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A New Standard of Sexual Behavior? Are Claims Associated With the "Hookup Culture" Supported by General Social Survey Data?


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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, 20088. Bogle , K. A. ( 2008 ). Hooking up: Sex, dating, and relationships on campus . New York , NY : New York University Press . View all references, 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.
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A New Standard of Sexual Behavior? Are Claims Associated With
the ‘‘Hookup Culture’’ Supported by General Social Survey Data?
Martin A. Monto and Anna G. Carey
Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of Portland
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 continu-
ing 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, a nd 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.
Recent research and popular media reports have
described intimate relationships among contemporary
college students as characterized by a pervasive sexual
‘‘hookup culture’’ (Bogle, 2008; Kalish & Kimmel,
2011; Rosin, 2012a). Though the term and related var-
iants have a range of meanings, most reports on the
‘‘hookup’’ have described it as a pattern involving tran-
sitory sexual interactions between partners who have
no expectation of a continued romantic relationship
(Bogle, 2008), or ‘‘sexuality outside of a commi tted
relationship’’ (Kalish & Kimmel, 2011, p. 137). Bogle
(2008) argued that hookup culture is ‘‘a nationwide
phenomenon that has largely replaced traditional dating
on college campuses’’ (p. 5). Research has suggested that
hooking up occurs most commonly on the college scene,
where it is culturally acceptable to party, there is no rush
for marriage, and there is an emphasis on identity explo-
ration that includes sexual experiences (Arnett, 2004).
The present study aimed to clarify the claims being made
about hookup culture and evaluate whether these claims
are supported by findings from national samples drawn
from two different time periods.
Both interview and survey research has shown that
college students today engage in hooking up. About
78% of a sample of students from a Northeastern
university reported hooking up, with 47.5% of men and
33.3% of women reporting that the experience included
intercourse (Paul, McManus, & Hayes, 2000). A number
of studies on hooking up have used England’s Online
College Social Life Survey (Armstrong, England, &
Fogarty, 2012; England & Thomas, 2006). Using this
data set, Kalish and Kimmel (2011) found that among
14,000 students at 19 colleges, 58% had hooked up by
their senior year, with respondents averaging about
seven hookups. Armstrong and colleagues (2012), study-
ing more than 13,000 heterosexual women with a more
recent version of the data set, reported that by their
senior year 69% of college women had hooked up, with
a median of three reported hookups, including the
women who did not report hooking up. These and other
studies also suggest that there has been a decline in
traditional dating and courtship practices. While it is
easy to interpret these findings as indicators of a culture
of ‘‘no strings attached’’ sexuality, the activities students
reported under the term hooking up included everything
from kissing to intercourse, with intercourse being
reported in less than half of all hookups.
The idea that today’s college students are hooking up
brings up a host of fascinating and sociologically impor-
tant issues. To what degree does hooking up mean greater
autonomy and sexual freedom for women (Rosin, 2012b)
or reinforce male privilege (Kalish & Kimmel, 2011;
Regnerus & Uecker, 2011)? Who benefits from the
Correspondence should be addressed to Martin A. Monto, Univer-
sity of Portland, 5000 North Willamette Boulevard, Portland, OR
97203. E-mail:
JOURNAL OF SEX RESEARCH, 51(6), 605–615, 2014
Copyright # The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality
ISSN: 0022-4499 print=1559-8519 online
DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2014.906031
practice, and which groups and interests are driving it
(Bradshaw, Kahn, & Saville, 2010)? To what extent are
hookups seen as satisfying or viewed with regret
(Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008; Rhoads, 2012)? Is alcohol
merely used as a social lubricant, or is it a tool to manipu-
late others (Ven & Beck, 2009)? How is hookup culture
related to sexual assault (Littleton, Tabernik, Canales,
& Backstrom, 2009)? College students asked about hook-
ing up overestimated the rates among their peers as well
as the degree to which their peers were comfortable with
casual sex (Barriger & Ve
lez-Blasini, 2013; Lambert,
Kahn, & Apple, 2003). Given this, to what extent do
students’ beliefs about the normalcy of hooking up create
social pressure to do so (Freitas, 2008) or convey the
message that it is permissible to do so? The present study
evaluated a central premise behind many of these
studies—that college students today are dealing with a
very different sexual reality than previous generations.
