Hookups are no-strings encounters

Young people may not be “hooking up” on college campuses as much as the popular culture suggests. At least that’s what a new study found when researchers asked students some specific questions about an often-ambiguous topic. Most agree that hookups are no-strings encounters, but just what that means can range from kissing to sexual intercourse.


So researchers at Duke University spelled it out for a random sample of almost 1,500 students at the Durham, N.C., campus — and found that only about one-third had had a hookup in college.

“People have been speculating that the hookup was becoming the dominant relationship. We don’t think it is,” says sociologist S. Philip Morgan, co-author of the research presented over the weekend at the non-profit Population Association of America annual meeting.

“There was no ambiguity in our survey. We asked them exactly what they did,” he says, explaining that the online survey e-mailed to a random sample of students asked them to “check all that apply” in explaining their hookup behavior.

Researchers surveyed 732 freshmen and 723 seniors and found that of the one-third in each grade that had 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.

“Our findings call into question some popular accounts as well as some social scientific ones,” researcher Wendy Brynildsen said in her presentation. “We find a diverse mix of campus relationships at Duke. We also find a strong association between previous relationship behavior and current relationship behavior for both freshmen and seniors.”

She says the findings show that, of those at Duke who had hookups, many had hookups in earlier relationships, and for freshmen, that meant in high school. The researchers did find that drinking as well as having friends who hooked up has a strong effect on hooking up.

“I don’t think Duke is all that unusual. I think that some of the negative bad raps that colleges are getting are the result of really bad information,” Morgan says.

Morgan says the findings suggest to him that college life hasn’t changed “nearly as much as people say it has.”

“I was amazed at how similar we found college life to be like what I remember it being like,” he says. “A lot of this hooking up is what we used to call ‘making out.’ ”

 Via USA Today