ I actually had a bit of a ‘drive-through’ scenario going on: I’d get in my car, head over to my local nightclub, hang out on the dance floor for a while, pick up a hottie, and drive them back to my place. They usually slept over and in the morning I’d see them gently out the front door.

As I progressed further in my explorations, I discovered other ways to get laid. My friends often shagged their other friends. Sometimes, my mates even had more than one boyfriend or girlfriend at a time. This sort of sexual behaviour was seen as wild in the noughties, but it’s becoming more and more common nowadays among folks who want more options than ‘ married, forever’ (and have the apps to find like-minded partners).

So, for me, a hook-up is neither a romantic relationship, nor a long-term, full-time endeavour. It’s any sexual interaction (of any duration) that requires less time and emotional investment than a loving partnership.

Types of Hook-Ups

There are many ways to connect with partners, and not all of these are of the ‘pash and dash’ variety. Here are a few options. Be aware that YMMV (your mileage may vary – you may have a different opinion or experience).\n

One-Night Stand

A scenario in which you have sex with someone and then never see them again. In the movies it’s done as an overnighter: when the hero/heroine wakes up in the morning, they find that their partner has quietly dressed and left without saying a word. But it happens other ways too – fuck and leave, sleep over and breakfast the next day, encounter at a sex club … or even a fling with a stranger whose name you don’t remember, in your best friend’s bedroom during a party.

Friend with Benefits (FWB)

Someone you spend time with and whose company you enjoy, but who you also have sex with. Unofficially, this is the hook-up variety most likely to evolve into a long-term relationship. However, a lot of people do fuck their friends, successfully and enjoyably.\n

No Strings Attached (NSA)

Shorthand for ‘sex without obligation’. I don’t like this term because it suggests ‘sex without responsibility’, and we have a responsibility to respect and care for the person we’re fucking, whether we’re dating them or not. But, like it or not, NSA is a thing that people do.\n

Fuck Buddy

Someone who, like a FWB, is around on an ongoing basis. In this type of relationship, it’s more about the sex than the friendship: you are friends with this person mostly because you both want to bang each other.\n

Booty Call

Someone with whom you have a mutual agreement to be available at short notice for sex (often at odd hours).I don’t like booty calls and I don’t do them: I enjoy sleeping, so being woken up makes me bad-tempered. But YMMV.\n

Play Partner

A person you get together with to ‘play’ (in some sort of sexual manner). I use this term to describe the folks I do kink stuff with, which doesn’t always include actual sexual intercourse. But it’s a nice term for lovers too, because ‘play’ sounds like fun, and good sex should be playful!\n


At this point, I can hear you saying \”Wait, what? We’re not supposed to have feelings for our hook-ups, what’s all this about love and shit?\” If you read on, you’ll discover that I believe emotions and feelings do have a place in every hook-up, no matter how brief. So, for me, a lover is someone I don’t intend to have a long-term or full-time relationship with, but that I see regularly and have a certain amount of affection for. It’s hard to manage the feelings around a lover-type relationship, but they can be very rewarding.”

Why Do We Do Hook-Ups?

A hook-up seems to be all about sex, right? But people are complex creatures, and it’s worth digging a little deeper.

Here are the reasons I hook up with people:

  • to relieve sexual tension
  • to connect with others emotionally
  • to ‘play’ and experiment
  • because meeting new people (and seeing them naked) is interestin
  • to practise my skills

My friends shared with me what they get out of it:

“It keeps me going between serious relationships.

“I have sex to blow off steam when I’m stressed.

“I’m shy around other people, and this is my way to practise before I get a girlfriend.

“I like finding people I ‘click’ with sexually, and then maybe think about turning it into a relationship after a while.

“I don’t have time for a regular partner, but I still want to get laid.”

The ‘Secret’ Reasons We Hook Up

Sometimes we don’t want to admit our real motivations, even to ourselves. These are the ‘less noble’ reasons that would make us seem selfish or self-indulgent if we blurted them out in polite company. Luckily, you’re not in polite company now, so here they are.\n

To feel more attractive to the opposite sex.