Whether and how these realities have changed may have
implications for how researchers answer these questions.
The use of the term hookup to describe physical
relationships among young people has emerged recently
in the scholarly literature (Bogle, 2007; Stinson, 2010).
Our search of eight EBSCO scholarly databases in
education, psychology, social science, and sociology for
article titles containing the terms hook up, hookup,
hook-up,orhooking up , revealed that the term was not
used during the 1990s, was used only sporadically from
2000–2005, and was used extens ively from 2006 onward.
Just four peer-reviewed journal articles from 2000–2005
included these terms, while 84 articles from 2006 through
June of 2013 used them. We observed the same trend in
our informal review of popular periodicals. Qualitative
research has indicated that the term has become widely
used among college students to describe their experi ences
(Bogle, 2008).
The widespread diffusion of a new term to describe
behavior suggests a change in culture. Though some
studies acknowledged that this change may have been tak-
ing place for decades (Armstrong, Hamilton, & England,
2010; Bogle, 2007; England & Thomas, 2006), many arti-
cles have either implied or explicitly posited that this
change has been more recent. As early as 2003, Lambert
and colleagues argued that ‘‘today on college campuses
across the United States what was once viewed as
problematic has now become normative, and students
refer to this process as ‘hooking up ’’ (p. 129). Stinson
(2010) identified hooking up as a ‘‘trend,’’ Aubrey and
Smith (2013) identified it as a ‘‘recent change,’’ and
Kalish and Kimmel (2011) described it as ‘‘the new
normative sexual experience among American university
students’’ (p. 138). Research has tied the trend toward
hooking up into other social trends, such as the change
in sex ratios on college campuses (Regnerus & Uecker,
2011; Uecker & Regnerus, 2010), the increasing age of
marriage (England & Thomas, 2006; Regnerus & Uecker,
2011), and the tendency of today’s college students to
delay economic self-sufficiency (Harden, 2013), all
suggesting that the phenomenon of hooking up is a trend
but implying that it has been taking place more gradually.
However, much of the research describing the sexual
and intimate behavior of college students has been
cross-sectional, collected at only one point in time
(England & Thomas, 2006; Fielder & Carey, 2010; Freitas,
2008, 2013; Kalish & Kimmel, 2011; Paul et al., 2000),
making it difficult to determine whether recent changes in
sexual scripts, narratives, and jargon are associated with
changes in behavior and attitudes.
To use the term hookup culture implies not only
distinctive patterns of behavior, but also the other
components of a subculture, including values, attitudes,
lifestyles, and modes of behavior (Skolnick, 2006).
Conceived this way, the meanings associated with the
phenomenon of hooking up are as impor tant as the
behavior itself. Bogle’s work, along with other qualitat-
ive research (England & Thomas, 2006; Kalish &
Kimmel, 2011), has made a con vincing case that the
meanings and narratives associated with college student
sexuality today have changed. Bogle (2008) used Waller’s
(1937) sexual scripting theory as a framework for
describing how sexual and intimate practices and
behaviors in the United States have changed over time.
Scripting theory describes the processes in which prac-
tices of initiating relational and sexual behavior are
learned in our society. ‘‘Scripts’’ provide the normative
content through which sexual interaction is supposed
to progres s, as well as parameters around appropriate
scenarios for sexual interaction (Bogle, 2008). In her
monograph Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships
on Campus, Bogle (2008) described a multistage tran-
sition from the ‘‘calling era’’ that existed through the
1920s to the hookup culture of today. While the concept
of changing sexual scripts is useful, it is important to
recognize that hooking up and dating relationships are
not exclusive forms of interaction and can coexist in
college environments at a given tim e (Armstrong et al.,
2010; Hamilton & Armstrong, 2009).
