It’s 9pm on a Saturday night. You’ve just arrived at a mate of a mate’s poorly insulated, weatherboard flat on May street. You’re standing in your dirty Old Skool Vans on a threadbare carpet peppered with questionable stains, waiting for your turn on the beer pong table in search of a quick route to get some more bevvies down the gullet and quell your social awkwardness. As you sip on some insipid vodka RTD, wondering aloud who’s on music and whether they’d let you queue up a couple of jams, you spot them. They’re parked up across the party, gesturing emphatically, probably in the middle of some mildly amusing anecdote from weekends gone by. They’re hot. They’re radiant. You’ve got to have them. You throw lusty glances in their direction all night, hoping they’ll approach you or your balls will swell enough to dust off your flirting skills. Sound familiar?
Sexual tension, crushes, secret hook-ups and romantic dramas are basically a prerequisite to a great weekend on the grog. Tell me I’m wrong. I won’t buy it.
Pack a bunch of horny young adults into a room, add alcohol, and it’s unlikely the only thing on anyone’s mind that night is geography essays and overflowing laundry baskets. Secretly, whittling away at any person’s chance at sainthood is a deep, desperate desire for a little oxytocin. In other words, love, lust, sex, flirtation, hand-holding, dick-holding, and anything in, around, and in-between.
There’s something awfully intriguing about it all, and there is no better place on earth to graft than at a party. Shockingly, especially to myself, your favourite part-time sex columnist is wifed up these days (with somebody that started up as the odd weekend hook-up, naturally) and most would say past my 21-year-old prime. But once upon a time, I saw every night out as an opportunity. I would scan every party, throw out a casual opener to the mysterious hottie, and dip my toes in the water. But how and what is the protocol? What are we getting ourselves into, exactly?
I used to feel terrified of starting up a conversation with someone I was interested in, until maybe two years ago. I started realising there were only one of two things that would happen; I’m interested in them, I talk to them, and eventually get the vibe they’re interested back. Or, I get the vibe they’re not interested, in which case completely no harm done, you haven’t declared your love and threatened to jump off a bridge if they reject you, everything’s safe as houses. If you really, truly value yourself, you’ll know that no matter who they are, how attractive they look, or how intimidating they may appear to be, we’re all just humans. Outward appearance aside, we all have insecurities in common on the inside. You’ve got to be confident enough to know that you’re a catch (not to mention a fucking sex God) and anyone would be stoked with you. And at the very least, that you’re enough of a good bugger that the rejection won’t sting too bad. Once you adopt that mindset, you’re unstoppable. I could catch eyes with a cutie on the d-floor, walk right on up to start a yarn, and nine times out of ten my gut would be right in telling me that yeah, they’re down for a cheeky kiss.
With great prowess, comes great responsibility, however. There are some serious hazards. If you’re trying to hook up at a party in secret, you needn’t bother, it always gets out. Hooking up within friend groups is always a risky decision. Hooking up with different people within a night is, also, a risky decision. Combine them both and you have a catastrophe. My boyfriend never fails to remind me that the first party he noticed me at was when I got with two boys, who were good friends, in front of one another, and in front of the whole party. Another time I got with two friends in one night, one of the bachelors quite literally shut the other one in a room for dead. But we aren’t here to talk about me and any form of a hoe phase I may or may not have had. The point is, hooking up while consuming alcohol is a risky business, period.
Now bear in mind that as fun as seeking a hook-up is on a night out, certain boundaries need to be respected. Friends’ exes are murky grounds. Friends’ crushes are also super murky grounds. And for your own wellbeing, there are types you’ll want to avoid.
Ah yes, the unabashed player. These people are there purely and entirely with the intention of fucking someone that night. Anyone, they don’t care. Like the magnetic fields drawing birds north for winter upon their first migration, they don’t know the exact destination yet, they just inexplicably know that they’re there to pull. Their mode of action generally includes outright flirtation. They’re cheeky, charming, and confident, like a charismatic serial killer. These folks will flatter you and place you on a pedestal while they’re in game-mode, but rest assured, it doesn’t stay that way. Anything that happens in bed, will probably be shared at morning storytime with their flatmates after you leave. They won’t hit you up for a date, but they might hit you up weeks after you’ve started to forget about them. They’ll offer the odd breadcrumb of affection, in the hope that they can add your phone number into their little black book as one of many pages to return to as an easy root for weekends when their game is off with sourcing new options. Stay far, far away. The only alternative to this is that you’ll never hear from them again, with the night you hooked up remaining some faded memory of a one-night anecdote from days gone by.
And finally, some of us are a little more sexually repressed than others. To speak broadly and unspecifically, parties can be hellholes for social anxiety. Hook-up culture sure isn’t for everyone, but some of us stay away from any spectrum of romantic encounter based on feelings of shame, low self-esteem, and a fear of taking up space in a room – let alone having sex in one.
Whether you’re at the party openly seeking a root, hoping to see where things go with that crush from economics, or if you’d rather see hook-up culture wither and die like dividends from the video-store industry, make sure you’re enjoying those uni parties as if they’re your last hoorah. It won’t be long before your hangover lasts three and a half days, and when Sunday mornings are spent at farmer’s markets rather than spent half-asleep at a near-stranger’s all-night kick-ons. Life happens way too fast like that.