College students grapple with campus hookup culture

Hookup culture dominates the scene across college campuses. It is something that defines relationships everywhere and is often seen as a way this generation avoids the pain that can come with romance. 

The term “hookups” refers to “brief uncommitted sexual encounters between individuals who are not romantic partners or dating each other,” according to the American Psychological Association.

A study conducted in 2008 regarding the positive and negative effects of hookups revealed that both men and women have a higher positive experience rather than negative. After a hookup, 82 percent of men and 57 percent of women were usually glad they had done it, according to the American Psychological Association.  

How a hookup affects an individual, however, obviously depends on various factors—including the differing personalities and one’s mental health. 

While having uncommitted sex can be perceived as spontaneous and satisfying in the moment, it is something that can undoubtedly take a toll on one’s sense of self and outlook on romance and relationships. 

Lisa Wade, a sociologist at Occidental College, investigated hookup culture in a book called American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus. Wade spent five years investigating the hookup culture on American college campuses and the nature behind it. 

“One of the problems is that you just get this new cohort of freshmen every year,” Wade said. “They have no idea what’s going on ... and then they get to campus and they don’t have an understanding of a lot of the nuances of the terrain.”  

In her book, Wade discusses the involvement of alcohol and dancing at college parties as factors that initiate most hookups. She describes that students have a concept of casual sex as being something careless, marked by sex with no emotion, according to NPR. 

“What the students are confronted with is this artificial binary between careless and careful sex. On the one hand, we have this idea that when we get into romantic relationships, we’re supposed to be loving and kind. And the sex that happens within those kinds of relationships is very committed,” Wade said on NPR. “And on the other hand, we have this concept of casual sex, which is the opposite of that.”

Wade emphasizes that the problem is not with the hookup itself, but the culture surrounding the term. This culture involves men controlling love and pleasure, while women turn into competitive and desperate opponents, according to The New York Times

The New York Times’s book review on Wade’s novel, written by Jennifer Senior, describes how hookups today are entirely based on indifference from both parties involved.

“Betraying any hint of emotion, especially if you’re a woman, could mean you aren’t independent and modern,” Senior said

Emotional intimacy has become more taboo than ever today, and it is unfortunately surrounded by a culture full of gender stereotypes and uncertainty. It can create great confusion and trigger emotions of insecurity.

“It all comes down to a change,” Wade said, as reported by The Collegian. “We need sex that is not competitive but cooperative. To fix what is wrong on college campuses, we need to fix us.”