I’m not exactly sure when romance died for our generation. It certainly hasn’t been an overnight process – rather a more gradual decline in which the notions of romance and monogamy have detiriorated from the inside out. In fact, the concept of a relationship nowadays is borderline horrifying for most people.

What? You want something more than casual sex? Come on, there’s no need to put a label on us.

Now, there’s a fine line between holding a disdain for hook-up culture and misanthropically shaming those who enjoy casual sex. There is absolutely nothing wrong with those who safely and proactively engage in casual sex. More importantly, there is nothing wrong with earnestly enjoying casual sex. That’s the point. There is definitely something wrong with those who do not enjoy hooking-up, but feel the societal pressure and inclination to do so. That’s where the line is.

Obviously, casual sex is not a new and innovative thing, but until recent times, there has always been more of a focus on sex leading to old-school romance and spell-binding, Notebook-worthy relationships. But then things began to change. The media took hold and cranked out an endless stream of movies about “friends-with-benefits” relationships such as No Strings Attached, What’s Your Number? and the aptly-named Friends With Benefits. There was even a remake just this past year (albeit a horrid one) of About Last Night, a classic film in which casual sex also serves as the plot’s crux.

So yes, although there have been prior movies revolving around the nature of casual sex, it’s never been so much in the media as it is now. Everywhere we look, from articles documenting the erroneous concept that sexual assault is a product of casual sex to researchers insisting hooking-up damages college students’ mental stability, casual sex is at the forefront of discussion. With Tinder, Grindr and other apps linking individuals to each other for hooking-up, casual sex has never been so easy to access  and so in-demand.

So, why is this a bad thing? Hooking-up is no longer something to optionally partake in or out of, it’s now societally expected. There’s no validity in two people deciding that sex can wait until they know each other a bit better. There’s no attractiveness to being intimate with just one person. Perhaps worst of all, there’s generally never any communication in discussing what each person wants out of hooking-up.

While one person may only want a one-night stand, the other may desire some level of commitment. A woman may feel isolated from any intimacy if she does not engage in casual sex while a man may feel that he lacks any masculinity for not hooking-up. It’s a cycle in which various insecurities and miscommunications stack up to a painful degree.

Now, romance is also a thing often misconstrued. Romance isn’t (and really shouldn’t be) the creative spawn of Nicholas Sparks and every Hallmark card produced on Valentine’s Day. Romance is just the concept of casually getting to know one and another, developing a friendship and enjoying time together. It doesn’t have to be kisses in the pouring rain and picnics beneath the stars, but it should be something that brings you closer to another person. Hook-up culture marrs all that by forcing intimacy at an early stage in vain of producing a physical connection. Effectively, hook-up culture destroys romance.

In all honesty, hook-up culture is a touchy subject to comment on. There are many interlinking webs in which feminism and misogynism both oppose and overlap each other. There are many times when hook-up culture becomes a question of gender equality rather than a question of unbiased, individual choice. Hook-up culture and the freedom in which a person is allowed to choose the nature of his or her sex life often discredits an impartial discussion of casual sex.

The requirements of casual sex should not be imparted upon everyone. Modern romance should still exist – it can exist without the roses, chocolates and fireworks. However, it’s your choice if or if not you want to have sex with someone. It’s your choice if you want to commit to someone or not. It will always be your choice. But don’t feel that physical intimacy should always come first. There should be no shame in wanting to get to know someone or develop an emotional relationship before having sex.

There should be no shame in deciding that ‘hook-up culture’ is not a culture that you want to be a part of.

Follow Ciara Gaffney on Twitter @CiaraGaffs