A hookup culture is one that accepts and encourages casual sexual encounters, including one-night stands and other related activity, without necessarily including emotional bonding or long-term commitment. It is generally associated with Western late adolescent behavior and, in particular, American college culture. The term hookup has an ambiguous definition because it can indicate kissing or any form of physical sexual activity between sexual partners. The term has been widely used in the USA since at least 2000. It has also been called nonrelationship sex, or sex without dating.
Most research on hookups has been focused on American college students, but hookups are not limited to college campuses. Adolescents and emerging adults engage in hookups for a variety of reasons, which may range from instant physical gratification, to fulfillment of emotional needs, to using it as a means of finding a long-term romantic partner. Media reaction to hookup culture has been dismissed as moral panic. The recent introduction of mobile hookup apps and websites have shaped hookup culture, especially among gay men.
The rise of hookups, a form of casual sex, has been described by evolutionary biologist Justin Garcia and others as a "cultural revolution" that had its beginnings in the 1920s. Historians D'Emilio and Freedman put the beginning of casual sex, including college hookups, further back in history, to the early 1800s, and explain the phenomenon as shaped by historical and cultural forces. They give as examples planter class white men who had casual sex with enslaved African American women, and white male college students who had casual sex with both white and black women. Lisa Wade, a sociologist, documents that 19th century white fraternity men often had what would be called hookup sex with prostitutes, poor women, and the women they had enslaved. Homosexual men also engaged in hookup sex during the 1800s, meeting in spaces that were transient in nature, such as wharves and boarding houses. Since the 1920s, there has been a transition from an age of courtship to an era of hookup culture. Technological advancements such as the automobile and movie theaters brought young couples out of their parents' homes, and out from their watchful eyes, giving them more freedom and more opportunity to engage in casual sexual activity.
The sexual revolution of the 1960s brought a loosening of sexual morals which allowed for sex to become uncoupled from relationships and non-marital sex to become more socially acceptable. Some scholars, including Garcia and Freitas, have found that dating, while it has not disappeared, has decreased as the frequency of hookups have increased. By the mid-1990s, Freitas found that hookups were an accepted form of interactions among sexually active adults especially those located on college campuses.
According to a review by Garcia, this is "an unprecedented time in the history of human sexuality." People are marrying and beginning families at ages later than previous generations while becoming sexually mature at an earlier age. As a result, Garcia and other scholars argue that young adults are able to reproduce physiologically but are not psychologically or socially ready to 'settle down' and begin a family.
These developmental shifts, Garcia's systematic review of the literature suggests, is one of the factors driving the increase in hookups, a "popular cultural change that has infiltrated the lives of emerging adults throughout the Western world." The review shows that hookups are becoming increasingly normative among young adults and adolescents in North America and have taken root throughout the Western world, which represents a notable shift in how casual sex is perceived and accepted.
Garcia and others have noted that the "past decade has witnessed an explosion in interest in the topic of hookups, both scientifically and in the popular media. Research on hookups is not seated within a singular disciplinary sphere; it sits at the crossroads of theoretical and empirical ideas drawn from a diverse range of fields, including psychology, anthropology, sociology, biology, medicine, and public health." Difficulties in defining the term can lead to different perceptions of its prevalence. The hookup culture is vaguely defined due to a variety of perspectives taken on this subject related human sexuality. It is hard to make sense of the hookup culture with understanding why it exists in society and why individuals participate in the culture.
According to Shannon T. Boodram, "hooking up is nothing more than settling; it is the microwaveable burrito of sex." Hooking up is engaged in for the instant gratification for sex, pleasure, a feeling of being loved, an emotional feeling of being adhered to, the thought of the potential of the hook up developing into something less casual, and many more reasons.
According to Kathleen Bogle, the phrase 'hooking up' is "a slang term" deemed unofficial and unpredictable due to the extended variation of its meaning. Many other slang terms for hooking up were and still are used such as "friends with benefits" and "booty call." Other terms for repeated acts of hooking up include, "casual sex" or "recreational sex," or defined as a relationship with "no strings attached."