Current research and the popular media have claimed
that the hookup culture is a widespread phenomenon
that has replaced traditio nal dating on college campuses
as the sexual script of the cu rrent era. Though the term
remains ambiguous and is used differently by different
groups, both researchers and news outlets have reported
that there is a distinct and recent trend among college
students to participat e in intentional sexual encounters
devoid of expectations for romantic attachment. Using
data from the nationally representative General Social
Survey (GSS; Smith, Marsden, Hout, & Kim, 1972–
2012), we looked at a set of variables on sexual behavior
and attitudes gathered between 1988 and 2012 to evalu-
ate how often college students are ‘‘hooking up’’ and
whether this behavior is a recent phenomenon.
To provide clarity, we have organized the assumptions
and propositions emerging from existing research and
popular media accounts on the hooku p culture into a series
of hypotheses. Despite the fact that th e term hooking up
can refer to a range of activities from kissing to sexual
intercourse, both academic and popular articles on the sub-
ject have suggested that there has been an increase in casual
sex among college students. Hence we hypothesized:
H1: Students from the 2004–2012 waves of the General
Social Survey would report more sexual experi-
ences than the cohort of students from the
1988–1996 waves, including (a) more total sexual
partners since age 18, (b) more frequent sex during
the past year, and (c ) more total sexual partners
during the past year.
Research surrounding hookup culture has suggested
that the traditional date is ‘‘nearly dead’’ (England &
Thomas, 2006, p. 70) and has been replaced by casual
sexual relationships (Aubrey & Smith, 2013). Popular
media portrayals also imply a culture of casual sex
(Epstein, Calzo, Smiler, & Ward, 2009). We also
H2: Students from the contemporary cohort would be
less likely than the comparison cohort to report
sex with a spouse or regular sexual partner.
In addition, we hypothesized about the current
H3: The current cohort would be more likely than the
comparison cohort to report the following beha-
viors over the past year: (a) sex with a casual date
or pickup, (b) sex with a friend, (c) sex with an
acquaintance, or (d) sex with some other person.
Much of the research on hookup culture has implied
that students today have more liberal perspectives toward
sexuality than previous cohorts. Thus, we hypothesized:
H4: The cohort of students from the 2004–2012 waves
of the General Social Survey would be less likely
than students from the 1988–1996 waves to identify
as wrong the following behaviors: (a) a man and
woman having sexual relations before marriage,
(b) sex between teens ages 14 to 16 years old, (c)a
married person having sexual relations with some-
one other than his or her spouse, and (d) sexual
relations between two adults of the same sex.
Respondents (N ¼ 1,465) were drawn from the GSS
(Smith et al., 1972–2012). The GSS is widely used and
has been the leading source of data on social trends
over the past four decades in the United States. Conduc-
ted by the National Opinion Research Center, the GSS
employs a sampling frame designed to yield a nationally
representative sample of U.S. households. Using the
GSS weighting variable COMPWT allows parameter
estimates to represent individuals rather than house-
holds, by adjusting for the number of adults in the house-
hold. It also corrects for problems and oversampling in
earlier waves of the survey not relevant to our study.
We limited our analyses to individuals ages 18 to 25
who had graduated from high school and completed at
least one year of college, the group most often implicated
in the hookup culture. We used only data from 1988 and
later because several of the variables most relevant to the
study were not included in earlier years. To provide a
point of contrast, we grouped the 1988–1996 (N ¼ 730)
waves and 2004–2012 (N ¼ 735) waves into contrasting
cohorts, dropping the 1998–2002 waves. This range of
years allows us to evaluate whether there has been a
change in attitudes and behavior among more recent
We used eight GSS variables addressing the respon-
dents’ sexual behavior and four additional variables
reflecting respondents’ sexual attitudes. Behavior
variables included (1) number of sexual partners since
turning 18; (2) number of sexual partners during the past
year; (3) frequency of sex during the past year; and,
among those with at least one partner, whether one of
their sexual partners was a (4) spouse or regular sexual
partner, (5) a friend, (6) an acquaintance, (7) a casual
date or pickup, or (8) someone not fitting any of these
categories. The GSS questionnaire begins the section
on sexual behavior by asking, ‘‘How many sex partners
have you had in the last 12 months?’’ Sex is not specifi-
cally defined. Respondents who indicated that they had
one or more partners were then asked, ‘‘Was one of the
partners your husband or wife or regular sex partner?’’
