College and “Hookup Culture”

imageA few years ago, Time ran a piece called The Truth About College HookupsInteresting stuff in it regarding the ambiguity of that phrase “hookup,” students’ perceptions of the relationship/sexual climate at college, and differences between what everyone assumes is going on around campus and what really is (a form of pluralistic ignorance, perhaps?).

Check it out for a take on how some of the issues we’re discussing this week play out among college students. Thoughts? Criticisms? Questions? Does reading this piece make you think about any specific topics from Chapter 10?

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14 Responses to College and “Hookup Culture”

  1. Michael Rogalski says:

    This article points to very general trends in the United States as a whole, but I am left curious about the variability of the results from university to university. I think at smaller schools like Tufts and Williams, the propinquity effect and the mere exposure effect may induce an increase in this hookup behavior. After three years at Tufts, I seldom walk around campus and see somebody I do not at least vaguely recognize from my old dorms, a class, or an event we have both been at. So, everyone at these smaller schools crosses paths commonly on small campuses and may therefore be more attracted to a greater number of individuals. This increase in proximity and familiarity could cause increased “hooking up” at small schools.

    There is also an argument that the hookup culture should be more prevalent at larger schools like UMass or UConn. There is a larger selection of potential mates at these schools and fewer social consequences to hooking up with someone (because you are less likely to see them afterwards at a large school), so one could also argue that hookup behavior should be expected to increase at these institutions. Hopefully, more specific data that relates school size and trends in sexual behavior surfaces and we can gain a clearer understanding of what predicts increases and decreases in “hooking up” within our generation.

    • I definitely agree that there must be measurable variability in “hookup culture” between schools and especially between large and small schools. Another concept we discussed that could play and influential role, in addition to propinquity and familiarity, is similarity. At small schools it is much more likely that two people have mutual friends, have taken similar classes and have attended the same events. This creates a stronger sense of similarity between two people than might be found at a larger school, where people’s day to day lives are less likely to cross paths with others.

      • I agree that propinquity can aid in finding someone you connect with and that can lead to hooking up. But I don’t think I believe that propinquity plays a huge deal in parties, especially in larger school parties I’ve been to, it’s kind of a free for all. Like in social gatherings it’s definitely easier to make friends and meet and hook up with people if you’re introduced by a mutual friend, but bigger schools also have a lot more and bigger parties, and I think anonymity makes it a lot easier to have casual hookups. Like in small schools like Tufts, the propinquity and close connections can often deter a hookup for fear of changing social dynamics, and things are a lot freer in larger schools and communities because you can hookup with someone and not worry about really seeing them ever again.

        • Profile photo of kalper02 kalper02 says:

          I agree that the level of anonymity at larger schools probably plays heavily into the hookup culture. What I wonder is if, while it can alleviate some awkwardness to not run into a hook-up, if hooking up is really not meeting the needs/desires of those who do “hook-up.” Don’t we all want human connection and closeness?

      • Tory K says:

        I think the similarity argument definitely holds true in smaller schools and even more so at Tufts which has its “quirky” reputation. Whether or not it’s true, it’s definitely assumed that everyone here shares that quirk and can relate on some level. I think its also true that propinquity has a large effect in the ability to let loose. At a big school where going out involves mainly strangers I know I would definitely be more cautious and be less likely to relax and mingle than at Tufts where I know a good number of people and am familiar with the majority. This blurs into group behavior a little bit, I feel safer in the group at Tufts because I know the individuals and can point them out and (hopefully) prevent harm that could come from groupthink or deindividuation enabling an aggressor in a dark basement

        • Profile photo of jstone08 jstone08 says:

          I definitely agree with the conclusion, but I have a devil’s advocate for a thought about bigger schools. Obviously, I have not conducted any experiments or anything official, but I feel that the social groups at large schools may create smaller sub-groups that foster similar behavior to the social climate at Tufts. When I have gone to larger schools to visit friends and what not, yes the school does have more students, but take one individual student, they seem to be exposed to a fairly small subset of the student body, even in their social spheres. That being said, I definitely wanted a smaller school because of the initial associations with it.

    • I think that the general beliefs and attitudes of people at various institutions also impacts the amount of “hookups” that occur. For example, since Tufts is a more progressive school, I think that people would be more accepting of people who hook up and do not socially ridicule them as much as other place where hooking up is still more of a taboo subject to disclose.

