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No Strings Attached

In this episode, host Anita Rao speaks with writer and researcher Sophie Aaron, whose undergraduate thesis project explored the effects of COVID-19 on hookup culture at Oberlin College. Atlanta-based counselor and sexual health educator Cherlisa Jackson discusses the relationship between hookup culture and our self-esteem, as well as how the expectations for casual encounters might look different depending on your culture, gender or community.

Also joining the conversation is motivational speaker and TikTok user Cindy Noir, who has spent periods of her life abstaining from sex as a way to reclaim her body and sexuality from hookup culture. Through a discussion of Celibacy TikTok and the healing power of abstinence, Cindy explores some of the reasons why hookup culture is being sworn off by those thought to be its most enthusiastic participants.

Thanks to Joseff Inspiration, Jordan Jeppe and Single Woman Chronicles for contributing audio to this episode!

Three Myths about Hookup Culture … Busted!

Myth: The term “hookup” means penetrative sex.

Fact: As a term, “hookup” is intentionally vague and can refer to all kinds of casual sex, including (but not limited to) penetrative sex.

Myth: To be sexually liberated, you have to be comfortable hooking up.

Fact: Not everyone enjoys casual sex, and that’s okay. Sexual liberation means having the freedom to identify your own sexual likes and dislikes … which may or may not include hooking up.

Myth: Everybody’s doing it.

Fact: There are actually far fewer people participating in hookup culture than we’ve been led to believe. Online spaces like Celibacy TikTok demonstrate that not only are many young folks abstaining from hookup culture, they’re abstaining from sex entirely.

Copyright 2022 North Carolina Public Radio. To see more, visit North Carolina Public Radio.

Anita Rao is the host and creator of "Embodied," a live, weekly radio show and seasonal podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content. She has traveled the country recording interviews for the Peabody Award-winning StoryCorps production department, founded and launched a podcast about millennial feminism in the South, and served as the managing editor and regular host of "The State of Things," North Carolina Public Radio's flagship daily, live talk show. Anita was born in a small coal-mining town in Northeast England but spent most of her life growing up in Iowa and has a fond affection for the Midwest.
Audrey Smith