Summary: The Shift from Dating to Hooking up in College: What Scholars Have Missed”

Traditional dating by college students has been replaced by “hooking up”.

  • “Hooking up” or having casual sexual activity without romantic commitment has become the dominant sexual activity among heterosexual college students in America.  The trend has shifted away from traditional dating that was generally the norm prior to the 1960s sexual revolution.  Traditional dating (as in a series of dates leading to a romantic relationship where sexual activity occurs at some point) is fundamentally different and is rarely done in college today but becomes more common after leaving the college campus environment.  The campus environment enables students to be influenced by peers and “hooking up” becomes socially acceptable.  Consumption of alcohol by participants and the college environment with alcohol-centered events are the two facilitating agents that are crucial to the “hooking up culture”.  The “hook up” is the primary means for students to initiate sexual and romantic relationships although the sexual activity comes first and may never progress to a relationship.  Like dating, “hooking up” can have multiple meanings but will involve at least one of the following: kissing, petting, oral sex or sexual intercourse.  Most common is “hooking up” with a friend or classmate.  Women students are more likely to expect a “hook up” experience to develop into a romantic relationship than men do and may, over time, lower their expectations of developing a relationship.  Women reported feeling pressured into having greater sexual involvement than desired, especially when intoxicated. 

               Researchers need to take into account variables in what “hooking up” means to college students when studying their sexual behaviors on campus.  Students often perceive that peers are more comfortable with various aspects of “hooking up” compared to themselves.  Since students feel pressured into doing what peers are doing, this is an important point for them in determining what they perceive normal sexual activity to be for themselves and their peers.1

1Bogle, Kathleen A. “The Shift from Dating to Hooking up in College: What Scholars Have Missed” Sociology Compass 1/2 (2007): 775–788, 10.1111/j.1751-9020.2007.00031.x Journal Compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd


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