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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 (51-59):
LindaClement
by Linda on May. 18, 2013 at 4:54 PM
1 mom liked this

I think it has always depended upon the social group you're in close contact with, what you think your era in school/college was like ... and which group the observers/commentators are in contact with, too...

I really do not believe it has changed all that much over the years.

Quoting TranquilMind:

 Ok, I see.

When I was in school, long ago, I really didn't hear much about that kind of stuff - and yes, I went to public schools.  I never got a sense that the women were bad yet the men were neutral for engaging in exactly the same activities, and this was back in the era when AIDS was just coming to the forefront.  What's wrong and dangerous is wrong and dangerous, in my view.  I don't care who is doing it.

Today, with all the diseases, everyone - males and females-  should just keep their pants on.  That's my view.  I'm not so unrealistic as to imagine it will happen for everyone or even most, but I'm sure glad I found a man (decades ago) who believed the same. My coworkers laughed at me when I told them I would find a man with all these stellar qualities who also hadn't been with anyone.  I had the last laugh on that one.

I'm pretty disgusted at what goes on on college campuses these days, now that we've started the college search.   I can't believe they think that they should have sex seminars and clubs on campus.  OMG.   I hope and pray that my kids of both genders will opt out of all that and focus on the reason for being there - education and future career possibilities.

Quoting SLTmom:

I actually never said everyone is OK with that.  I mentioned how people are talking about how in their experiences, girls were the ones called sluts, whores, etc.  and yet the article talks about both genders.  My point was societal...that terms like slut and whore, are female terms.  

Roma got it...it was about the contined existence of the double standard that women are somehow faulted for having had  sexual experience.  That the girls reputations had been harmed because everyone assumed they were sleeping with every guy they so happened to go out with.  Yet, no one mentioned how guys they grew up ith suffered similar blights on their reps.  It was a comment..not an accusation.

Perhaps I don't see dating around casually as a bad thing.  Even the article mentions how people use the term "hook up" to describe everything from a kiss to full blown sex.  How is that bad?  How is meeting lots of people bad?  Yes, kids (and by this I mean young adults, 20 something's) may be unhappy after a one-night stand, but who in the history of college one night stands, and the morning after walk of shame is happy?  


SLTmom
by Bronze Member on May. 18, 2013 at 5:07 PM
1 mom liked this

Yeah,  see when I went to school, girls were either easy, or not.  The "easy" girls wer popular.  No one ever commented on the boys.  And still today, we have to hear comments from to remain unnamed radio heads who feel the need to call women whores for wanting birth control.  

 Quoting TranquilMind:

 Ok, I see.

When I was in school, long ago, I really didn't hear much about that kind of stuff - and yes, I went to public schools.  I never got a sense that the women were bad yet the men were neutral for engaging in exactly the same activities, and this was back in the era when AIDS was just coming to the forefront.  What's wrong and dangerous is wrong and dangerous, in my view.  I don't care who is doing it.

Today, with all the diseases, everyone - males and females-  should just keep their pants on.  That's my view.  I'm not so unrealistic as to imagine it will happen for everyone or even most, but I'm sure glad I found a man (decades ago) who believed the same. My coworkers laughed at me when I told them I would find a man with all these stellar qualities who also hadn't been with anyone.  I had the last laugh on that one.

I'm pretty disgusted at what goes on on college campuses these days, now that we've started the college search.   I can't believe they think that they should have sex seminars and clubs on campus.  OMG.   I hope and pray that my kids of both genders will opt out of all that and focus on the reason for being there - education and future career possibilities.


 




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

TranquilMind
by Platinum Member on May. 18, 2013 at 5:17 PM

 I'm sure that's true.  I guess my friends tended to be the people who didn't want to do this. 

Quoting LindaClement:

I think it has always depended upon the social group you're in close contact with, what you think your era in school/college was like ... and which group the observers/commentators are in contact with, too...

I really do not believe it has changed all that much over the years.

Quoting TranquilMind:

 Ok, I see.

