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The Myth of the Hoe Era

Written by Anna Thornley

February 22, 2023

It’s a Friday night. You open Tinder. You start swiping. You swipe past fifteen leering men before you swipe right on an unassuming, inoffensive guy named Matt. You aren’t particularly attracted to him, but you don’t think he’d kill you, and that’s good enough. It’s a frenzy; you start swiping so fast one face blurs into the next. You accidentally swipe past the most beautiful man you’ve ever seen. The one that got away! You can’t help but feel like you weren’t supposed to know there were this many people in the world.

“Heyyyyyy,” says Matt. You can almost hear his vocal fry through the phone. Too low effort. You’re not going to dignify that with a response. “Are you a cigarette because I’d like your butt in my mouth” says another match. You feel like you got the wind knocked out of you. Disgusting– you unmatch and block. You’re enmeshed in five half conversations, where you each send a message once a day until you make plans or it dwindles into non-existence. You’ve given three other guys your number. Two have texted. One you’ve responded to and made plans to hang out with later that night.

Girl Boss feminism tells women that in order to succeed in society, they need to emulate men. This can be seen in the workforce. Take Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In;” Sandberg’s ethos says that in order to close the wage gap and break the glass ceiling, women should channel aggression, force, and domination. This mentality extends to sex. Under the chokehold of hookup culture, young women are told that in order to be liberated, they should fuck like men. They should get comfortable ghosting and being ghosted. They should learn that communicating clearly and kindly is a sign of weakness, and “catching feelings'' is an embarrassment. Young women are told that if they lower their expectations, they can’t be disappointed.

You have two hours until your plans. You carefully choose an outfit. You don’t want to reveal too much personality or skin. You pick out jeans that make your butt look good. A tank top, not a t-shirt. You can’t risk sweat stains. A nice bra, one that gives you cleavage without falsely advertising. Underwear without period blood. You need to look effortless. You need to look good.

This preparation is a laborious process. Much of straight sex entails hard work for the female party: blow-jobs, hand-jobs etc. There’s a reason for that terminology. Sex has become a means of production in our capitalist hellscape. It is a currency, and women are now being taught to exploit it under the guise of liberation.

You text to confirm your plans with the guy. He’s supposed to come over at 10. It’s 8:30, and you’ve heard nothing all day. You curl up in bed and open a drink, trying to loosen up. Finally, at 9:30, your phone dings, “sorry, something came up lol.” This stings. You don’t have an attachment to this guy,  you’ve never met him, and he doesn’t owe you anything, you tell yourself, not really, but your ego is wounded. You shaved! Ugh, you cleared your schedule. It’s Friday night, and you’re sitting at home alone, waiting. You text your best friend, “here I am again! Waiting like a woman…”

Getting flaked on is the norm. The illusion of choice provided by dating apps makes real commitment a scarcity. Why commit to plans with one person when another, better, hotter person could be free?

You text someone else. You should’ve had a backup. These guys are interchangeable to you; you treat them like objects. You hate being treated like an object in return. But that is the nature of this game. Matt is free. He keeps messaging you. Fine. You’re all ready, so why not?

He knocks on your door. You’re buzzed now, and it’s eleven. You’re getting tired. After a few minutes of stilted conversation about majors and where you’re from, you start kissing. It’s nothing special, a little slobbery and overly excitable. The hookup follows suit. He comes in 230 seconds. You count. You don’t come at all. He starts getting dressed right away, and when you check your phone after he leaves, it is 11:19. He didn’t even stay for 20 minutes.

The empty feeling that always follows these encounters begins to creep in. You roll over and try to fall asleep. While this is a very normative account of cis straight sex, the phenomena it encapsulates are somewhat universal in describing a current iteration of hookup culture.

Casual sex has been marketed as revolutionary. It has been sold as a way for women to take back the power. But it does not achieve that goal. Both parties are being used: for validation, a quick orgasm, maybe momentary intimacy if they stick around for an obligatory, 3-minute cuddle afterwards.

You keep thinking about his body on top of yours, his smell still on your sheets. You’ll wash those tomorrow. At least, you tell yourself, as you finally drift into sleep, at least you’ll be able to spin this into a funny story to tell your roommates tomorrow. That’s something. You tell yourself it’s enough to make the mediocre sex and ensuing crash in self esteem worth it. Yes, you think, that was okay. And there’s always tomorrow night.

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