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Science & Research

Hookup culture not as prevalent as believed, study shows

Contributing Writer
Friday, November 16, 2012

Despite the perceived ubiquitous nature of hookups on college campuses, sex in the context of romantic relationships is still the norm, according to a longitudinal study conducted by Brown-affiliated researchers and published last month in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

“Over the past few years, hooking up has received a lot of attention in the popular press,” wrote Robyn Fielder, the lead researcher of the study, in an email to The Herald, citing movies such as “Friends with Benefits” and “No Strings Attached” and books like “The Happy Hook-up” and “The Hookup Handbook” as examples.

“Hooking up probably gets more media attention than traditional dating because it is seen as more exciting and because it is considered to be a ‘new’ approach to sex and relationships,” she wrote. “Because we hear more about hooking up, we assume it is extremely common.”

Fielder’s study surveyed 483 first-year females at Syracuse University and found that sex in the context of a relationship was more common than sex through hookups with a casual partner. Hookups were defined as sex outside of a relationship with “no mutual expectation of a romantic commitment.”

Between 7 and 18 percent of respondents had hookup sex in a given month, while an average of 25 to 38 percent of respondents had sex with a romantic partner. Over the course of the year, 40 percent of respondents had oral and/or vaginal sex with a casual partner, while 56 percent had it in the context of a romantic relationship. Ninety-six percent of the subjects were heterosexual.

Fielder’s findings are consistent with The Herald poll conducted in 2011, which found that 73.9 percent of students had 0 or 1 sexual partners that semester. A poll conducted last month found that 73.3 percent of students were currently in an exclusive relationship with one other person or no sexual relationship at all, with 56 percent seeking an exclusive relationship.

Fielder’s study found that the total number of sexual encounters with both casual partners and romantic partners peaked at the beginning of the year, which is consistent with the theory that students are more sexually experimental at this time, the authors wrote in the study.

“First-year college students may be more likely to socialize/party, and thus hook up, at the beginning of the semester because they are newly exposed to the college environment and the many freedoms it offers,” Fielder wrote.

This temporal trend can be utilized by health services on campuses to accurately time their education and contraceptive programs.

“We make sure we are getting information to first-years right from the beginning in order to make sure they have access to resources,” said Naomi Ninneman, a health educator at Brown Health Services. Health Services also trains Residential Peer Leaders to have proper knowledge of all resources related to sexual health and equips them with safe sex supplies to provide to their residents, Ninneman added.

Lisa Wade, an associate professor of sociology and department chair at Occidental College whose work was cited in the study, said she was not surprised by the results. “When people arrive on campus, they try and enact this life that has been promised by the media” where women are sexually free and independent, Wade said. During the course of their first year, only about 10 percent truly enjoy the supposedly free and liberating casual hookup culture, she added.

Because these people also tend to be the most sexually visible, the remaining population suffers from what social psychology has deemed “pluralistic ignorance,” whereby students incorrectly assume that everybody else is having more and better sex. But 20 percent of college students graduate still as virgins, Wade said.

The study focused primarily on college women because they are more likely compared to males to experience depression, sexual victimization and STDs, topics the researchers will address in future papers. The experimenters also chose to study first-years because they identified the first year of college as a critical developmental period during which sexual behavior increases as young women “explore who they want to become and how they want to interact with others,” Fielder wrote. Future studies could investigate whether these trends exist among male populations, upperclassmen and non-college-attending individuals.

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  1. glen broemer says:

    With either the willfully blind approval or the willful ignorance of the judiciary the right has killed & stolen several of my pets and routinely shoot energy weaponry at me and my pets. Recent harm to animals include: two kittens from a pregnant stray i took in were killed a few days ago. The remaining two, just 3 weeks old, shake their head as government operatives shoot them with energy weaponry. They shot the eye out or removed the eye of a large really good natured stray at the port, hobbled another cat at the port, shooting it with energy weaponry, and routinely kill and leave dead animals in my path. A few years ago one of them threatened, prophetic, ‘we’ll just kill a cat every so often’, in so many words. This has continued despite my calls to the police, the FBI, Congress, and my petitions in court. In the usual case, it appears that the right goes to a judicial crony for a ruling permitting them to harm animals to retaliate against me for my free speech. There’s no serious argument but that they interfered with my personal life and economic options for 3 decades, so their solution to my noting it is to kill animals. Makes perfect sense right? It does if you’re a sociopathic criminal, criminally stupid, and hawkish. Invariably their lies are exposed and the wrongfulness of the harm is clear to everyone, though not until the animals have been maimed or killed. There is really only one solution, and that’s to disempower them politically.

    Typically operating through Puppets–including puppets in the judiciary–the right wing has for decades been committing crimes and trying to classify them to cover them up, a move explicitly forbidden by the Code of Federal Regulations. The right has accomplished its political objectives by presenting a fraction of the evidence to judicial officials who, having seen the pattern dozens of times before, could not help but realize that they were being presented with incomplete and inaccurate information.

    If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth, right? the Democrats’ great accomplishment is producing the political equivalent of a Rodney King video, clearly demonstrating the lies of the right, the right Hilary Clinton correctly identified as a vast conspiracy. Confirm by examining Central District of California Cases, 01-4340, 03-9097, 08-5515, 10-5193, US Tax Court 12000-07L –though I think you want to view my US Tax Court Appeal to the 9th Circuit for a good account of their day to day assaults, a few month time slice indicative of a decade of assault, and 9th Circuit case 11-56043.

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