The definition of hooking up can vary depending on the person or on the age group. It can range from acts that involve kissing, oral sex, or intercourse. The term "hooking up", meaning an instance of casual sex, differs from hook up culture. A hook up is an act that involves sexual intimacy, claimed by many to be a sexually liberating act. On the other hand, hook up culture is thought to be oppressive and monolithic, with intimacy only occurring within a specific context. Jennifer Aubrey and Siobhan Smith have found that between genders there are minimal differences when it comes to behavior and frequency in hookups; on the other hand, women still face a harder social stigma, because their social status decreases with increased sexual partners, while men's social status increases with more sexual partners.  In a study conducted by Danielle M. Currier, she explores how the phrase "hooking up" conveys different meanings depending on whether a man or woman uses it when describing their sexual encounters; furthermore, Currier notes that men use "hooking up" to emphasize their masculinity and heterosexuality whereas women use the phrase to preserve their femininity by being strategically ambiguous in order to downplay their sexual desires.
Some North American surveys published in the mid-2000s have shown that upwards of 60% or 70% of sexually active teens reported having had uncommitted sex within the last year. This is more common among boys than girls. Among sexually experienced adolescents, 28% of boys and 16% of girls reported losing their virginity to either someone they have just met, or to a friend who is not a dating partner.
Boys are more likely than girls to have several hookup partners at the same time, and are also more likely to hook up with someone they are not dating. For both genders, hookups are more likely to be with an ex-boyfriend, an ex-girlfriend or a friend than with an acquaintance. The majority of teens (68%) who hook up with a friend or an ex will hook up with them again.
About half of all hookups among adolescents were a one time affair, and this is the same for both boys and girls. Only 6% of teens have had sex with someone they just met, and these encounters are a one time affair 75% of the time. Over all, 25% of those who had sexual experience with a dating partner have also hooked up with someone they were not dating. Additionally, 40% of those who had hooked up with someone they were not dating had also hooked up with a dating partner in the previous 12 months.
Studies have shown that most high school girls are more interested in a relationship compared to high school boys, who are mostly interested in sex. Young women tend to be honest about their sexual encounters and experiences, while young men tend to lie more often about theirs. Another study shows that once a person has sex for their first time, it becomes less of an issue or big deal to future relationships or hook ups. During this study, it was shown that girls in high school do not care as much as boys do on having sex in a relationship. But, on the contrary girls will have sex with their partner in order to match them.
For some adolescents, sex and relationships have been decoupled.
Journalist Sabrina Weill asserts that "casual teen attitudes toward sex—particularly oral sex—reflect their confusion about what is normal behavior," and adds that they "are facing an intimacy crisis that could haunt them in future relationships. 'When teenagers fool around before they're ready or have a very casual attitude toward sex, they proceed toward adulthood with a lack of understanding about intimacy.'"
Historical research documents that white male college students have a long history of engaging in hookup sex. Journals and letters from the 1800's demonstrate that wealthy young white male college students hooked up with prostitutes, poor women, and enslaved African American women.
Today, according to one study the vast majority, more than 90% of American college students say their campus is characterized by a hookup culture, and students believe that about 85% of their classmates have hooked up. Studies show that most students (most recent data suggest between 60% and 80%) do have some sort of casual sex experience. Of those students who have hooked up, between 30% and 50% report that their hookups included sexual intercourse. Nationally, women now outnumber men in college enrollment by 4 to 3, leading some researchers to argue that the gender imbalance fosters a culture of hooking up because men, as the minority and limiting factor, hold more power in the sexual marketplace and use it to pursue their preference of casual sex over long-term relationships.
However, most students overestimate the amount of hookups in which their peers engage. Only 20% of students regularly hookup. Roughly one half will occasionally hookup, and one-third of students do not hook up at all. The median number of hookups for a graduating senior on a college campus is seven, and the typical college student acquires two new sexual partners during their college career. Half of all hookups are repeats, and 25% of students will graduate from college a virgin. African American women students are less likely to engage in hookup sex than white women students.
One study has found that the strongest predictor of hookup behavior was previous experience hooking up. Those who have engaged in hookups that involve penetrative sex are 600% more likely to hookup again during the same semester.
