hooking up

In looking at the Manhunt site for my latest zeugmoid posting (the site’s slogan is “Get on, get off”), I came to wonder about the use of hook up in these days of electronic sexual connection. Just how far have people extended it from face-to-face connection?

The background, from OED2:

to hook up : to establish a link with, to make a connection with. Also const. to, and with direct object. [cites from 1925 on]

Then in the draft additions of December 2005:

to hook up

orig. and chiefly U.S.

1. intr. To get married or become involved in a romantic relationship; to engage in sexual activity. Usu. with with. [cites from 1903 on]

2. intr. To meet; to join forces. Usu. with with. [cites from 1906 on; the cites are probably to be viewed as antedatings of the OED2 sense above]

3. trans. To join or bring (a person) together with another person or people; to join or bring (people) together. Also: to provide (a person) with something; to provide something for. [cites from 1909 on]

So the general ‘connect’ uses and the specialization to sexual connection seem to have arisen pretty much together, yielding a potential ambiguity that people have lived with for a long time (though they sometimes have to clarify just how far a hooking-up went).

On the sexy end of the scale, it’s clear that getting together physically in a place and having sex counts as sex-hooking-up (with allowances for what counts as “having sex”), but what about other means of getting yourself/someone else off? How about doing it over the phone? Doing it on a voice connection on your computer? Doing it on such a connection with cams going? Doing it in a chat room? Doing it by e-mail?

This is not a question about what sex-hook up “really means”; it’s a question about how people use the expression, and I expect that there’s a lot of variation from person to person and context to context.

Ideally, you’d want to look at a big bunch of uses, in context, to see what particular people actually do. But that’s a massive project, way beyond anything I could contemplate. The customary work-around is to ask people how they use the expression, a technique that isn’t worthless but is fraught with problems (there’s often a considerable disparity between what people think they do and what they actually do).

Still, to get a feel for the territory (so to speak), I’m soliciting some impressions on hook up usage in these orgasmic but less-than-face-to-face situations. (I suspect that there’s a difference between gay and straight uses, and differences between women’s and men’s uses, so these are important bits of information. Probably all the other usual large-scale social variables — age, class, race and ethnicity, geographical location — are relevant too, and other variables as well, but you can only look at so much.)


One Response to “hooking up”

  1. Joe Kessler Says:

    I’ve never heard the phrase used in a non-face-to-face situation… but to add a further wrinkle, I *have* frequently heard it used to refer to a physical but non-sexual romantic interaction. At my college (William and Mary, class of 2010), saying that two people had “hooked up” could mean anything from making out/French-kissing to full-blown sex. I think the ambiguity in the phrase was one of its appealing traits for some people; they could talk about having hooked up with someone, without necessarily committing to the claim that actual sex had occurred.

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