Respondents who had other partners were then asked
to identify all of the categories to which those persons
belonged, including ‘‘close personal friend,’’ ‘‘neighbor,
coworker, or long-term acquaintance,’’ ‘‘casual date or
pickup,’’ ‘‘person you paid or paid you for sex’’ (which
we did not use), and ‘‘other.’’ Attitude variables asked
whether (9) premarital sex, (10) extramarital sex, (11)
teen (ages 14 to 16) sex, and (12) sex between adults of
the same sex were Always wrong, Almost always wrong,
Wrong only sometimes,orNot wrong at all. These ques-
tions began with the following: ‘‘There’s been a lot of
discussion about the way morals and attitudes about
sex are changing in this country. If a man and a woman
have sex relations before marriage, do you think it is
always wrong, almos t always wrong, wrong only some-
times, or not wrong at all?’’ This was followed by an item
that asked, ‘‘What if they are in their early teens, say 14
to 16 years old? In that case, do you think sex relations
before marriage are always wrong, almost always wrong,
wrong only sometimes, or not wrong at all?’’ These were
followed by similarly formatted questions about ‘‘a mar-
ried person having sexual relations with someone other
than the marriage partner’’ and ‘‘sexual relations
between two adults of the same sex.’’ Additional vari-
ables included respondent sex (male and female), age,
years of scho oling, marital status, and race. Though later
waves of the GSS provide greater detail on race and eth-
nicity, the race variable employed throughout the waves
we used listed only White non-Hispanic, Black, and
All data manipulations and statistical calculations
were performed with SPSS version 20. In all circum-
stances, missing values were excluded pairwise from
analysis. We provide simple, unweighted frequencies of
each variable in Table 1, separating each cohort to
clearly characterize the sample and to identify differences
between the cohorts. Table 2 reports the response
frequencies of the eight sexual behavior variables and
four a ttitudinal variables for each cohort, 1988–1996
and 2004–2012, this time weighted to better reflect actual
population parameters. Pearson’s chi-squared tests of
independence were used to test whether there were differ-
ences between the coho rts. We combined two variables,
number of male sexual partners since age 18 and number
of female sexual partners since age 18, to yield total
number of sexual partners since age 18. While the term
hookup is relatively recent, due to the lack of clarity as
to when hooking up became a dominant subcult ural
script, we skipped the three GSS waves (1998, 2000,
2002) that occurred during the eight-year gap between
our two comparison periods.
For some of the analyses presented on Table 2, we
recoded the ordinal variables into dichotomous variables
to clearly contrast the responses of the two cohorts across
the 12 sexual behavior and attitude variables. We recoded
‘‘number of sexual partners since turning 18’’ to reflect the
‘‘percent who had more than two partners since age 18.’’
We used this cut point because we thought that it would
be difficult to argue that someone who had zero, one, or
two partners since age 18 fit contemporary conceptions
of what it means to hook up. However, to be sure our
somewhat arbitrary cut points did not misrepresent pat-
terns in the data, we tried alternate cut points (one or more
partners since age 18; three or more partners since age 18),
none of which resulted in differences in statistical signifi-
cance. We recoded ‘‘frequency of sex during the past year,’’
to ‘‘percent who had sex weekly or more often over the
past year.’’ We used this cut point because we thought that
having sex less than once per week did not fit popular con-
ceptions of what it means to be part of a hookup culture.
However, we again tried alternate cut points (had sex
monthly or more frequently; had sex two to three times
a week or more), none of which resulted in differences in
statistical significance. We recoded ‘‘number of partners
within the last year’’ to ‘‘percent who had more than one
partner during the prior year,’’ using this cut point because
it would be difficult to argue that someone with one or
fewer partners during the year fit popular conceptions of
hooking up. Additional chi-square tests using different
cut points (0 partners, 2 partners, and 3 partners) did
not reveal differences in statistical significance. While these
dichotomized variables provide clear and simple contrasts,
Table 2 also includes ordinal versions of these three vari-
ables to provide a more complete picture to the reader.