      Additionally, religion can also impact a person’s attitude towards hooking up, as strict followers of religions tend to be more conservative and would deem hooking up as a sin. Thus, I wonder if the study published has done any further analysis focusing on Jesuit schools or other similar institutions.

  2. Rachel Lai says:

    This article is interesting, but it only gives a general description of hookup culture in the US. Tufts is a very different school than, for example, Arizona State or Ohio State, so the article’s points cannot be applied to many schools. I would be more interested in an article that more specifically discusses trends in smaller schools, as the interactions between students are more limited and things are kept in a tighter circle. Topics we covered in lecture like the Propinquity effect and the Mere exposure effect would definitely occur at a school like Tufts, but I think smaller schools also have their ways of discouraging hookups. Some people who are purely looking for a one-night stand might be more willing to hookup if they know they will never see the other person again, and at a school as small as Tufts, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll run into him/her again. Those kinds of people might be more willing to hookup at a larger school even though the Propinquity effect isn’t as strong there. Hookup culture is definitely different in a smaller community, and it would be interesting to read about how those characteristics differ as well. On a final note, I think the Propinquity effect is more relevant to longer-term relationships. Being in close proximity makes people more likely to be attracted to one another in that way, but it doesn’t necessarily take into account the short-term nature of hookups, so I don’t think it’s as applicable there.

    • Profile photo of Ki Jung Lee Ki Jung Lee says:

      I definitely agree that school like Tufts does not apply to the article. In Tufts environment, we have more chance of having propinquity effect. Therefore, it is harder to have short-term relationship and just move on as if nothing happened. In the hookup scenario, mere exposure effect might be more applicable because a person might function as a stimulus that promotes to a momentary attraction that is impermanent. Also, when college students hookup, those are usually done in party, loud concert, drinking where they experience physiological arousal. This would lead to temporary attraction. As it was mentioned above, I would like to see more study done on the small school because the article was more generalized. Thus, comparison between small and big universities would explain situational factors that might affect people attitudes in involved in hookup. I think this could decrease the fundamental attribution error that might occur for people who would negatively judge students in this kinds of situation.

      • I was thinking the same thing about the mere exposure effect. On small campuses there is more of a chance to see people multiple times and therefore feel more comfortable hooking up with them. Proximity is also more extreme than on large campuses. I wonder if this would increase the number of people hooking up. It would also be interesting to look at physiological arousal in party and concert settings.

  3. I have read so many articles written by older people who either make disparaging comments about the “millennial” generation and hook up culture, or try to say its the same as it was before. Most of these articles end up frustrating me because they are not ever based in scientific thought. This article was different in that it had statistics, but again made the same point as half of the articles do–that we are pretty much the same as older generations. One thing that stuck with me was the use of the word “hook up” which is so undefined and variable..each person says it means something different.
    As much as i may wonder about Tufts specific hook up culture, I am ok without another study to tell me how much my generation is having sex. It may be interesting, but at the same time I wonder where our need to know about how often others are hooking up comes from..

    • Defiantly agree. It was nice that this article gave a scientific point of view to the hook up culture. Also you raise a nice question about why we feel the need to compare ourselves to others in terms of hooking up. Just a thought but maybe the evolutionary point of view would be that comparing ourselves to others lets us know when we need to take action in order to not fall behind. So in a sense it may be rooted in us to feel the need to engage in hook up culture if our friends are so that we do not fall behind evolutionarily in terms of age and reproductive ability.

  4. Profile photo of Alison Hoi Alison Hoi says:

    I feel like the extent of hookup culture within the millennials has been pretty inflated by the media. I recently read an article about how our generation is having historically lower levels of sex/intimate partnership than other generations. However, I think it’s easy to conflate the accessibility of “hookups” (through dating apps that streamline the process like Tinder) with actual hooking up.

  5. Profile photo of bren01 bren01 says:

    This article was really interesting in that it gave actual statistics for the findings that it was reporting. However, these statistics were very generalized for the United States as a whole. I’m interested on the differences in hooking up between more conservative schools and liberal schools like Tufts. In addition, my friends that have stayed in the South tell me that most of the people that they know in college are all in committed relationships. Therefore, I would be interested in the differences between schools in various regions of the United States. I also think that there’s the vague definition of hooking up also makes this topic even harder to study and compare.

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