‘Hookups’ revolutionize how college students interact sexually

Emily Nordquist

College students are turning more towards “hooking up” as opposed to dating or a relationship while in school. Although it is usually considered a one night deal, “friends with benefits” is also common form of “hooking up.” These relationships, usually

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Many college students have done it, some even find it necessary for college life.

It is “hooking up,” and over the past decade it has revolutionized how students sexually interact. A great deal of research has been done on this phenomenon to see what the effect has been on young adults and their sexual relationships.

The article, “Hook Ups,” in the Journal of Sex Research defines a hook up as “a sexual encounter, usually lasting only one night, between two people who are strangers or brief acquaintances. Some physical sexual interaction is typical, but it may or may not include sexual intercourse.”

These ambiguous terms used by students are leaving room for interpretation in their sexual encounters, as well as their relationships.

Laurie Wagner, human sexuality instructor, did her dissertation on the college culture of “hookups.”

“We, as a society, are culturally more accepting of sexual encounters outside relationships,” Wagner said. “We are even defining our relationships with less rigid terms than previous generations. My students often bring up this idea of ‘friends-with-benefits’ when we talk about these things in class.”

In a 2004 survey conducted by the National College Health Association, 8.5 percent of Kent State students reported having four or more sexual partners in the one-year period.

Many ask if this is a healthy exploration of sexuality or just promiscuous behavior without consideration to consequence, Wagner said. She said she worries that some college students are overestimating their sexual maturity.

This newfound acceptance of sexuality creates opportunities for college students to increase understanding of their own bodies and what they are comfortable with, she said. On the other hand, it also can lead to young adults feeling obligated to experiment.

Wagner uses the example of some college students defining a sexually revolutionized or empowered woman as someone who is open to engaging in same-sex activities. This misconception that females should sexually interact with each other, not because they are attracted to females, but because it is “sexy” or “cool,” is unhealthy.

“Exploring your sexuality is something very personal and inherent with your own morality,” Wagner said. “I see no problem with someone doing something that makes them feel good or empowered, but it is important to remember to act within your own boundaries.”

A great deal of the research on the effect of hookups is examining females specifically. For some college women, hookups or casual relationships are an empowering way to control their sexuality, but some women cannot detach their emotions from the sexual encounter as they had initially planned, Wagner said.

Another major concern about this culture of casual sexual encounters are the safety risks and consequences of unprotected sex. Sarah Hallsky, health education and promotion graduate student, works in the Office of Health Promotions located in the DeWeese Health Center.

“Regardless of what you are doing, you should be doing it safely and correctly,” Hallsky said. “It is important to be consistent with condoms and get tested frequently. It is important to protect yourself, and if your partner is not willing to do that, maybe you should rethink what you are doing.”

Contact student life reporter Emily Nordquist at [email protected]