“Hook Up” Culture is a MYTH

Pic from USA Today

USA Today recently published the article More college ‘hookups,’ but more virgins, too” further spreading the myth of college students living in a “Hook Up” culture. Yes, I said, “MYTH.”

In a recent inquiry from a national news outlet, I share the following 4 points with the reporter,

1. How a MYTH? Yes, the concept that the majority of young adults prefer and are actively engaging in a “Hook-Up” culture is false. The majority of people who “Hook-Up” do so when not in a committed relationship. If the person had the choice of “Be in a great relationship with someone” OR “Continually search for a new hook-up”, the answer would be overwhelming, “Be in a great relationship.” Thus, the #1 goal is still a relationship for the majority of students.

For pure sexual selfishness, being in a healthy relationship makes more sense. You have a compatible partner with respected standards and boundaries whom you are very comfortable with. You enjoy sharing the passion you have for each other and with each other (notice I said “in a healthy relationship”).  You don’t have to go “out looking” and hoping for a good “Hook Up” which typically leads to a disappointing experience. USA Today’s article fails to discuss the RESULTS of the typical “Hook Up.”  Students tells us repeatedly how hook ups often end in the “not the best sexual experience I’ve ever had” category.

2. PHASE? Instead of saying we are in a “Hook Up” culture, wouldn’t everyone be more accurate by describing the “hook up phase” many young adults go through?  As a college student gets older, he or she frequently starts looking at their future and starts to express a desire for more stability – which they often connect to a long-term relationship. Thus, DATING and being in a relationship is still the final goal. If we were in a true majority “hook up” culture, very few people would be getting married.

3. THE TERM. “Hooking Up” has always existed. The difference is now instead of saying someone had a “One Nighter”, young adults say, “We hooked up” (as if that term has a ‘nicer’ tone to it).  Don’t kid yourselves that in the 1960s or 1980s college students were not “Hooking Up.”

4. THE CHANGE. The one change occurring is that young adults are more open in their communications with others about “hooking up” than in the past. 30 years ago, you mainly told your closest friends and now people talk freely and more often in detail than in past generations. Plus, the more gender equality is strengthened, the more likely we are to see all genders feel more empowered to explore and experiment without shame based on one’s gender (see next paragraph).

5. The SAME. The component which is still the same is males are more often cheered for “Hooking Up” while females are tagged negative slurs such as “slut.” While progress is being made in our society, we still have a long way to go before we see all genders treated equally for the same sexual decisions and behaviors.


Here is a quick break-down of just a couple of the contradictions in the USA Today article:

Anyone else notice the conversation in the article was completely heterosexual based? How about the quick “glance over” on the growth of the porn industry’s influence on college students?  Here are a few quotes from the article which beg further discussion.

Ellermann says hooking up is very common among those who are single and not in a relationship.”

Notice “who are single and not in a relationship” – thus implying relationship is the standard.

It’s kind of like a competition,” she says. “The guys have their choice of whoever they want. So they think, ‘Why would I date?’

While the student may believe what she is saying, reality says the statement goes in the MYTH bin. I’ve never been to a campus where most men feel getting with anyone they want on campus is easy (I’ve met a few individuals who believe this about themselves, but never anywhere near the majority).


Even so, “it’s not like everyone is having casual sex all the time,” says sociologist Paula England of Stanford University, whose ongoing research since 2005 has surveyed more than 17,000 students from 20 colleges and universities. “Some people are hooking up a bunch of times with the same person but are not calling it a relationship. Others are never doing anything you would call a hookup.”

Her latest data finds that by senior year, 72% of both sexes reported having at least one hookup, with the average of 9.7 for men and 7.1 for women. Just under one-quarter (24%) of seniors say they are virgins, she says.

Since the average student goes to college for at least 4.5 years, the numbers above show you are talking about just over 2 “hook-ups” a year for males and less than 2 “hook ups” a year for females.  Clearly, the evidence proves the majority of people are not hooking up regularly on weekends. In fact, ONCE A SEMESTER is more like the truth.

Yes, we understand you will find individuals of all ages who live a “hook up” lifestyle, but once again that is not the majority and thus doesn’t represent our culture as an entirety. When discussing “hooking up”, may we all take a breath and stopping freaking out by referring to a “Hook Up” culture on college campuses and change the term to “Hook Up Phase”? Then, we can begin to talk about the decisions people make when choosing to engage in sexual activity with others.

As always, please leave your comments and reactions in the SPEAK YOUR MIND section below!  Where appropriate, I will personally respond to each comment.

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