For the four sexual attitude variables, we recoded
responses reported in Table 2 as 0 (Always wrong or
Almost always wrong)or1(Not wrong at all or Wrong only
sometimes). Pearson chi-square tests were employed to
identify whether differences between the two time periods
were statistically significant.
Because the latter co hort included a somewhat
higher proportion of respondents under 20 years of
age, respondents who had at least one same-sex sexual
Table 1. Frequencies of Key Background Variables
Percent (N)
Percent (N)
Sex of respondent (730) (735)
Male 47.1 (344) 43.5 (320)
Female 52.9 (386) 56.5 (415)
Age of respondent (730) (735)
Less than 20 1.4 (10) 6.7 (49)
20 8.5 (62) 10.1 (74)
21 13.8 (101) 14.6 (107)
22 16.3 (119) 14.3 (105)
23 19.0 (139) 16.2 (119)
24 17.1 (125) 17.1 (126)
25 23.8 (174) 21.1 (155)
Marital status (730) (735)
Married 20.4 (148) 14.4 (106)
All other 79.6 (582) 85.6 (629)
Race=ethnicity of respondent (730) (735)
White 84.1 (614) 72.7 (534)
Black 10.0 (73) 14.3 (105)
Other 5.9 (43) 13.1 (96)
Years of schooling (730) (735)
13 25.9 (189) 26.1 (192)
14 24.2 (177) 28.2 (207)
15 19.6 (143) 17.0 (125)
16 22.6 (165) 21.6 (159)
17 5.9 (43) 4.8 (35)
18 or more 1.7 (13) 2.0 (17)
Reported same-sex partner since 18 (730) (735)
Yes 3.3 (24) 6.4 (47)
No 96.7 (706) 93.6 (688)
Note. For the same-sex partner variable, individuals reporting at least
one same-sex partner since age 18 were coded as Yes. All other
responses and missing responses, including those reporting no part-
ners, were recoded as No. All other variables had no missing data.
partner, unmarried respondents, women respondents,
and non-White respondents, we compared the results
presented in Table 2 with chi-square analyses excluding
married respondents, and then without respondents
under 20, and again without respondents who reported
a same-sex partner. Patterns in the data remained
consistent, but one test varied in terms of statistical sig-
nificance. Results of these analyses are reported
briefly where relevant. In addition, we ran a series of
logistic regression analyses on all the dichotomized
variables from Table 2, using age, race (0 ¼ White;
1 ¼ non-White), sex (0 ¼ Men;1¼ Women), and era
(0 ¼ Earlier;1¼ Later) as predictors. Because these
tests were performed primarily to evaluate whether
minor differences between the two cohorts affected
results, full model statistics are not reported. Inclusion
of these variables in the equations did not significantly
affect findings.
Because men and women may diffe r in their sexual
behavior, and because some have suggested that gender
expectations may have changed more over time for
women than for men (Twenge, 1997), we ran a series of
analyses to evaluate whether responses differed signifi-
cantly in the current era (2004–2012) when compared
to the previous era (1988–1996), whether the responses
of women differed significantly from the responses of
men, and whether there were interaction effects between
era and sex. In contrast to the frequencies presented in
Table 2, we left the ordinal variables as ordinal rather
than making them dichotomous and used a series of
two-way analyses of variance to test for significance.
