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:
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.
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?