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Young adults and a hookup culture

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Young adults and a hookup culture

By Ian Kerner, Special to CNN
updated 7:08 AM EDT, Thu May 16, 2013
There's a decline in dating culture and a rise in hookup culture among college students, according to a new book.
There's a decline in dating culture and a rise in hookup culture among college students, according to a new book.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A new book says college students are hooking up more often
  • The author says the experience leaves them feeling empty, sad and regretful
  • Do students view hookups as an alternative to a relationship?

Editor's note: Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, writes about sex and relationships for CNN Health. Read more from him on his website, GoodInBed.

(CNN) -- For many young adults, college is a rite of passage, filled with experiences ranging from parties to all-night cram sessions to that first serious relationship.

Yet romance may be getting short shrift these days, replaced instead with quick "hookups" devoid of any real emotion. That's the argument of a provocative new book, "The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy."

Not only are more college students hooking up -- kissing, making out and having sex -- but these experiences often leave them feeling empty, sad and regretful, author Donna Freitas argues.

But is this generation's view of sex and love really so grim?

Ian Kerner
Ian Kerner

Freitas's book is partially based on the results of an earlier Internet survey she conducted of 2,500 U.S. college students at secular public, secular private and Catholic universities.

Of the 557 male and female students who responded to a question asking how they felt the morning after a hookup, 41% of those expressed sadness, regret and ambivalence.

The problem, contends Freitas, is a culture that overwhelmingly pressures young men and women to have meaningless hookups -- even though they might not enjoy it.

When your child walks in during sex

It's an intriguing argument, but is it really accurate?

"What has really changed is that among youth we see a decline in dating culture and so most college students have had more hookups than first dates," says Justin Garcia, a sex researcher at the Kinsey Institute in Indiana.

"Our data has shown that one of the greatest contributors to hookup behavior is a desire for sexual pleasure. However, there are also a large number of college students -- around 50% in one of our studies -- that hook up because they are hoping to start a romantic relationship or want emotional gratification."

Additionally, Kristen Mark, a sex and relationships researcher at Kentucky University, has found that students tend to view casual hookups as a positive alternative to romantic relationships.

"When we discuss the topic of casual sex and the hookup culture, they talk about it in the context of being too busy now to maintain a relationship or not wanting to make a relationship a priority at this stage in their life," she says. "Without exception, they discuss a long-term monogamous relationship as their desired end goal, but for now, casual sex meets their needs."

But true hookup culture isn't just about sex itself, says Freitas.

"Students define the sexual aspect of the hookup as 'anything from kissing to sex'," she explains. "To equate a hookup with casual sex is to miss the really important part of the conversation, which is that students feel so much pressure to show they are a part of things that they'll count almost anything as a hookup."

Why you should talk about sex before marriage

In other words, today's college culture has turned hooking up into a sport that all the "cool" kids are playing -- or at least talking about -- even if they secretly hate it.

But is hooking up -- and its sometimes bittersweet emotions -- just part of life?

"Although we tend to associate hookups with college students, people of all ages are doing it," says Justin Lehmiller, a social psychologist and Harvard researcher.

"Many men and women do express regret over some of their past hookups. But this is nothing new -- for as long as people have been having sex, they've had sexual regrets. And it's important to note that people often regret their romantic relationships, too, but we don't take that as a reason people should stop pursuing love."

Freitas says she would like to see college administrators take a role in expanding sexual education programs on campus. She also encourages young people to take breaks from "hooking up," find quiet time to talk to friends about intimacy and go out on real dates.

Emily Nagoski, wellness education director at Smith College, believes a holistic approach is necessary: "To create a culture that fosters satisfying relationships and sex, we must teach students how to live inside their bodies with confidence and joy," she explains. "Sex is part of that, but so are food, physical activity, sleep and mental health. The solution is living inside your body, rather than inside your beliefs about what's expected of you."

What to do after an affair

The good news? The urge to participate in hookup culture might be fleeting.

"As people get a bit older, we also see more traditional dating practices across all age groups," says Garcia. "That will never change -- pursuit of sex and love are at the core of the human condition."

Neon Washable Paint

by on May. 17, 2013 at 8:43 AM
Replies (11-20):
JanuaryBaby06
by Bronze Member on May. 17, 2013 at 12:46 PM
Yeah I had alot of hook-ups at 14, 15, & 16 (that is when i got together with my now DH) .... but it was really just hooking up (french kissing) and then it kind of became a game of numbers & like a gateway to other stuff, no real romance or dating, it was just who was kissing who or doing whjat with who. Thats how it was for all of my friends, and pretty much anyone else i knew. I didn't lose my virginity until I was in love and with a great guy but everything else.... well it didnt seem as important & it was something to do and alot of fun.
OHgirlinCA
by Platinum Member on May. 17, 2013 at 12:53 PM

 Hooking up in college is nothing new.  It was like that in the early 90's too.  Is it a good choice?  No... but many do learn from their mistakes and seek out more meaningful relationships afterwards...

LilliesValley
by Bronze Member on May. 17, 2013 at 12:54 PM

I personally have never understood this. If you put out on the first date mltn it's not going to go anywhere. I guess I just always thought btter of myself than to let whoever stick their dick in me and not care. I just can't do that. I always wanted a relationship, hooking up hand no good end result to me.

Th last job I had I was the only one still married an I waited a month to sleep with my husband. Everyone else slept wit theirs on the first or second date. They either didn't get married or were divorced. I have no idea if there is any coerlation there but I always found it interesting. From the male perspective dh has always said that a month meant I wasn't a prude and anything sooner and he wouldn't have taken me seriously and it would have been getting some action.

