Hooking Up: the Emotional Differences between Men and Women and Sex

scent of attraction

Men and women operate differently when it comes to the emotions associated with sex and physical attachment. As much as we try to tell ourselves stories about how that isn’t true, the fact is that men and women have different emotional reactions to one-night stands or “friends with benefits” arrangements.

For men, hooking up is a biologically engineered desire. Men are wired to want to spread their seed with as many women as possible. How a man responds to that desire indicates his emotional maturity and growth, but the temptation, at least, probably isn’t going to go away except when a man is suffering from extraordinary medical, mental, or physical health issues. For a normal, healthy man, having a one-night stand does not necessarily lead him to consider a long-term emotional relationship with his hook-up partner.

For women, intimacy is more complicated. Women are biologically wired to nest and to maintain a family unit, and the act of sharing intimacy fires up the production of hormones that help to create an emotional bond.

Of course, not all men are going to sleep around indiscriminately and not all women are just waiting to get settled down and have children. What we’re saying is that men in general are not very likely to see the need to form an emotional attachment with hook-up partners, while women, in general, will form some sort of emotional attachment—the degree of attachment depending on the individual. This has been borne out in studies and surveys by scientists and professional surveyors.

Statistically, men and women who have had multiple casual sex partners are much more likely to cheat when in a committed relationship. Also, studies conducted on college women from the University of Pennsylvania and Yale who engaged in the hook-up culture reported using alcohol more heavily than they normally would in order to feel more comfortable with hooking up with a stranger for a one-night stand or a “friend with benefits” arrangement.

So what’s the takeaway? Examine your reasons for having casual, non-committed sex. If you are going to hook up, be aware that there can be negative consequences. For men, those negative consequences can be STDs, an inability to participate in a committed relationship, and guilt. For women who hook up on a regular basis, STDs and pregnancy are also a risk as is a sense of loneliness and depression. Overall, the hook up culture is kinder to men than women when it comes to the emotional toll.

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