We love being told we’re sexy, but there’s something particularly honest about a partner demonstrating their sincerity via physical affection. It’s hard to admit that there’s stuff we don’t like about our bodies, but everyone has something they wish they could change. Fucking someone helps remind us that these ‘imperfections’ don’t matter. But if you still feel bad about your body even while you’re in bed with someone, it might be a good idea to do some work on that issue on your own time too. Everyone deserves to feel sexy.\n

Wanting to brag about it afterwards.

Feeling like a sexual champion is another kind of high. Bragging is generally frowned on in Aussie culture, because we don’t want to look like we’re ‘up ourselves’, but I will admit that I often high-five my friends the day after I get laid. The problem arises when we fixate on quantity over quality. When sex is just a way of getting social approval, you’re going to miss out on enjoying the actual sex, which kinda defeats the point. As long as you have a balance – other life pursuits that demonstrate what an awesome human being you are – then a bit of celebrating is fine and dandy.\n

Enjoying the chase.

I’m a moderately attractive thirty-something woman, and I love fucking twenty-five year olds. It’s exciting, like going on ‘sexual conquest’ safari. I love seeing someone I think is hot and making it my mission to charm them – this is the stuff of romance novels (and porn movies). Unfortunately, the ‘game’ can take a dark turn. If you get too caught up in the chase, you may get stuck with the idea that you have to ‘trick’ someone into having sex with you. Even the word ‘conquest’ suggests overpowering someone. When we think of our partners as unwilling participants, it opens the door to all sorts of pushy and underhanded tactics that fuck up the whole situation. And if you get too invested in the idea of changing someone’s mind, you run the risk of sexually assaulting them.

At the end of the day, your reasons are your reasons. Own them and own up to them, because knowing what you want is crucial. But first, a cautionary message…

Are Hook-Ups Right For You?

Is this something you’re actually up for? It’s important to be brutally honest with yourself, because hook-ups aren’t for everyone, and that’s OK. Before you go charging into the wilderness, you need to make sure you’re cut out for the journey. Sometimes I have phases in my life where I just don’t feel like getting sexy with strangers. Often it’s because I’m feeling lonely and want a deeper kind of relationship, so I hold off on casual dating until I find the right person. Or sometimes I’m just too damn busy to arrange hook-ups (while writing this book, for example).

There are lots of legit reasons that people don’t do hook-ups, including:

  • They prefer to be in a romantic relationship with the person they’re fucking
  • They’ve made a moral choice not to have sex outside of marriage
  • They aren’t into sex at all, or barely (this is what we call asexual. Often these folks will find other ways to connect with their partners that don’t involve sex).
  • They need to be emotionally attached to someone before they feel sexually attracted to them (this is called being demisexual).
  • They feel unsafe, either physically or emotionally, when dating new people.
  • Life circumstances make it difficult for them, e.g., being in jail, disability (although lots of disabled people do have awesome sex lives) or illness.
  • They ‘just don’t bloody well feel like it, okay?!’

All of the above are acceptable reasons to give hook-ups a miss.

What has your experience of sex been like so far? If you have hooked up, did you enjoy it? Do you feel good about the sex you’ve had, or does it make you feel ashamed? Thinking about how things went down in the past is useful, because it may give hints as to how well-suited you are to casual sex.

How much do you value yourself as a person? Our self-esteem can be fragile, and if you’re down on yourself then it might be hard to get vulnerable with strangers. In this game, mishaps and rejections are par for the course. If you take rejection personally, your self-esteem is going to take a real beating. Consider doing some work to bolster up your confidence (via counselling or self-help) before you put yourself at risk.

Lastly, how much room do you have in your life for hook-ups right now? How much time and effort are you willing to devote to this? I’m not just talking about dates – I’m also talking about the time it takes to find the right people, and the mental effort of getting your head around the situation. Hooking up is more of a time investment than we realise, when we load up a dating app and start swiping.

Trying something new is a great way to grow as a person. Casual sex can be a wonderful thing, if you’re starting from a good place. A good hook-up should be fun, rewarding, and leave yourself and your partner feeling better for the experience. Maybe it’s time to give it a go?

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