Hook Up Culture

So scanning the usual battery of articles, I began my search using terms like “sexual differences in emotional processing” or “sex differences in arousal” (much like Anna’s recent post). Interestingly enough, I found that “Hook Up” has now been given a functional definition on pubmed: “Hooking up or a sexual encounter ranging from kissing to intercourse that occurs on one occasion and where the partners do not necessarily expect future physical encounters or a committed relationship has become common place among college students.” This is now being studied as a common phenomenon in college students’ lives today.

In the context of sexual differences, how does this new college culture affect each sex? The two possibilities that this study presents for students in college is either to be “dating” in a traditional sense or to be “hooking up” in a non-committed, casual form. Is one sex “losing” in either of these interactions? Is hooking up a male construct to avoid the commitment and interactions that come along with relationships, a so called “loss of freedom and independence“?

Well, cutting to this article’s conclusion: “We received support for the hypothesis that overall women more than men would prefer traditional dating whereas men more than women, would prefer to hook up.

Here are some other interesting tidbits from the article that could elicit some good questions:

The flirting and brief interactions that precede a hook up make rejection less likely; and women sometimes initiate hook ups

Are guys just feeling more rejected these days? Could they be feeling inferior on other scales (note things such as the increased acceptance of women to college vs men). And are guys feeling the stress of initiating conversations?

These sexual goals can be more easily obtained at less cost by hooking up than by dating. Although frequent casual sex is associated with greater depression in women, this is less true for men

Girls, could we be putting ourselves at greater risk for depressive symptoms? Could hooking up be an environmental trigger to depression?

most research suggests this double standard continues to affect the perceptions of women and men, such that women are derogated and men rewarded for frequent sexual activities

So a guy is high-fived for hooking up with a girl, and the girl is called a slut by whoever overhears the conversation at Dana Sunday brunch? Is it possible that these gender roles are slowly being reversed (like we discussed a bit in class)?

In Western society men more than women tend to separate sex from love, whereas women more than men link sex and love

Is there a difference in emotional processing of arousal in men and women? Could religion, friendships and previous encounters (such as being cheated on) affect the separation between sex and love?

10 thoughts on “Hook Up Culture

  1. Very interesting. Everyone at college has observed this and I always wondered the different effects on men and women as a result of this culture. However, I had never thought of the biological implications.


  2. I wonder if there is some sort of evolutionary advantage for women to link sex with love and for men to separate the two, because it implies that men are more likely to have multiple partners AKA spread a lot of seeds and, according to Darwin, reproduction is the most important human activity. Just a thought.


  3. One of the “tidbits” given from the article described how women seem to initiate the flirting that leads to a potential hook up. A question posed was that this is because rejection is less likely for guys. However, I think it is also interesting to look at the fact from a girl’s prospective. What if the woman only initiates the flirting because she feels like she is more in control of the hook up. Maybe women are the ones with self confidence issues and that they feel in control and powerful when a guy will compliment them and say anything that will lead to a hook up. I feel like if the majority of the time women regretted a hook up or were only looking for a relationship then they would initiate less. But, maybe it is their lack of confidence in finding a relationship that drives them to seek the only thing that will make them feel in control and confident (with respect to sexual relationships): a hook up.


  4. I think that that new definition of “hooking up” is very true, and I also agree that men are usually praised for more frequent sexual activity, and that women tend to be more easily depressed after a “hook up”. I definitely think that there are exceptions to these trends, however, I have a hard time seeing how this trend is being reversed. I’d be interested to hear about other information that supports the theory that it is changing. For now, I still see the “bros” dominating the scene. If the trend is truly being reversed, do you maybe think that this is due to the flourishing independence of women these days?


  5. I don’t think this culture is limited to colleges; it seems to be observable outside of academia as well, which makes sense given the anthropological roles of the genders in past (and present) hunter-gatherer societies. Humans were not necessarily “made” to be monogamous and in long-lasting relationships – that is a byproduct of “civilization” (this can be a pretty touchy area, so I use this term loosely) and the conquering of basic physiological needs via technology and innovation. Casual sex helped our species to reproduce and thus survive, but given that it’s only been a few thousand years since the rise of humans, it’s not plausible to believe that any sort of evolution or huge change in such a fundamental human sexual behavior would have already so saliently come about.


  6. Its interesting that even though women on a greater scale would prefer more intimate relationships, yet still participate in the hook-up culture. They also still try to link sex and love within the culture, which makes me wonder that regardless of the situation, women biologically feel compelled to make this connection.


  7. I think this article touches on things that college students talk about a lot. I think there is a lot more anxiety among girls after hook ups because they worry about being labeled a slut. It is interesting that the “Hook Up” is a newly defined term in this article. I wonder if this article was done on a college campus ten or twenty years ago if the results would be very different? Or is our generation somehow much more sexualized than previous generations? What are the biological implications?


  8. I think it was interesting that this study only focused on social constraints. For example, when listing the costs of dating to men, it mentioned financial reasons, responsibility, and rejection- all of which are socially constructed. A lot of people mentioned evolutionary reasons why this dating/hook up gender divide might occur, but there are some animals that are naturally monogomous. I wonder if you removed all social constraint placed on men, would they actually prefer dating to hooking up? Dating typically leads to a more consistent sexual partner, so it might be in their best interest.
    Also, I was wondering how the media plays into this. It seems that a few generations ago, dating was the norm. I wonder what has changed.


  9. This article is very pertinent in our lives–this anomaly we call college–sets us up for “hooking-up”, non-committed, casual relationships, where it seems the girl is always the one getting her heart broken or being called a slut, whore, hooker, or promiscuous, and the guy gets praised for “getting it in” (please excuse my language; this isn’t the first time my angsty 20-something has come jarring). So I agree with your statement, “So a guy is high-fived for hooking up with a girl, and the girl is called a slut by whoever overhears the conversation at Dana Sunday brunch?”

    I do, however, think that these gender roles are slowly being reversed. Girls are “sticking it to the man.” We can play these mind games too, and maybe even better. Although, the emotional component is what hinders our “I don’t care; I do what I want” attitudes. I think you bring up a great point that maybe there is a difference between men and women in emotional processing of arousal. Could the amygdala be more strongly activated in men than in women? Or is there a more complex neural circuit involved in sexual and emotional arousal? Or maybe Sigmund Freud is rearing his ugly head yet again with his theory of transference–where we are biological time machines, our past comes back to haunt us, creating an emotional time warp, that I’d say affects females more so than men (cheating boyfriends, jealousy, etc.)

    Or maybe we have to resort back to men thinking with their penis and girls with their hearts?!


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