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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 (31-40):
LindaClement
by Thatwoman on May. 18, 2013 at 4:09 AM

Interesting...

I was mildly surprised how late my kids got into it... because like so much of our lives, we had no rules on the subject. Only information --the best we could find, and often discussed which was more credible or more useful...

Both of my kids were over 15 before they had a boyfriend, or expressed any interest in the subject... from there, it went real slow.

In contrast, I was engaged at 16+3mo, to my FIFTH lover. We are now married... and have been for 28 years... but, yeah... My generation was, in my social circle, a whole lot 'faster' than my kids'.

Quoting romalove:


Quoting lga1965:

 This sounds like the 1950's, when I was in high school. But there really were a lot less serious relationships, and less "hooking up. More kids deciding to wait for "the one" and going to college. We dated as friends or had one exclusive  steady date.

Quoting romalove:

My daughter is a high school junior (she is 17).

The kids no longer say "going out", they say "dating".  There is "exclusive dating" and "non-exclusive dating".

If you are exclusive dating, you can only be with one partner, and you agree on it together.  If you are non-exclusive dating, you can go out with as many people as you wish, until you are in a "relationship".

My daughter has a boyfriend and they are "exclusive dating".  She has some friends doing the same, but others who are "non-exclusive dating".

None of them has been accused of being sluts, as long as they follow what they say they are doing.  If you are in an exclusive relationship and see someone else, then they yell "slut".

Ah, the world changes....

 

My daughter is not ready for sex yet, and is with a boy who is also wanting to take things nice and easy.  I am lucky in that respect.  She reports, though, that about half her friends do have sex, the other half are not, and that the ones who have sex don't think it's a big deal.  

That's the part that worries me, that they aren't attaching much gravitas to sexual relationships.


grambo91
by Member on May. 18, 2013 at 4:11 AM
:( it's very true. I'm only 21 but married with a 7 month old. But I am still in college and I feel 40 compared to them and their views of relationships. I hope I can instill that old fashioned class and mystery that women are supposed to have in my daughter. This article is remarkably true And very depressing :(
MeAndTommyLee
by Gold Member on May. 18, 2013 at 8:25 AM

I think you may be able to answer part of your own question here.  Think about whothese adults/parents are.   With so many of them  being raised in single parents homes, teen mothers and so on, just what rame of reference do they have for relationships? 


Quoting TranquilMind:

 I've noticed this in recent years.  And it's really, really, REALLY appalling.  Have the adults in this country done such a crappy job that their kids don't even know how to have relationships?  I pray not. 

Thank God they eventually realize the emptiness of all this and grow up.  That whole bit about what "college administrators" should do is ridiculous.  The college didn't cause this moral abyss.  We, the parents, did.


 

Woodbabe
by Woodie on May. 18, 2013 at 8:31 AM

Sheesh when I was in college all those years ago, hooking up and one night stands was just as popular back then!

SLTmom
by Silver Member on May. 18, 2013 at 9:33 AM

Funny how everyone is talking about how only the girls are called out as sluts.  Again, I see this as merely another way of castigating women for their sexual behavior.  

But so long as men can, "sow their oats" and marry a virgin, the world is fine.  Puh-leeese!

dtm1491
by on May. 18, 2013 at 9:42 AM

When I was a teen hooking up meant dating someone. My brother is 15 years younger than me. By the time he was a teen it meant sex. I was surprised to learn that. He keeps me in the know.

romalove
by Roma on May. 18, 2013 at 9:46 AM
1 mom liked this


Quoting SLTmom:

Funny how everyone is talking about how only the girls are called out as sluts.  Again, I see this as merely another way of castigating women for their sexual behavior.  

But so long as men can, "sow their oats" and marry a virgin, the world is fine.  Puh-leeese!

That old double standard that is today's double standard.

We just can't seem to shake it, can we?

SLTmom
by Silver Member on May. 18, 2013 at 9:52 AM
1 mom liked this

I always find it amazing how when people talk about "old fashioned morals" and "traditional values" it inevitably correlates to women enjoying the sexual freedom men have for....well, ever.

Quoting romalove:


Quoting SLTmom:

Funny how everyone is talking about how only the girls are called out as sluts.  Again, I see this as merely another way of castigating women for their sexual behavior.  

But so long as men can, "sow their oats" and marry a virgin, the world is fine.  Puh-leeese!

That old double standard that is today's double standard.

We just can't seem to shake it, can we?




"I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief"  Gerry Spence

soonergirl980
by Silver Member on May. 18, 2013 at 10:22 AM

I really, really hope I've instilled enough sense into my kids that they will make better choices than this.

TranquilMind
by Platinum Member on May. 18, 2013 at 3:54 PM

 My son objectifying women in this manner is just as objectionable.

Quoting SLTmom:

Funny how everyone is talking about how only the girls are called out as sluts.  Again, I see this as merely another way of castigating women for their sexual behavior.  

But so long as men can, "sow their oats" and marry a virgin, the world is fine.  Puh-leeese!

 

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