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Hook-Up Culture and its Effects on the Mental Health of the Gay Community

Hook-up culture in the gay community is deeper than sexual gratification; it profoundly affects the community’s mental health. Therefore, this paper intends to present a discussion on hook-up culture and its effects on the mental health of the gay community.


Hooking up in the gay community can start as early as high school by gay teens signing up on the infamous gay hook-up app, Grindr. Although it was created specifically for gay men over the age of 18, gay teens sneak their way into it, joining the millions of gay adult men waiting to send their nude pictures to one another. 


Gay teens growing up in this culture usually have bad experiences. Examples include being groomed by older men, being told they're unattractive because of their race and/or ethnicity, being told they're too fat or not skinny enough, experiencing sexual assault, and the list goes on and on. 


These teens grow up thinking that this is all okay.

These teens grow up thinking that men are supposed to treat them this way.

These teens grow up thinking that hooking up is the closest thing they’ll get to love. 


Gay teens move up towards college and subsequently begin their lives after college while holding on to the same mental health problems that hook-up culture created.


A consequence of hook-up culture in the gay community is self-esteem issues.


Gay men are pressured to have specific physiques, and to quite literally be perfect because if not, the fear of not being attractive takes over. On hookup apps, some gay men only show images of their torsos to prove their musculature is up to the harsh body standards. These men get the most attention because their muscular body types are the ones that the gay community deems the most attractive. These athletic men are given the power to decide who is the most beautiful among them, which makes rejection from these men sting harder. Rejection signifies that your physicality, how you look, was not good enough for other gay men. More achingly, it means that you are indeed imperfect. A hierarchy of body types is constructed due to this body type dynamic.


Diving deeper into the impact of rejection shows how the body hierarchy perpetuates unrealistic standards on gay men, subsequently harming their mental health. It makes gay men feel worthless and not good enough. One may argue, isn’t feeling low about yourself natural after rejection? Of course. What makes this different is why these gay men were rejected by the muscular and “more attractive” men.


Gay men are forced constantly to feel like they need to be perfect just so that they can get a small bit of attention from other men. When a man is not perfect, i.e., too skinny, fat, acne, too hairy, too tall, or not tall enough, it makes gay men feel insecure in their bodies. In the heads of a Grindr user who doesn’t have a perfect body, the reasons for being rejected are already in their minds, yet they’re still brave enough to text the hot guy. It's like the light of confidence in a gay man will burn bright, but it dims when thoughts that explain how they are not good-looking come in. 


Besides feeling insecure about the way one looks, hook-up culture also affects the way gay men navigate love.


Only having sex as one’s sole connection to partnership and love warps the mind to believe that that is the closest feeling they’ll get to love, and this is fortunately not true. There is a bigger world out there that does not have profile pictures one can swipe right or left on or direct message. 


The hook-up culture is a tiny aspect of what love looks like. However, the very nature of hook-up apps is to make gay men addicted to them. It ultimately becomes a game. When one wants to have sex or have male validation, hook-ups are always available in a hook-up app’s repertoire. Finding male validation from a hook-up does more harm than good because, at the end of sex, they disappear. This is toxic because a gay man who reflects and tries to understand why they cannot find love must deal with the healing process of moving away from hook-up culture.


Insecurities around one’s unique physicality move into insecurities about finding love. 


If one isn’t good enough for a hook-up are they good enough for love? 


Gay men question if their physical beauty is preventing them from finding real love outside of Grindr, and other apps, but it’s not them, it’s the culture they are in.


The hook-up culture is quick, easy, and always available, but it has toxic consequences for the gay community. Starting in adolescence, it breeds insecurity in the lives of gay men, but most damaging, make gay men grow to feel like they are not worthy of love. This profoundly affects the mental health of the gay community. 


Hook-up culture should be a method for gay men to practice their agency and learn more about themselves healthily. Our version of hook-up culture does the opposite, inflicting harm against a community that needs to heal from the traumatic cycle of insecurities and unworthiness that this culture exacerbates.

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Tags: #gay #mentalhealth #hookup

1 comment

4 months, 2 weeks ago by mehr.chaudhary

The body standards, the mental and physical struggles of gay men, and their standing in society are often not talked about. People frankly don't even care about creating a safe space for gay men. Honestly, I can't thank you enough for writing about this.

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