Subculture can affect gender roles and sexuality, and youth subcultures are particularly susceptible to peer pressure. Self-esteem is also an indicator: men with high self-esteem and women with low self-esteem are more likely to have multiple sexual partners, but hookups are less likely among both genders when they have high self-esteem. Most predictors among males and females rarely differ.
One third of gay and bisexual college men have met an anonymous sexual partner in a public place such as a park, bookstore, or restroom. Other venues such as public cruising areas, Internet cruising networks, and bathhouses are popular for gay men, but not for lesbians or heterosexuals.
The trend toward marrying later may be what is fueling the hookup scene on college campuses. At colleges, hookups are common between students at parties, in dormitories and fraternity houses, at surrounding bars and clubs, and at popular student vacation destinations. For example, a study of Canadian college students who planned to hook up while on spring break showed that 61% of men and 34% of women had sex within a day of meeting their partner.
Another study was based on a survey of over 18,000 college students from ages 18–25. This survey asked questions like how many sexual partners they have had since graduating high school, how many sexual partners per year, and how many times per week they have sex. It was reported that a little over 59% of college students have sex once per week. A little over 31% reported to having at least one sexual partner per year, and about 50% said that they have had more than two sexual partners since the age of 18. Perceptions of "frat boys" and how this stereotype seems to be the typical male how only pursues women to have sexual relations. Many female college students explained how the "frat boy" perfectly embodies the persona of a sex driven male.
Hooking up generally refers to having sex; however, many others indicated that when they say hooking up they are referring to something less than intercourse. In a hookup culture, young people often have little experience with dating and developing romantic relationships. Hooking up is means for experiencing casual sexual encounters, but it is also means for beginning relationships. Students often feel that hookups are the only option, and that their peers do not date, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as fewer students date because they believe their classmates do not believe in dating. Freitas' study has found that students on these campuses generally feel that the decision about whether or not to be in a relationship is out of their control and that "hookup culture dictated for them that there would be no dating, and that they simply had to endure this reality."
Kimmel believes that while sexual promiscuity once existed on college campuses alongside more traditional forms of dating, hooking up is now "the alpha and omega of young adult romance." Wade, on the other hand, says that college students are merely engaging in a different form of courtship that often results in monogamous relationships. This view is echoed by Armstrong, Hamilton, and England, who state that college students have not abandoned dating. Some students claim that hook ups fit their busy personal and professional schedules better than traditional dating does and is thus liberating. Freitas counters that living in the hookup culture is not at all liberating if what students want is to actually go on dates.
Freitas has opined that a "hookup is a sexual act that thwarts meaning, purpose, and relationship." However, most students do want to be in a romantic relationship. One study has found that 63% of college-aged men and 83% of college-aged women would prefer a traditional romantic relationship at their current stage in life to casual sex. Additionally, 95% of women and 77% of men say they prefer dating to hooking up. "Without exception," sex counselor Ian Kerner has says, students "discuss a long-term monogamous relationship as their desired end goal." While more than half of students of both genders say they would like a hook up to develop into a romantic relationship, only 6.5% (4.4% of men and 8.2% of women) expect that one will. Half of women, 51%, and 42% of men, have tried discussing the possibility of beginning a romantic relationship with a hookup partner.
More than half of college relationships begin with a hookup, Bogle's research has found. Freitas's study shows that when a relationship is born of a hookup, it is usually after months of engaging is a serial hookup. Relationships that begin as a hookup, or as a "friends with benefits" situation, report lower levels of satisfaction. Garcia says that hookup culture can lead to a lower incidence of dating among youth, but as people get a bit older they outgrow their desire for hookups and settle into traditional dating.
Oftentimes, men and women seem to not be on the "same page." According to Bogle, many males believed that females often invested themselves or had an ulterior motive for pursuing a hookup like situation. For instance, when a male student was asked if he felt that women looked for different components in a hookup; his response was that most females generally did not lean towards a "one and done" thing.
Sociologist Wade discusses several scholars who disagree that contemporary college students desire long-term monogamous relationships. She cites Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton, Hanna Rosin, and Kate Taylor who posit that hookup culture is good for women as it frees them to focus on their studies and on their professional develop for careers instead of seeking a long term partner or marriage.
