Meet, Greet, Delete: How’s India’s ‘Hookup’ Culture Faring?
“Sex is cool, but have you ever heard of not making a big deal about it?”
Sex. Lust. Seduction. Attraction. Autonomy. Agency. Body. Emotions. Expectations. Time. Attachment. Conversations. Encounters. Memories.
For many, the heart doesn't get ripped out of the chest anymore when you don't see them again. “Sex is cool, but have you ever heard of not making a big deal about it?” smirks 28-year-old Sneha* from Delhi. Sex has been afforded the choice of letting go of emotional reserves, she explains to me with a tinge of relief in her voice.
“Dispensability is now a way of life, you know? Everyone can be done without, unless you're sure you’re investing right,” she says. “Wham-bam-thank-you- ma’am works for me... for some, it doesn't though,” she trails off into silence.
She’s not new to the dating apps that have mushroomed online in the past few years, and is quite comfortable with the unspoken pact - Take it easy. Don’t think long-term right away.
Too caught up to read? Listen to the story here.
So what am I getting at? Is this representative of young India? Hell, no. Not even a smattering of them.
But it does bring to light a certain school of thought that is – you could say – tied to ideas of ‘sexual liberation’ and ‘bodily agency’ and has been crawling its way to the top among urban Indian millennials.
“If you are hooking up, and then you have a tendency to get attached... ” 20-year-old Kartik* from Bombay grimaces at me, “...you better make that clear... nothing uncool about it, but you have to lay it all out before stepping in,” he closes with a benign smile.
Which ominous vacuum are the emotions getting sucked into then, I ask myself.
Maybe, it is the lack of time.
I am guessing not a lot of us have the time to writhe in an emotional quandary while peeling potatoes or a run-of-the-mill veggie on the kitchen counter-top. We would love to, but... alas! Mostly, the potatoes come peeled and cooked in a Swiggy delivery box, while we are hunched over a computer at work.
Time is a fast-depleting asset riding on a hustle culture that ensures long work hours and very little time to languish in what could be.
And no, no one's singing about their hookups either.
(PS: Alia Bhatt and Tiger Shroff can be seen serenading their hookups, before tons of haphazard (probably) steroid-riddled torsos, in Karan Johar's latest with a cringe-worthy 'hai din mein ye tere ghar, kahin aur guzre ye raatein’ line that makes you lose faith in sexual liberation altogether.)
“I feel people have compartmentalised sex as a bodily need and not just an emotion. And safe sex is all the precaution you need. Find a nice person, have a nice evening, go out and drink, and then do your thing. It is also the new time-pass of sorts. You get to explore your sexual preferences, meet new people, and check out new places. But I don't know if ‘hookup culture’ is here to stay,” says 28-year-old Rishika*, a resident of Bombay.
She also tells me, in a mellow pitch, that she met her boyfriend on a dating app and “things got serious”. “Before that, I was the hunter,” she says with a cackle.
So, are dating apps destroying ‘traditional love’?
“Perhaps not. There are tons of people who are not comfortable with dating apps and ‘hookups’. They stay away. It is really that simple. Although I dunno how they are meeting new people,” wonders 25-year-old Shikha* while she tells me that she is “a little bit emo” about things, but she “manages to sift through” and “find the emo ones only” to “hook up with”.
So, how are people dealing with a sexual revolution of sorts that has completely turned conventional ‘morality’ on its head?
“Just take the analogy of employment-type and relationship-type – odd job vs career to hookup vs marriage. It’s a question of commitment and as long as both parties are game, it’s fine. However, there’s no question of sex sans emotions, because the act of sex in itself is a splurge of pleasure. I strongly believe, either way, one has to be completely honest with oneself and the other person on why they’re getting into it. Else, it’s just a load of emotional baggage to deal with... '' claims 25-year-old Saransh* from Bangalore, while reiterating to me that there are always “pros and cons to everything”, no matter what.
The ease of meeting, greeting, and deleting is a boon and a bane. Is the test-drive (leashed to an infinite scroll of faces, and choices, on dating apps), before the real thing, ruining all perseverance, patience, and resilience among hookup-advocates?
The next 10 years shall decide.
India's ‘hookup’ landscape might sound like a PG-rated blob, anchored on a nexus between class-agency- education-privilege-lifestyle, but from the looks of it, priorities, for young Indians, are well-defined.
A ‘hookup’ is the new post-truth. Each one’s got to figure out what it means to them. “And once you are sorted, have fun with it, ya! Life is too annoying to be overthinking sh*t,” says Sneha* before hanging up on me to get ready for a “15-hour work day”.
*All names have been changed at the request of the ones interviewed.
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