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Hookup culture isn't Generation Z's girlboss slay, it's patriarchy at work

Alex Cooper hosts "Call Her Daddy," a symptom and a cause of the misogynistic hookup culture that plagues Generation Z.  – Photo by Alexandra Cooper / Twitter

As the intersection of childhood and adulthood, university positions itself at the beginning of the rest of our lives. It just so happens that for many of us, the beginning of forever looks like a bunch of awkward young adults, huddled together in the lounge of a residence hall, fans blasting in vain attempts to cool off sweaty bodies — with building sexual tension looming overhead.

So what do most people make of this situation? Clearly, it’s a conduit to hookup culture. 

Because of course it is. In Generation Z's perpetual quest to prove that we are the most progressive generation and that we love ourselves and each other more than any generation that came before us, it feels almost natural that we would then be inclined to embody that in our relationships.

This phenomenon isn’t exclusive to individual people, either. Podcasts like “Call Her Daddy” and other forms of media have been heralded as innovative, authentic and, by some accounts, feminist for their tellings of young people hooking up and positive view of hookup culture — but at what cost?

The glorification of hookup culture is unsurprisingly (but still disappointingly) overt in “Call Her Daddy,” in which host Alex Cooper’s radical approach to gender equality is to embody all of the things misogynistic men have done to her, including but not limited to ghosting, manipulating and just outright mistreating men in the name of being a “goddamn daddy.”

Cooper is regarded by her fans as a powerhouse of a woman for her relentless hustle and uncensored storytelling. She is celebrated for her willingness to share her sexual past in graphic detail — in many ways, this authenticity is, in fact, an unabashed step in the right direction, and I’d be the last person to shame any person, any woman, for their transparency. In this regard, Cooper is girlbossing, and I applaud her for that.

But my praise abruptly ends there. It’s no secret that beneath the entertaining anecdotes, there’s an undercurrent of internalized misogyny. Cooper frequently recounts “her” stories from a quasi-third-person perspective, constantly referring back to what the man in her story is thinking, describing what she’s doing or how she looks, but rarely how she’s feeling.

In psychology, this is referred to as objectification theory, and from a young age, it affects the way women and girls view themselves and their bodies — as objects to appease male sexuality rather than their own.

At this point, you may be wondering why I chose to go on a tangent about a Barstool Sports podcast (a red flag, in and of itself), but taking a step back, we can see that “Call Her Daddy,” like so many other media that claim to exemplify the modern woman, is actually just a microcosm of the oppressive dynamics of hookup culture.

Under the guise of embodying autonomy and embracing human nature, young women often come to college feeling like they have to participate in hookup culture to experience college to its fullest. College is where you experience freedom for the first time: moving away to a college town, away from the parents who once dictated your life, away from the town that possibly made you feel constricted in your own home.

Naturally, hookup culture may feel like the key to a part of yourself that you may have not been able to access before. After all, sexual exploration is a good thing, a healthy thing, especially in a collegiate environment with accessible health care and education.

But as freeing as hookup culture is presented to be, we need to acknowledge that in our imperfect society, there is no such thing as perfect autonomy.

I’m reminded of a quote from Margaret Atwood’s “The Robber Bride” in which she writes, “Male fantasies, male fantasies, is everything run by male fantasies? ... Even pretending you aren't catering to male fantasies is a male fantasy … You are a woman with a man inside watching a woman. You are your own voyeur.”

We want to believe that we are agents of growth and curiosity, so badly that we get gaslit into forgetting that ultimately, no matter how badly, how genuinely you may want to explore your sexuality, you are a pawn to men — we all are.

To have even a shot at winning their game, in which the prize is male validation, women are conditioned through shows like “Call Her Daddy” to emulate the very same behaviors of men that have been weaponized to oppress us.

To be clear, it’s not a bad thing for a woman to want sex. But the game, an exchange of power and social capital at the expense of our senses of self-worth, is a tool of the patriarchy, not to mention one that too often either fetishizes or excludes people of color, queer people and fat people.

So if being a “goddamn daddy” and dominating hookup culture means having to stoop to the same level that misogynists are on and playing their game, count me out.


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