When I was in school, long ago, I really didn't hear much about that kind of stuff - and yes, I went to public schools.  I never got a sense that the women were bad yet the men were neutral for engaging in exactly the same activities, and this was back in the era when AIDS was just coming to the forefront.  What's wrong and dangerous is wrong and dangerous, in my view.  I don't care who is doing it.

Today, with all the diseases, everyone - males and females-  should just keep their pants on.  That's my view.  I'm not so unrealistic as to imagine it will happen for everyone or even most, but I'm sure glad I found a man (decades ago) who believed the same. My coworkers laughed at me when I told them I would find a man with all these stellar qualities who also hadn't been with anyone.  I had the last laugh on that one.

I'm pretty disgusted at what goes on on college campuses these days, now that we've started the college search.   I can't believe they think that they should have sex seminars and clubs on campus.  OMG.   I hope and pray that my kids of both genders will opt out of all that and focus on the reason for being there - education and future career possibilities.

Quoting SLTmom:

I actually never said everyone is OK with that.  I mentioned how people are talking about how in their experiences, girls were the ones called sluts, whores, etc.  and yet the article talks about both genders.  My point was societal...that terms like slut and whore, are female terms.  

Roma got it...it was about the contined existence of the double standard that women are somehow faulted for having had  sexual experience.  That the girls reputations had been harmed because everyone assumed they were sleeping with every guy they so happened to go out with.  Yet, no one mentioned how guys they grew up ith suffered similar blights on their reps.  It was a comment..not an accusation.

Perhaps I don't see dating around casually as a bad thing.  Even the article mentions how people use the term "hook up" to describe everything from a kiss to full blown sex.  How is that bad?  How is meeting lots of people bad?  Yes, kids (and by this I mean young adults, 20 something's) may be unhappy after a one-night stand, but who in the history of college one night stands, and the morning after walk of shame is happy?  

 

 

desertlvn
by Silver Member on May. 18, 2013 at 5:32 PM

Hmmm.... I'm in my 30's and we used to do a lot of hooking up. A lot. We didn't feel bad about it either. 

NWP
by guerrilla girl on May. 18, 2013 at 7:00 PM
I had friends who did and friends who didn't. I found it all too confusing to navigate and chose to spend all my time with my studies and with my friends in groups. DH was supposed to be my last college "fling" and since we are celebrating our 16 th wedding anniversary I suppose he was!

Quoting TranquilMind: I'm sure that's true.  I guess my friends tended to be the people who didn't want to do this. 
Quoting LindaClement:
I think it has always depended upon the social group you're in close contact with, what you think your era in school/college was like ... and which group the observers/commentators are in contact with, too...
I really do not believe it has changed all that much over the years.
Quoting TranquilMind:
 Ok, I see.
When I was in school, long ago, I really didn't hear much about that kind of stuff - and yes, I went to public schools.  I never got a sense that the women were bad yet the men were neutral for engaging in exactly the same activities, and this was back in the era when AIDS was just coming to the forefront.  What's wrong and dangerous is wrong and dangerous, in my view.  I don't care who is doing it.
Today, with all the diseases, everyone - males and females-  should just keep their pants on.  That's my view.  I'm not so unrealistic as to imagine it will happen for everyone or even most, but I'm sure glad I found a man (decades ago) who believed the same. My coworkers laughed at me when I told them I would find a man with all these stellar qualities who also hadn't been with anyone.  I had the last laugh on that one.
I'm pretty disgusted at what goes on on college campuses these days, now that we've started the college search.   I can't believe they think that they should have sex seminars and clubs on campus.  OMG.   I hope and pray that my kids of both genders will opt out of all that and focus on the reason for being there - education and future career possibilities.
Quoting SLTmom:
I actually never said everyone is OK with that.  I mentioned how people are talking about how in their experiences, girls were the ones called sluts, whores, etc.  and yet the article talks about both genders.  My point was societal...that terms like slut and whore, are female terms.  
Roma got it...it was about the contined existence of the double standard that women are somehow faulted for having had  sexual experience.  That the girls reputations had been harmed because everyone assumed they were sleeping with every guy they so happened to go out with.  Yet, no one mentioned how guys they grew up ith suffered similar blights on their reps.  It was a comment..not an accusation.
Perhaps I don't see dating around casually as a bad thing.  Even the article mentions how people use the term "hook up" to describe everything from a kiss to full blown sex.  How is that bad?  How is meeting lots of people bad?  Yes, kids (and by this I mean young adults, 20 something's) may be unhappy after a one-night stand, but who in the history of college one night stands, and the morning after walk of shame is happy?  
 