Freitas believes the lessons imparted by hookup culture have "set back" students who often have little experience dating, and few skills in asking a romantic partner out as a result. There has been such a decline in dating culture on college campuses that most students have had more hookups than first dates. On some campuses, dating is so rare that many students do not have the skills to know how to ask someone out. Boston College even offers a course on how to plan and execute a date.
Garcia's review has found that hookups can result in emotional and psychological injury, sexual violence, sexually transmitted infections, and/or unintended pregnancy. Most students report with not concerning themselves with or being concerned about the health risks that come with hookups, however, especially if their partner was a member of their own community, such as a student on the same college campus. Garcia notes that there can be a lot of pressure when it comes to hooking up which can contribute to discomfort, performance anxiety, and stress. 
Some studies have found that students, both men and women, overwhelmingly regret their hookups. In one, 77% of students regretted their hookups, and in another 78% of women and 72% of men who had uncommitted vaginal, anal, and/or oral sex regretted the experience. Intercourse that occurred less than 24 hours after meeting, and those that took place only one time are the most likely to be regretted. Men were more likely to be sorry for having used another person, and women regretted the experience because they felt they had been used. While women usually feel worse after a hook up than men do, 39% of men expressed extreme regret, shame, and frustration with themselves about their hookup experiences.
Other studies found that many college students do not regret their hookup experiences. Wade interviewed many women and men who were enthusiastic about their hookup experiences. Vrangalova and Ong's study documented that students who had a stable personality orientation towards casual sex reported a heightened sense of well being after experiencing casual sex.
Some research shows that hook up regret is gendered, with women tending to regret hooking up much more than men do. According to one study of 832 college students, 26% of women and 50% of men reported positive emotional reactions following a hookup and 49% of women and 26% of men reported negative reactions following a hook up. According to "Explaining Gender Differences in Hookup Regret", there are at least four explanations for why women may regret hookups more than men: (1) They may have different attitudes towards relationships, hooking up, and sex; (2) there may be differences in sexual initiation and agency within hookups; (3) there may be differences in the frequency of orgasm within hookups; and (4) there may be differences in perceived inequality in orgasms during hookups. Other studies, such as Vrangalova and Ong, found no gender difference.
Regret from hooking up may be linked to negative emotional outcomes, especially in women. According to an article by Steven E. Rhoads, Laura Webber, et al., "the more partners women have in the course of their lives, the more likely they are to be depressed, to cry almost every day, and to report relatively low satisfaction with their lives. In Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think About Marrying, Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker report that having more sexual partners is associated with "poorer emotional states in women, but not in men."
The American Psychological Association also says that hookups can result in guilt and negative feelings. In a study of 169 sexually experienced men and women surveyed in singles bars, when presented with the statement, "I feel guilty or would feel guilty about having sexual intercourse with someone I had just met," 32 percent of men and 72 percent of women agreed (Herold & Mewhinney, 1993).
Students who reported to Freitas that they were profoundly upset about hooking up say the encounters made them feel, among other things, used, miserable, disgusted, and duped. In order to avoid becoming a victim, experts believe "that the first step is to acknowledge the dangers inherent in the free-and-easy hookup approach to dating and sex." In one qualitative study, only 2% felt desirable or wanted after a hookup. More than a third, on the other hand, felt regretful or disappointed, and others reported feeling nervous or uncomfortable as well.
College students base their sexual ideas and sexual actions within a peer culture. This is where students who are peers are comparing and differing sexual situations in one's own life amongst each other to create a foundation for the current hookup culture. Kathleen A. Bogle describes the peer culture at universities as the "sexual arena." College students on campuses are able to create and explore their own sexual beings in life by referencing others' intimacy, which tends to be presented publicly.
This peer culture is not only amongst college students, but it may start to develop around the time puberty starts in middle school for both genders around the age of eleven to fourteen years old. In general, puberty is a time when sexuality and body awareness becomes a main focus for individuals to formulate this aspect of their identity. Once in college, for most students, the parental aspect is diminished leaving a student feeling a high degree of freedom to truly explore and expand their whole personal identity, strongly including sexual identity in this "sexual arena."