Table 3 presents the means for each of these variables
for men and women of each co hort separately. For the
dichotomous variables—whether their partners included
a spouse or regular partner, a friend, a casual date=
pickup, or some other person—we ran a series of logistic
Table 2. Sexual Attitudes and Behavior by Era (Weighted)
1988–1996 2004–2012
Item Percent (N) Percent (N) v
Total number of partners since age 18 (659) (754) 11.008 (6)
0 10.2 (67) 15.0 (113)
1 22.5 (148) 22.7 (171)
2 15.5 (102) 12.9 (97)
3–5 22.9 (151) 24.3 (183)
6–12 20.0 (132) 17.0 (128)
13–20 5.2 (34) 5.3 (40)
21–210 3.8 (25) 2.9 (22)
Frequency of sex during past year (650) (730) 13.939 (6)
Not at all 14.8 (96) 14.5 (106)
Once or twice 7.8 (51) 11.8 (86)
Once a month 6.8 (44) 5.9 (43)
2–3 times a month 15.2 (99) 17.3 (126)
Weekly 18.5 (120) 12.9 (94)
2–3 times per week 27.4 (178) 27.1 (198)
4þ times per week 9.5 (62) 10.5 (77)
Number of partners in past year (746) (773) 3.678 (6)
No partners 14.1 (105) 16.9 (131)
1 partner 54.0 (403) 51.5 (398)
2 partners 16.2 (121) 15.0 (116)
3 partners 7.6 (57) 7.5 (58)
4 partners 3.9 (29) 4.0 (31)
5–10 partners 3.8 (28) 4.4 (34)
11 or more partners 0.4 (3) 0.6 (5)
Had more than two partners since age 18 51.7 (659) 49.4 (753) 0.772 (1)
Sex weekly or more over past year 55.3 (649) 50.6 (729) 3.042 (1)
More than one partner in past year 31.9 (746) 31.5 (772) 0.025 (1)
Have a spouse or regular partner 84.5 (676) 78.2 (641) 8.647 (1)
Sex with friend (past year) 55.7 (237) 71.0 (303) 13.485 (1)
Sex with acquaintance (past year) 34.6 (237) 33.0 (303) 0.152 (1)
Sex with casual date=pick-up (past year) 35.4 (237) 44.9 (303) 4.910 (1)
Sex with other person (past year) 0.8 (237) 5.3 (260) 8.161 (1)
Premarital wrong (Sometimes or not at all) 80.5 (573) 79.6 (519) 0.131 (1)
Extramarital wrong (Sometimes or not at all) 5.8 (587) 5.0 (463) 0.343 (1)
Teen sex wrong (Sometimes or not at all) 25.3 (574) 25.2 (523) 0.000 (1)
Sexuality between same sex wrong (Sometimes or not at all) 41.8 (562) 61.4 (456) 38.644 (1)
Note. Ns for dichotomous variables include all respondents answering the question, not just those who responded in the affirmative. Weighting
slightly increases the reported frequencies.
p < .05;
p < .01;
p < .001.
regression analyses with sex, era, and their interaction
term as three predictor variables. These are reported in
Table 4.
Missing values were deleted on an analysis-by-
analysis basis. With the exception of the ‘‘same-sex part-
ners’’ variable, complete data were available for all of
the background items reported in Table 1. The sexual
behavior variables reported in Tables 2, 3, and 4 were
gathered near the conclusion of the GSS interviews
using methods designed to minimize discomfort and
response bias (Smith et al., 1988). Smith and colleagues
(1992) reported that more than 80% of GSS respo ndents
completed the entire set of sexual behavior questions,
with most of the missing responses due to respondents
incorrectly following directions rather than refusing to
answer. For the years we studied, about 13.2% (N ¼ 96
unweighted) of the earlier cohort and about 13.2%
(N ¼ 97 unweighted) of the later cohort did not answer
the question on the number of sexual partners they
had over the previous year and were coded to indicate
that they failed to complete the sexuality card. A small
number of respondents (9 in the earlier coh ort and 7
in the more recent cohort), refused to answer or pro-
vided answers that did not fit the response categories.
The number of responses to que stions categor izing
respondents’ sexual partners was reduced further,
because the question about whether one of the partners
was a spouse or regular sexual partner was asked only to
respondents who reported having sex during the past
year. Responses to the other sexual partner questions
dropped further, because these questions were asked
only of sexually active individuals who had more than
one partner or had one partner but did not identify that
partner as a spouse or regular sexual partner. Due to
weighting, numbers of respondents reported in Tables 2,
3, and 4 do not correspond perfectly to actual number
The four sexual attitude items had reduced N s
because some items on the GS S were asked only to a
random sampl e of two-thirds of GSS respondents.
