College Hookups Explained

By Molly Igoe

News Editor

What exactly is hooking up? Dr. Kathleen Bogle, a sociology and criminology professor at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, set out to explain the often confusing phenomenon in her talk on Oct. 13 in the Hynson Lounge. The talk centered around her book, “Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus.”

Dr. Erin Anderson, associate professor of sociology at Washington College, introduced the talk with a personal anecdote. She said, “My parents used the term ‘going steady’ to describe dating and didn’t understand when I used the term ‘going together’ to say I was dating a guy. Now with the more complicated terminology of hooking up and the role social media plays, relationships are more complicated.”

Dr. Bogle conducted her research initially to examine intimate heterosexual interactions in college and after college. She did not set out to explicitly research the hooking up culture in college, but it became prevalent when she was asking students questions. She interviewed 51 college students from two different schools, who were mainly white and heterosexual, who varied by gender, grade level, major, and “type.” To record “type,” Bogle collected information about the student’s interests and social groups like athlete or drama student for example.

The general trend she found from interviewing students at both schools was that hooking up has largely replaced traditional dating on college campuses, but traditional dating is still much more common after people graduate college. There has also been a change in the “traditional” order of events. Whereas it used to be that people dated first then became intimate, hooking up implies intimacy first, then the possibility of dating.

Dr. Bogle defined hooking up as when a man and woman pair off for a physical encounter with no guarantee of a relationship. Hooking up falls anywhere between just kissing to sexual intercourse and does not necessarily have to be a one-night stand.

In fact, repeated hookups are much more common than sleeping with different people on a regular basis. Only 28 percent of college students have hooked up with more than 10 people by their senior year. Even more shocking, only 38 percent of hookups involve sexual intercourse.

Another common pattern in hookups is the presence of alcohol. Many hookups occur at bars or parties, which can become a problem as consent cn be blurred as a result of intoxication.

When Dr. Bogle asked students what they thought the most likely outcome of a hookup would be, the majority said “nothing,” meaning no further contact would result after the hookup. Other outcomes offered as options were a “friend with benefits” and a serious relationship, which was seen as the least likely option.

The big question Dr. Bogle asked was why do college campuses breed such an ideal environment for hooking up? Most college students feel comfortable and safe with their fellow classmates and are more open to hooking up with people they do not know as opposed to hooking up with a random person in the actual world. Another common answer from students framed college as a time to party and explore different things, including sex.

A huge factor in hooking up is the disproportionate amount of women there are in comparison to men on college campuses. As a result of this uneven ratio, men are scarcer and are often able to find a variety of willing hookup partners in various situations with little competition from other men.

Dr. Bogle brought up the distorted perceptions many college students had about hooking up along with perceptions from people outside of college. Many students she talked to believed that almost no one at their schools were virgins.

Why does the larger culture have such unrealistic perceptions about sex and hooking up in college? Dr. Bogle credited the vast amount of misinformation to the way college culture is portrayed in the media. Most hookups in movies or on television portray random hookups that always involve sexual intercourse, a portrayal that is just not accurate. Examples of movies that perpetuate these stereotypes include “Animal House” and “American Pie.”

There have been many studies conducted about hooking up on college campuses, that dispelled many common misconceptions about the hookup culture. The Institute for American Values found in 2001 that 91 percent of women in college believed that hookups occurred often at their schools. A study conducted by a large Northeastern school found that 78 percent of students had hooked up.

These discrepancies usually result in an over exaggeration of the hookup culture due to student’s perceptions of what is happening on their campuses, gossip, and the larger media culture. Dr. Bogle said, “Knowledge is power, especially when there are so many misperceptions about hooking up.”

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