Does hook-up culture get in the way of care?

For my first time up at bat, I wanted to talk about hook-up culture and “normlessness.”   The very definition of hooking up (the default social scene on college campuses, they say) is a loose one — it can mean anything from kissing to sex, with someone you barely know, a good friend, or with someone you’ve been romantically involved with for a long time.  And as Kathleen Bogle says in her book Hooking Up, the very fuzziness about what everybody else is doing serves to increase the sexual pressure.

I decided to test this assertion in my class on the Sociology of Family last fall.  Using a remote clicker device which records their answers without displaying their names, I asked my students how many times a semester they thought others were “hooking up.”  Then I asked how many times a semester they hooked up.  See the results below:

times-a-semester-others-hook-up

How often do you think other students here are hooking up?

For each graph, the answer choices were 1) not at all, 2) 1-2 times a semester, 3) 3-4 times a semester, 4) once a week, 5) more than once a week.

times-a-semester-you-hook-up1

How often do you hook up per semester?

Clearly, Bogle is on to something here.  My students, most of them young women, thought most people were hooking up 3-4 times a semester, and that practically no one was refraining from hooking up altogether.  Meanwhile the bulk of them had not hooked up at all, or had hooked up 1-2 times.  When these graphs went up on the wall, my students gasped in surprise.

I’m not suggesting a knee-jerk condemnation of how others connect.  But the question I asked my students was:   does hook-up culture get in the way of people caring for each other, expressing vulnerability and need, exploring interdependence?

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One Comment on “Does hook-up culture get in the way of care?”


  1. Wow, what a great example of how we often have the idea that “everybody is doing” something more than they really are. Research has shown the same thing on high schoolers and drinking. I have to try this in my class next year.


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