According to Bogle, the campuses her studies were done at had a common trend of college students being strongly interested in every other student's private life. This awareness of all the happenings in other students' lives closed the doored for true privacy, and made the college scene an open door in looking at others' relationships and sexual intimacy. College is a highly public environment, any kind of sexual activity or public display of affection at parties or on campus are exposed to others. The viewers of this activity process, interpret, and form assumptions about what was observed. These types of sexual activity or public displays of affection could be as meaningless as two individuals romantically speaking to each other in a high capacity location on campus or could be as extreme as two individuals walking into a bedroom together at a party.
This peer culture has evolved and escalated with access to rapid communication such as texting on cell phones and multiple social media applications. Most these social media applications are identity profiles, public thought disposals, and virtual photo albums of oneself, where other's are just a click away from cyber analysis of how that individual displays themselves physically, sexually, psychologically, emotionally, and mentally on the internet. Bogle states that the knowing of other's personal lives isn't just a purpose to gossip, but a way to observe, analyze, and be impacted by other's sexual actions, solely for the purpose of their own actions. A peer culture is where norms surface because individuals begin to conduct themselves in the same manner that their peers do, which creates this typical and common style of acquitting oneself.
Drugs and alcohol
Some studies have made a connection between hookup culture and substance use. A majority of students said that their hookups occurred after drinking alcohol. Frietas has said that in her study the relationship between drinking and the party scene, and between alcohol and hookup culture, was "impossible to miss." Hookups "almost always" occur when at least one participant is drunk according to Kimmel. On average, men have five drinks when they hookup, and women three. Students who reported using marijuana or cocaine in the past year were also more likely than their peers to have hooked up during that period.
About a third of the students who reported engaging in vaginal, anal, or oral sex during a hookup reported being very intoxicated and another third reported being mildly intoxicated. Alcohol can act as a cue regarding sexual availability, as a disinhibitor, and as a rationalization or excuse for their behavior, poor sexual performance, premature ejaculation, and other sexual dysfunctions. It also is the "liquid courage" that allows them to make a sexual advance in the first place.
Studies suggest that the degree of alcoholic intoxication directly correlates with the level of risky behavior. In one study, 33% of those who had hooked up indicated that it was "unintentional," and likely due to the influence of alcohol or other drugs. In a survey of first-year students, women said that 64% of their hookups came after drinking alcohol. These results were similar to another study which found that 61% of all undergraduates reported drinking alcohol before their last hookup.
Studies have generally shown that greater alcohol use is associated with more sexual activity in the course of a hookup. The students who reported the least amount of alcohol consumption were also the least likely to hook up. At the other end of the spectrum, the greatest alcohol consumption was associated with penetrative sex, and less alcohol consumption with non-penatrative hookups. Of those who took part in a hook up that included vaginal, anal, or oral sex, 35% were very intoxicated, 27% were mildly intoxicated, 27% were sober and 9% were extremely intoxicated.
Hookup culture on college campuses is intertwined with a broader society. On the other hand, some sociologists have argued that hookup culture is a characteristic of the American college environment and does not reflect broader American youth culture, just as many college graduates stop engaging in hookups when they leave college preferring instead dating or other sexual arrangements. Others, including Michael Kimmel, have said that "the hookup culture can extend for years" beyond college, "well into their thirties and even their forties." Baby Boomer fears of hookup culture have been termed a "moral panic". Until recently, those who studied the rise of hookup culture had generally assumed that it was driven by men, and that women were reluctant participants, more interested in romance than in casual sexual encounters. But evidence exists that young women are propelling it too.
Hookup culture also exists outside of the college environment. Location-based geosocial networking smartphone applications, a.k.a. hookup apps or dating apps, are increasingly being used to locate potential hookups. Men who have sex with men (MSM) commonly use mobile dating apps designed for the gay male market such as Grindr, Jack'd, and SCRUFF to find hookup partners. One study noted that gay men's increased use of mobile hook-up apps has eroded gay public life, especially for those gay men who are on the urban margins in terms of social class and generation. Hook-up apps designed for heterosexuals emerged after the gay-oriented Grindr; Tinder, for example, was introduced in 2013. There have been a variety of dating apps for women who identify as lesbian, but they have been criticized for merely being "reskins" of successful hookup apps for gay men. Daatch is described as one of the few successful hookup apps designed for lesbians.
