Hooking Up In College

Misha Khan

Having too many hookups? Think again.

Certain elements of college life are now looked at as college “norms.” Some of these norms include binge drinking, not getting enough sleep, increasing one’s intake of Ramen noodles and, of course, hooking up. Hooking up, also called a one-night stand, is often perceived as an ongoing event on college campuses nationwide. However, the reality of it seems that young people may not be doing “it” as often as popular culture suggests.

Lisa Wade, Ph.D., is a Sociology professor at Occidental College who recently conducted research on college freshmen to see what really was going on with the hookup culture. According to her research, the average college student has between four to seven different hookups in the four years he or she is in college. Also, students will now have oral sex, more specifically oral sex performed on men. Even though the numbers suggest fewer students actually hookup in college than they did in the past years, they are more sexual towards others.

“What is new across college campuses today is the culture around the sex that they are having,” said Dr. Wade in her results. “Students feel like they are supposed to be having casual sex as opposed to that they have the option of having sex.”

Researchers at Duke University took a random sample of almost 1,500 students at their Durham, N.C. campus and found that only about one-third of students had previously had a hookup in college. Researchers surveyed 732 freshmen and 723 seniors and found that of the one-third in each grade that have had a hookup, less than half involved oral sex or vaginal intercourse. The study also found that nearly 60% of the freshmen reported that they had never had sexual intercourse.

Not having any sexual intercourse may also be an increasing trend. Dr. Wade’s study suggests that most college students feel as if the only sex they will have is a one-night stand, so they tend to stay away from intercourse completely.

“Some students are just completely dissatisfied with this imperative-type casual sex and so they just opt out altogether,” Dr. Wade said.

Most of it may also just be talking rather than doing. A recent online survey notes that 60% of older teenage men lie about their sexual activities.

“Everybody thinks they just want to have sex — that it’s all about getting it on,” said Ann Shoket, editor-in-chief of “Seventeen” magazine, which commissioned the survey in partnership with the non-profit National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

When it comes to our very own Jacksonville University campus, students don’t feel the need to judge or comment on anybody’s personal decisions. Junior Safiya Lawrence believes that in regards to the JU campus, random sex is considered acceptable.

“I do believe casual hook-ups are a daily here and more frequent as times go by,” Lawrence said. “My opinion on one-night stands is it is a desperate attempt to fill a lonely void in someone’s personal life.  And overall, I don’t agree with it and think it’s just pathetic.”

The social network has also helped increase talking about sexual activity on college campuses. Investigators from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln examined how college students’ social networks often lead them to define, perceive and participate in “hookups.” The study also looked at the extent to which those networks influenced risky sexual behavior.

In the study, 84 percent of students said they had talked with their college friends in the previous four months about hookups. But when asked how many hookups they had had during the school year, students reported far fewer for himself or herself than what they assumed a “typical student” had experienced.

So at the end of the day, college hookups are more words than actual substance. Dr. Wade also noted in her study that often campuses were more heterosexist and allowed few opportunities for exploring same-sex desires. Most students expect mainly three things from their sexual experience: pleasure, meaning and empowerment. However, studies suggest college hookups provide none of the above.

TRU, a Chicago-based youth market research company, found out that hookups have turned into a sexual game where there is always a winner and a loser. Unfortunately, it is usually the female who is dissatisfied at the end of the whole experience and is more likely to be given a bad reputation for her actions.

Dr. Wade’s research concluded that part of the problem is that students just assume what everyone wants but no one actually asks anybody.

“There are lots and lots of ways to be sexual so students can not only choose but they can actually talk to each other about it,” Dr. Wade said.

Also, some of those who work to educate young people about sex say the new data about a higher percentage of virgins across campuses could signal change.

“The hookup culture seems to be predominating, but there might be the beginning of a pushback and relationships playing a much stronger role,” says James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, a Washington-based non-profit.

Still, most young people are having some kind of sexual contact.

“Humans are biological beings,” Wagoner says.” We have a sex drive. To not recognize that in talking to young adults is foolish.”