 
Kate_Momof3
by Silver Member on May. 19, 2013 at 7:56 AM

 Recent?

I started college in 1991 at a private secular school in New England and I can assure you, I was the only one with a serious boyfriend.

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.

 

LindaClement
by Linda on May. 19, 2013 at 2:10 PM

I'm not surprised by that. It's still not the majority of people (of any age) ... but it does seem that every generation is convinced they invented sex.

Quoting TranquilMind:

 I'm sure that's true.  I guess my friends tended to be the people who didn't want to do this. 

Quoting LindaClement:

I think it has always depended upon the social group you're in close contact with, what you think your era in school/college was like ... and which group the observers/commentators are in contact with, too...

I really do not believe it has changed all that much over the years.

Quoting TranquilMind:

 Ok, I see.

When I was in school, long ago, I really didn't hear much about that kind of stuff - and yes, I went to public schools.  I never got a sense that the women were bad yet the men were neutral for engaging in exactly the same activities, and this was back in the era when AIDS was just coming to the forefront.  What's wrong and dangerous is wrong and dangerous, in my view.  I don't care who is doing it.

Today, with all the diseases, everyone - males and females-  should just keep their pants on.  That's my view.  I'm not so unrealistic as to imagine it will happen for everyone or even most, but I'm sure glad I found a man (decades ago) who believed the same. My coworkers laughed at me when I told them I would find a man with all these stellar qualities who also hadn't been with anyone.  I had the last laugh on that one.

I'm pretty disgusted at what goes on on college campuses these days, now that we've started the college search.   I can't believe they think that they should have sex seminars and clubs on campus.  OMG.   I hope and pray that my kids of both genders will opt out of all that and focus on the reason for being there - education and future career possibilities.

Quoting SLTmom:

I actually never said everyone is OK with that.  I mentioned how people are talking about how in their experiences, girls were the ones called sluts, whores, etc.  and yet the article talks about both genders.  My point was societal...that terms like slut and whore, are female terms.  

Roma got it...it was about the contined existence of the double standard that women are somehow faulted for having had  sexual experience.  That the girls reputations had been harmed because everyone assumed they were sleeping with every guy they so happened to go out with.  Yet, no one mentioned how guys they grew up ith suffered similar blights on their reps.  It was a comment..not an accusation.

Perhaps I don't see dating around casually as a bad thing.  Even the article mentions how people use the term "hook up" to describe everything from a kiss to full blown sex.  How is that bad?  How is meeting lots of people bad?  Yes, kids (and by this I mean young adults, 20 something's) may be unhappy after a one-night stand, but who in the history of college one night stands, and the morning after walk of shame is happy?  


 


MelanieJK
by Bronze Member on May. 19, 2013 at 3:07 PM
1 mom liked this

Statistically,   the higher the education,   the higher the marriage rate and the lower the divorce rate.    

This statistic suggests that they're being discerning in choosing their "real" relationships and excercising basic responsible behavior in these hookups.      It seems like the demographic that we should be least concerned with.  

 It's the single mom with mulitple kids at 18 that we should be studying and wringing our hands over. 

futureshock
by Ruby Member on May. 20, 2013 at 12:48 PM


Quoting LilliesValley:


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.



I don't understand it either.  Unfortunately some young women feel the only way to have male attention is to engage in this behavior.  Some where along the line males gained the upper hand in male-female relations among some subsets of our population.

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