Life course studies indicate that as people grow older and as they subjectively identify as adult, they are less likely to engage in casual sexual behavior. However, social scientists recognize that there is little scientific research on older people's sex lives, so no definitive conclusions may be drawn.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has argued that media representations of sexuality may influence teen sexual behavior, and this view is supported by a number of studies.[unbalanced opinion?] Some studies suggest that teens who watch movies with more sexual content tend to become sexually active at an earlier age, and engage in riskier sexual behaviors. The idea is that the media may serve as a "super peer" for youth, who then seek to develop a sexual identity that is in line with popular portrayals. On the other side, conservatives opposed to hookup culture have sparked controversy and come under criticism.
Cable television is filled with reality shows that depict an image of partying and glorified hookups, one of the most well known shows being MTV's Jersey Shore. Studies have found that about 35% of sexual behavior on cable television is with people "who are not in established committed relationships". In television sexual monogamy differs from gender, suggesting men stray away from commitment, while women desire it. Further suggesting masculinity is equal to sex, possibly leading male viewers to be more accepting of hookup culture.
As the cost of personal computers dropped and online access has increased, Heldman and Wade, along with others, argue that internet pornography has "emerged as a primary influence on young people's, especially men's, attitudes towards sex and their own sexuality." Heldman and Wade believe that the increase of access to pornography via the internet is what "spurred" hookup culture, in part by challenging the idea that "good sex" takes place in a monogamous relationship. Feminist Gail Dines has opined that pornography is "a cultural force that is shaping the sexual attitudes of an entire generation" and a "major form of sex ed today for boys."
Extra effects and causes
There are many ideas as to why people think young adults are involved in this hook up culture, such as that they feel like they have to do it to fit in. Some girls also reported that the main reason they are involved with random hook ups is because they think that is what boys want. The feeling of being wanted by a cute guy is what they want and hook ups are how girls think they can get that attention. However, many boys and girls did report that they do hook up with random people in order to find someone they could possibly start something serious with. That being said not all young adults are hooking up with each other to fit the college norm, and gain sexual pleasure, but because they truly want to find someone they have a serious connection with. There was a study by University of Louisville researchers Owen and Fincham, who asked 500 undergraduate students that have been involved in hook up culture how they felt about commitment, and about 45% of men and 65% of women said they wanted their hook ups to possibly end up in a serious relationship.
There have also been a number of studies that have studied the mental aspects of casual hookups. In a study done by psychologist Seth Schwartz has shown results that say that people who had many random hook ups had more psychological issues. For instance, students in college that had stated they were involved in casual sex had higher levels of depression and anxiety and lower levels of self-esteem, happiness and life satisfaction compared to the students who did not engage in a casual hook up in the past thirty days. There was then a study of about 400 young adults that felt lonely and depressed and adults who had less feeling of loneliness and depression who were involved in sexual intercourse. They then researched what emotional affects being involved in sexual intercourse hookups had on them. They then came up with results that showed that penetrative sex hook ups made people with greater feelings of depression and loneliness have a decrease in those symptoms and feelings. Whereas people who expressed less symptoms of loneliness and depression had an increase in those feelings after a penetrative sex hook up. Not only does it make people feel depressed but it makes them feel uncomfortable. For example, a study by Reiber and Garcia in 2010 show that a lot of people that engage in sexual hook ups feel uncomfortable. They also came to a conclusion that 78% of people in a hook up overestimate how comfortable their partner is doing certain things during their sexual engagement. Random hook ups also have shown to cause feelings of pressure and performance anxiety in a study by Paul, et al.
Total number of sex partners among U.S. young adults since age 18:
In this research it was demonstrated that the number of sex partners people have nowadays has barely any difference to the number of partners people had twenty to thirty years ago.
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