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Thirst Trap

The infamous 'hoe phase'

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Editor’s Note: Thirst Trap is a weekly column on dating and relationships in college.

Picture this: a gorgeous blonde at her peak fertility stumbling through her college experience without an arm to candy. This beautiful, talented, witty, brilliant, and of course, humble young lady is me, Hannah Krieg, at the beginning of 2020 when we mingled unmasked in large groups and hated Pete Buttigieg passionately and I embarked on the most glorious of all hoe phases. 

A hoe phase is a time in a person’s life where they are especially promiscuous. I’m not trying to assign moral value to the choices consenting adults make with their bodies — that’s a distinctly male pastime — but a hoe phase is not all sunshine and rainbows.

A former hoe and current UW junior agreed to share his experience under the condition of anonymity (because apparently not everyone likes to broadcast their sex lives). We’ll call him Andy. That’s right, he’s a guy. “Hoe” is gender neutral: get with it. 

Andy’s hoe phase started around Halloween, the hoe-iest of all holidays. It began after a breakup from his long-term girlfriend. I didn’t do any polling on this, but I have a feeling that breakups are a common catalyst. (Example: I was once on the “post-divorce hoe phase” side of Tik Tok.)

Andy’s hoe phase ended around Valentine's Day. In that window, he had casual sex about twice a week — mostly one-off hookups from Tinder or Bumble that operated under the agreement to delete each others’ numbers the next morning. 

“I would swipe right on basically anybody — as long as they weren’t problematic,” Andy said. “If someone was down for it, I was down for it too.”

Online dating has made sex more accessible than ever, especially for women seeking men. According to Andy, girls just have to be “unproblematic.” Not sure how I get matches by that standard, but for me, online dating enabled my hoe phase. Dating apps were like an UberEats for men: I looked through the menu, placed my order, and expected delivery between 30 to 45 minutes. Plus, it was free and easy to make a habit of it. 

Even more tempting than the convenience was the validation. 

“It was kind of a way to self-affirm,” Andy said. “I wanted to prove that I am desirable and people like me.” 

Sex is a really quick way to boost your dopamine and feel good about yourself, but even if you feel like hot shit in the moment, the next morning you might just feel like shit — no further descriptors. 

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“It was kind of empty — I know people say that a lot,” Andy said. “It got to the point where having sex was as mundane as getting lunch with somebody.”

At the risk of sounding cliché, during this phase in my life I was almost never alone, but almost always lonely. 

I wasted my time and emotional energy building temporary connections like Lego sets on my bedroom floor. I got really good at small talk. I could give elevator pitches for far too many people who are all but strangers. I learned more astrology signs than last names. I learned to fill lulls with the same recycled conversations, my favorite being about how people on the East Coast move quicker than us on the West. 

My social circle widened, but I had neglected the center — which, like in a cinnamon roll, is the very best part. 

Andy’s hoe phase ended due to a combination of “danger” and “self-loathing,” which seems like as good a reason as any to stop actively seeking casual sex. While he admits the cycle of validation and emptiness was not ideal for his mental health, hookups helped with his self-image and confidence. 

“[My hoe phase] made me comfortable talking to people,” Andy said. “I also think it made me better at sex — just an added benefit.” 

Andy came out of his hoe phase relatively unscathed. He always used protection, he communicated appropriately with his partners, and when the negatives began to outweigh the positives, he stopped. 

It isn’t that easy for everyone. Sex can be addictive. That is not to say you shouldn’t have it or that you shouldn’t have lots of it, but like drugs, alcohol, and gambling, sometimes we use sex to escape life’s tedium or cope with life’s trauma.

“Everyone should have at least one casual encounter, but a ‘hoe phase’ is a different story,” Andy said. 

Reach engagement editor Hannah Krieg at Twitter: @Hannahkrieg

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