Why College May Not Have a Culture of "Hook Ups"

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 13 2013 8:26 PM

The Kids Are All Right: Why College "Hookups" Aren't What You Think

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Photo by Getty images

If you were under the impression that you went to college in the wrong era, or were, perhaps, alarmed because your child is currently a college student—fear not, today’s so-called "hookup" culture on campus may not be as racy as you once feared (or hoped).

A new study on the sex lives of college students finds that college ‘hookup culture’ may not be as scandalous as once thought, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The paper finds “no evidence of substantial changes in sexual behavior that would support the proposition that there is a new or pervasive ‘hookup culture’ among contemporary college students.”

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The paper comes courtesy of Martin A. Monto, a professor of sociology at the University of Portland, and counters the growing number of stories reporting that love is dead on campus and has been replaced by attachment-free "hook ups." Most recently, the New York Times weighed in:

It is by now pretty well understood that traditional dating in college has mostly gone the way of the landline, replaced by “hooking up” — an ambiguous term that can signify anything from making out to oral sex to intercourse — without the emotional entanglement of a relationship.

Monto’s study, however, finds that sex on campus isn’t all that different than it’s ever been. The news may come as a relief to parents and as a disappointment to soon-to-be college students. According to Monto, college students are not, in fact, more sexually active with a greater number of partners than students in the past. How students find, and select, their partners, however, may have changed, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Surveys show that today’s sexually active young adults are more likely to report that one of the people they had sex with over the past year was a friend or someone they hooked up with via a pickup or casual date, according to Mr. Monto’s paper, which he co-wrote with a student of his, Anna Carey.

According to the numbers, 59 percent of students say they have sex weekly and 32 percent say that they’ve had more than one partner over the past year. Whether those numbers seem like an outrageous generational slide towards hedonism may depend on when you were born. As in, you’re now a parent and no longer a teenager.

“In many generations, there’s a sense that sexual behavior is changing or becoming more liberal, or we’re in some brave new era,” Monto, told the Chronicle of Higher Education. “I was a little skeptical about that myself. Because I was alive during the ’80s, and it doesn’t seem all that different.”

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