A New Standard of Sexual Behavior? Are Claims Associated With the “Hookup Culture” Supported by General Social Survey Data?
Journal of Sex Research, 2014, Volume 51, Issue 6, 605-615.
© 2014 The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality
Linked version is the final published version.
Popular media have described intimate relationships among contemporary college students as dominated by a pervasive sexual “hookup culture,” implying that students are involved in frequent sexual encounters pursued by both participants without the expectation of a continuing relationship. The hookup culture has been described as “a nationwide phenomenon that has largely replaced traditional dating on college campuses” (Bogle, 2008, p.5). We tested whether these claims are supported among young adults (18–25) who had completed at least one year of college. Contrasting 1988–1996 waves of the General Social Survey with 2004–2012 waves, we found respondents from the current era did not report more sexual partners since age 18, more frequent sex, or more partners during the past year than respondents from the earlier era. Sexually active respondents from the current era were more likely than those from the earlier era to report sex with a casual date/pickup or friend, and less likely to report sex with a spouse/regular partner. These modest changes are consistent with cultural shifts in the “scripts” and terminology surrounding sexuality. We find no evidence of substantial changes in sexual behavior that would indicate a new or pervasive pattern of non-relational sex among contemporary college students.