Hookup Culture

Yes, that’s right. I’m writing about casual sex. Let me explain.

I subscribe to some podcasts, and, on the way to a Board meeting, listened to NPR’s Hidden Brain. The host interviewed a sociologist, Lisa Wade, who has undertaken a great deal of research into the college hookup scene. She wrote a book called American Hookup.

It’s a very interesting podcast in that it explodes some myths about the hookup culture. The first is that college students today are not more promiscuous than their parents’ generation. The second is that many students completely opt out of hookup culture.

Moreover, the podcast also articulates how the rules of hookup culture leave a good majority of its participants feeling pretty used and empty. As noted in a recent article about the book (here), here’s a glimpse:

American Hookup breaks the hookup into eight distinct stages, all of which involve troubling amounts of alcohol, and with an end game of proving to everyone that the encounter was meaningless. Wade asks, “How do two people establish that an intimate moment between them wasn’t meaningful?” In three ways: by being or pretending to have been inebriated, only hooking up with someone once, and the most destructive way, by creating emotional distance through cold bordering-on-cruel behavior towards the other person.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the embedded player up top, or by downloading it here. As a father, it was a good use of time to listen to it.

2 thoughts on “Hookup Culture

  1. Joe – I hesitate to post twice in a week, but this topic is one where data helps tell the story. As I think of sending my 18 year old to college this fall, I also think it is important for him to not be misled by the media or to think that the hookup culture is as dominant as the some headlines report.

    I often think that the first job of a business leader and most of all as a parent, is to help the people we care for to understand reality as we know it.

    My work building GradGuard over the years has helped me identify some valuable data sources that may be included within the book you mentioned but are also part of the national College Health Assessment that provides a longitudinal view of student health trends.

    GradGuard completed a study this last year of data from 2005 – 2015, that indicates college students report a decreasing number of sexual partners. In fact, the reported celibacy rate of college students increased: with male celibacy increasing two times the rate of females.

    The most recent data available reports that 33.5% of college students report having no sexual partners which is up from 27.5% reported in 2005.

    Consistent over a decade are two other trends. Even more common the celibacy are those college students who are monogamous. Where from 2005 – 2015 reliably 40% of college students report being a monogamous sexual relationship. Just as reliable, the data reveals that only 9% of college students report being highly sexually active with 4 or more partners in past 12 months.

    So this just adds to the story…and to the reality that our children will likely experience in college.

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