University students hook up? Duh

Study finds hookups rampant on university campuses, less so in workforce

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Newsflash: university students are more likely to have random hookups than actually date.

These words of wisdom were brought to you by a recent study on sex and relationships in university.

The study was conducted by Kathleen Bogle, a assistant professor of sociology at LaSalle University, and published in a book called Hooking Up: Sex, Dating and Relationships on Campus.

Hooking up was defined as physical contact with no expectations.

“It’s a physical encounter with no strings attached. The physical aspect can be anything from kissing to intercourse,” Bogle said.

The study was made up of 76 interviews with college students and young alumni from two East Coast US universities, one Catholic and one state school. Bogle did not identify the names of those universities.

According to the study, universities are excellent incubators of hookup culture, due to the close proximity of students to each other and the lack of parental supervision.

“The large proportion of students are adolescents ... at a time when they’re less likely to be in committed relationships,” Lorne Campbell, an assistant professor of psychology at Western, said.

Lara Cross, a fifth-year psychology student, and Sarah Scanlon, a fourth-year women’s studies student, agreed colleges can encourage hooking up.

“You have 17 and 18 year olds who now have the opportunity to make decisions for themselves,” Cross said.

“The whole hooking-up culture is something that is constructed and forced upon our gender roles,” Scanlon added.

The study also looked at emotional effects of hooking up. Bogle wrote that college students can become prone to a fishbowl existence " a “sexual arena” where students are constantly evaluated for their hookup potential.

“I think that behaviour is really contagious ... There’s an element of competition in terms of appearance [on campuses],” Bogle said.

As students graduate, the study found alumni revert to traditional dating. This discernable change to dinner-and-a-movie dating was prevalent even among adults who had previously participated in hookups.

“As people get older, they tend to start focusing more on long-term relationships,” Campbell said, noting in Canada the median age of sexual initiation is 17.

Campbell said when alumni enter the workplace, there may not be as many opportunities for casual hookups.

“I think that after college, people become more fearful of strangers,” Bogle said, noting this fear may make graduates less likely to hook up with people they do not know personally.

She also suggested alumni are more interested in serious relationships than college students.

“After college, people are increasingly looking for ... the one,” Bogle said.

When it comes to generalizing the study’s findings, Bogle admits there are limits. The study looked primarily at white, heterosexual college students to draw its findings.

She assured research in this area is ongoing.

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