Now that turtlenecks are in again, we don’t have to automatically assume that people have big, misshaped, purple-ish hickeys on their necks anymore. Without this assumption, however, how can we can tell when someone is covering up? When someone has a particularly big scarf? Perhaps an overt trace of concealer? More importantly, do we need to care?

The idea of covering up hickeys is a two-fold problem. First, hickey coverage entails an insecurity about imperfect skin, and second, it indicates the compulsion to mask our sexual encounters. While skin consciousness is a very valid insecurity, sexual discretion address a societal discomfort with sexual candor, especially for femme-identifying people.


Hickeys are the only way to outwardly present sexual activity (well, other than pregnancy). These rash-bruise hybrids give an opportunity for sexually active people to reveal or conceal their endeavors. Most of the time, masc-identifying people choose the former while femme-identifying choose the latter.


After a frat-filled weekend, most visible hickeys I see are on boys’ necks, which I think points to some self-evident truths in hookup culture. Men glorify sexual activity, whereas women conceal it. I don’t want to draw more conclusions than I need to from hickeys, but the exposure/coverage of hickeys and how it differs by gender certainly highlights the idea that men should be proud of hooking up with women, while women should be not.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think everyone should go around shoving their hickeys in people’s faces; we’re not 16. But, we shouldn’t feel the need to hide them from our peers. Reciprocally, our peers shouldn’t feel the need to judge our hickeys or draw their own conclusions about them.


If people think their hickeys look ugly, that’s fair. A rash-bruise hybrid may not be the prettiest thing to grace a neck or chest. But we place more flaw value on some skin conditions than others, and it seems that femme-identifying people are expected to cover them up more than their counterparts.


I think anyone that would feel more comfortable and confident in their own skin to put some concealer or moisturizer or *insert respective skin product* to cover up whatever skin condition is making them uncomfortable should do so. I also don’t think that using makeup or other alternative skin products to cover up skin conditions should be exclusive to women.


But hickeys aren’t skin conditions. They’re a temporary result of someone sucking on your neck, and that shouldn’t take away from your confidence or health. So are they so worth concealing?


Whereas skin conditions might affect personal confidence because we’re socialized to adhere to certain physical expectations, hickeys may affect personal confidence because they affect people’s perception of us. That perception, however, exists because we’re socialized to derive character and virtue from sexual activity. Hickeys can be an externalization of your virtue, or lack of, that we convey to our peers.

So first of all, let me just say that a hickey isn’t indicative of your sexual activity. Second of all, your sexual activity isn’t indicative of your character. So if that’s what you’re worried about, don’t be.


If you’re worried about hickeys messing up your image of professionalism, if that’s what you’re trying to maintain, then you should be. But if you’re old enough to be in a professional workspace, why are you still receiving icky hickeys?


A good rule of thumb: If you have a job, want to impress a professor, etc… don’t receive or give hickeys. And if you do, cover them up.


If you want to glorify your weekend hookups and wear them proudly, #freethehickey.