I also don't get feeling pressure from others to hook up. Seriously folks think for yourself. Yikes.

futureshock
by Ruby Member on May. 17, 2013 at 1:09 PM


Quoting AdrianneHill:

Nothing new. When I was in high school, going out with someone one time meant that the two of you were dating exclusively to everyone else.
My mother used to talk about going out with two different boys in a weekend because it wasn't assumed that she was sleeping with everyone she got in a car with. By the time I was in middle school, a girl going out with two guys for several weekends in a row would be seen as a slut because of the assumption sex is happening with everyone.
It was the build up to the hook up culture because it was like enforced monogamy. Dancing with three guys at one eighth grade dance ruined my reputation for years because I was either screwing those guys or I was begging them to do me by dancing with them. The hook up culture is the pendulum swinging the other way from the constant exclusivity demanded then.

I don't think this is the same thing.  In fact I would say it is the opposite.  How is this anything like hook up culture?

It was the build up to the hook up culture because it was like enforced monogamy.

futureshock
by Ruby Member on May. 17, 2013 at 1:12 PM
2 moms liked this


Quoting lga1965:

Hooking up is not a good choice. I'd rather that we went back to the old days when you had to behave in a moral way and had good taste. Hooking up is degrading and depressing as they said in this article.

You are exactly right. I have read extensively about this topic and in that reading I have read many, many interviews from young women involved in this culture.  It is sad and degrading.  They feel like they have to participate in order to get an actual boyfriend, when in most cases the hook up does not lead to a romantic relationship.

futureshock
by Ruby Member on May. 17, 2013 at 1:14 PM
2 moms liked this


Quoting LilliesValley:

I personally have never understood this. If you put out on the first date mltn it's not going to go anywhere. I guess I just always thought btter of myself than to let whoever stick their dick in me and not care. I just can't do that. I always wanted a relationship, hooking up hand no good end result to me.

Th last job I had I was the only one still married an I waited a month to sleep with my husband. Everyone else slept wit theirs on the first or second date. They either didn't get married or were divorced. I have no idea if there is any coerlation there but I always found it interesting. From the male perspective dh has always said that a month meant I wasn't a prude and anything sooner and he wouldn't have taken me seriously and it would have been getting some action.

I also don't get feeling pressure from others to hook up. Seriously folks think for yourself. Yikes.

The thing is hooking up does not involve a "first date."  The two people meet somewhere exclusively to have sex, or something close to it, and that is it.  There is no dinner and a movie, etc.

I agree with all of the rest of your post and I feel the same way.

LilliesValley
by Bronze Member on May. 17, 2013 at 1:17 PM

 

Again, I don't get it. What's the point. Sex without a little something there is meaningless and doesn't seem like too much fun to me. But I always go with my body is my temple so.... All I can hope is dd doesn't do this because I just wont understand. LOL Parent's Just Don't Understand...LMFAO.

Quoting futureshock:


Quoting LilliesValley:

I personally have never understood this. If you put out on the first date mltn it's not going to go anywhere. I guess I just always thought btter of myself than to let whoever stick their dick in me and not care. I just can't do that. I always wanted a relationship, hooking up hand no good end result to me.

Th last job I had I was the only one still married an I waited a month to sleep with my husband. Everyone else slept wit theirs on the first or second date. They either didn't get married or were divorced. I have no idea if there is any coerlation there but I always found it interesting. From the male perspective dh has always said that a month meant I wasn't a prude and anything sooner and he wouldn't have taken me seriously and it would have been getting some action.

I also don't get feeling pressure from others to hook up. Seriously folks think for yourself. Yikes.

The thing is hooking up does not involve a "first date."  The two people meet somewhere exclusively to have sex, or something close to it, and that is it.  There is no dinner and a movie, etc.


 

AdrianneHill
by Platinum Member on May. 17, 2013 at 1:35 PM
Now college was a different matter. I wound up running the "Girls Place" for my group in my later college years. There were some serious and long term relationships, those who hooked up with the hopes of romance, those who bring home a different one every night and avoid attachments, and those who hooked up with thoughts of hey you're cute but weren't completely averse to having an adult relationships. The first and the last groups were the happiest.
rfhsure
by Silver Member on May. 17, 2013 at 3:57 PM
1 mom liked this

I dont think we just suddenly became a hookup culture, hookups have always been around. I don't think 557 students is representative of a 'culture'. That doesnt even amount to half the students in a single university.

The hookups themselves are not whats damaging these kids view of sexuality and intimacy, it's the fact that even though we live in a highly sexualized society, we tell people they're wrong for just wanting sex, we damn girls for having meaningless hookups and praise men for it, we telll a woman she's gross or disgusting for sleeping around, we tell guys it's a conquest and proof of their manliness. Here's an idea, stop giving our opinions about sex. If we told everyone they have a right to their body and they should do what they want with it, kids wouldn't have the same feelings about it because we wouldn't be shaming them.

We are human beings. We have sex. Many of us have sex just because we want to have sex. We make way too big a deal out of it. There's nothing wrong with having sex before marriage. In fact, it's a great idea, because sexual experience can teach you how to please your partner. Is there anything wrong with waiting? Of course not. But we shouldn't condemn people and shame them for not waiting. We are biologically designed to want to bang eachother. As long as people are being safe about it, I say have at it and stop trying to 'encourage' any sexual behavior other than protection.

PestPatti
by on May. 17, 2013 at 5:24 PM


  I am glad I am too old to "hook up" and even more happy that my sons aren't the "hook-up" kind.  My oldest is married, and the youngest has been with  the same nice young lady for about a year now.  

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