Hookup Definition: Exploring the Meaning, Culture & Perceptions

Hookup’s meaning can be rather vague as it usually means there is sex involved between two people without any relationship commitments.

But for some, it may just mean kissing, making out and physical touches.


There is a certain cheeky mystery to hookups that people can’t seem to get enough of.

The ambiguity behind this is the pulsating heart of hookups that makes them so darn irresistible to many.

Whenever someone tells me they’re “hooking up”, it always leaves me in a cloud of disarray.

And almost every time this happens, my follow up question would always be “So, what does that mean? Are you guys just kissing, flirting or having sex?”.

I always get a different variation of answers and that got the gears turning in my head.

So, let’s explore the different understanding, perception and interpretation of what a hookup is.

A research article titled “What is Hooking Up? Examining Definitions of Hooking Up in Relation to Behavior and Normative Perceptions”, documented publications focusing on sexual hookups on college campuses.

It found that different research has shown inconsistency in how hooking up is defined.

Despite that, researchers generally concur that hooking up involves casual sexual behaviours, ranging from kissing to intercourse with a partner without any relationship commitment nor expecting any such commitment.

In the article, one cited research found that some students feel that hooking up generally refers to having sexual intercourse but many refers it to something less than sex.

Some found that it could mean just kissing, making out and touches.

However, another research paper found that about half of college students define hooking up as involving sex while 9% refers hooking up as not involving sexual intercourse.

With all these variety definitions and with no clear answers in sight, the team decided to ask real people of what are their interpretations of the word “hookup” in 2020. And boy, were they colorful.

1. It involves sexual intimacy of sorts with zero emotions

Many research and people in general concur that this is the general definition of a hookup.

It could range from anything from kissing to sex, or everything in between.

Is sex always in the equation then?

Emma, 30, said that a hookup doesn’t necessarily have to end with sex.

“For me, the general term of hooking up means getting together where both people can enjoy whatever physical activities that takes place and doesn’t necessarily mean sex,” she said.

Then, will you come out feeling satisfied?

Luke, 25, said it doesn’t necessary mean that the sex has to be satisfactory for both parties as it is more of a way to release his lust for that moment.

““Hookup basically ends with me cumming. There is no emotional connection so it doesn’t necessarily end with the other person or even myself, coming out being totally satisfied as it isn’t intimate sex. It’s a quick bang and go…with the person’s consent of course,” said Luke.

And for some hookup means straight up sex and nothing else so that they don’t need to deal with any relationship drama after.

“It means sex to me. It is basically a way for me to scratch my itch minus dealing with the emotional redness that comes after,” said Stephanie, 26.

2. It could be brief make out session or it could last several hours.

It could be a brief make out session or even sleeping over at someone’s place.

It usually doesn’t last beyond that and there is no contact after that.

Shaun, 25, said that it is really like a quick getaway.

“Basically, I go in, bang and then leave. It is anything involving fun where it is a fast entry in and exit out,” he explained.

3. Spontaneous

It isn’t exactly planned and is rather on the spur of the moment unless both parties actually laid out the rules before meeting up, especially if you connected through hookup apps.

That also means both parties usually just go with the flow like there’s no tomorrow.

“I’ve met girls in apps where we agree to have coffee and chat with no discussions on the after, before meeting up.

“The invitation to sex comes after. In my experience, girls like to see if there is any chemistry in the first place before inviting me over,” said Alex, 30.

4. One night stands

Hookups have been very fluid and that includes what it has been known by people.

Slang terms such as “no strings attached”, “casual encounters”, “booty call” and “one-night stands” are commonly used when referring to hooking up.

For 28-year-old Chloe, the definition of hookups have been evolving over the years, especially with apps such as Tinder lying around.

“My parents would refer hooking up as just dating and hooking up into a relationship.

“I would say today it could mean – ONS, casual sex that’s not just for one night but no friendship is involved, or even friends with benefits,” she said.

Friends with benefits do have one distinct difference though.

It happens when two friends agree to get into a sexual relationship while cutting out the emotions.

Interestingly enough, some refer hookups as flings but some think otherwise.

“Hookups are definitely a casual meet for sex or making out. If it happens with the same person repetitively, it’s a fling for me. But it is kind of fluid as it means different things to different people,” said David, 30.

4. Non-penetrative sexual activities

As pointed out earlier, some don’t need sex to consider it as a hookup.

Props for being able to restrain themselves from doing it and just cuddling or spooning till the next day.

Anything but sex. But that could just be me as I don’t fancy sleeping around but I like fooling around until oral sex and that’s it.

“Sometimes we just want to hug each other and fall asleep together. It is a way to get over the temporary loneliness, ” said Jerome, 31.

Some last thoughts on hookups

Hookups can be fun and may work for you if you’re looking for something to fulfill your sexual desires and explore them.

However, it may not work for everyone.

So, do give a thought first if it is for you, rather than giving in to the pressure by friends or society.

If you do decide to pursue hookups, we have a full guide on hookup, which includes some neat tips to get the steamiest hookups!

If you’re a lesbian or gay and looking to hookup, we did not forget about you!

We have tried and tested our top favourites hookup apps for lesbians and gays.

(Last updated: 21 December 2020)

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