About 33% of cases (235 to 240 unweighted) were
excluded in the earlier cohort, with actual nonanswers
or ‘‘don’t know’’ answers adding an additional 26 miss-
ing cases to the homosexuality variable and 6 missing
cases to the other three attitude variables. In addition,
after 20 02, the GSS used a dual sample design, with
the four sexual attitude questions included for only
one of the samples. About 46% of cases (334 to 344
Table 3. Men and Women, Past and Present: Group Means (Weighted) and Analysis of Variance
Item Sex Era Mean
Deviation N
(Test of Between-Subjects Effects)
F (df) p Value
Number of partners since turning 18 Men Past 7.08 14.34 357 Sex 31.82 (1, 1447) .000
Present 6.39 14.95 347 Era 0.82 (1, 1447) .366
Women Past 3.71 4.39 380 Sex Era 0.10 (1, 1447) .757
Present 3.37 5.18 367
Frequency of sex during past year Men Past 3.27 1.99 347 Sex 0.72 (1, 1412) .398
Present 3.25 2.03 344 Era 0.02 (1, 1412) .899
Women Past 3.35 1.88 381 Sex Era 0.00 (1, 1412) .963
Present 3.35 1.94 344
How many partners in past year Men Past 1.74 1.44 390 Sex 45.14 (1, 1559) .000
Present 1.63 1.44 358 Era 0.88 (1, 1559) .349
Women Past 1.26 .960 444 Sex Era 0.82 (1, 1559) .817
Present 1.26 1.07 371
Sex before marriage Men Past 3.33 .986 304 Sex 8.65 (1, 1128) .003
Present 3.29 1.008 234 Era 0.52 (1, 1128) .467
Women Past 3.06 1.102 340 Sex Era 1.47 (1, 1128) .226
Present 3.19 1.122 254
Extra marital sex Men Past 1.35 .690 316 Sex 1.53 (1, 1097) .216
Present 1.20 .513 230 Era 5.59 (1, 1097) .018
Women Past 1.24 .513 343 Sex Era 3.85 (1, 1097) .050
Present 1.22 .595 212
Sex before marriage: Teens 14–16 Men Past 1.92 .955 306 Sex 3.18 (1, 1135) .075
Present 1.86 1.007 234 Era 0.15 (1, 1135) .695
Women Past 1.78 .914 339 Sex Era 0.48 (1, 1135) .488
Present 1.80 .995 260
Sex between people of the same sex Men Past 2.00 1.35 306 Sex 32.49 (1, 1062) .000
Present 2.49 1.39 226 Era 39.25 (1, 1062) .000
Women Past 2.44 1.42 324 Sex Era 0.31 (1, 1062) .578
Present 3.02 1.34 210
Note. For Number of Partners Since 18, the total number of reported male and female partners were added. Frequency of Sex During Past Year
ranged from 0 (None)to6(4 or more times per week). Number of Partners in Past Year ranged from 0 (None)to8(100 or more). Attitude variables
ranged from 1 (Almost always wrong)to4(Not wrong at all). Due to weighting, Ns do not correspond perfectly to actual numbers of respondents.
unweighted) were excluded in the later cohort, with
actual nonanswers or ‘‘don’t know’’ answers adding an
additional 2 to 8 missing cases.
Table 1 displays the frequencies of background
variables as participants in the GSS reported them.
Women outnumbered men, constituting 52.9% of the
earlier cohort (N ¼ 730) and 56.5% of the later cohort
(N ¼ 735). Most respondents were aged 21 to 25, with
only 1.4% of the earlier cohort and 6.7% of the later
cohort under 20. The underrepresentation of students
under age 20 is partly due to the fact that fewer indivi-
duals in this age group had completed the year of college
necessary to be included in our study. GSS sampling
frames are recalibrated within a few years of the U.S.
Census, and these changes, as well as strategies for iden-
tifying respondents, vary slightly over time. While the
two cohorts are reasonably comparable, we confirmed
the patterns in our data by rerunning many of our analy-
ses without respondents under 20 to eliminate the possi-
bility that patterns within the data were the artifact of
differences in age. About 20% of the earlier cohort and
about 14% of the later cohort reported being married.
Responses to the race variable reflect changes in the
composition of the population of the United States over
time, with Whites comprising 84.1% of the earlier cohort,
Blacks comprising 10.0% and ‘‘Other’’ comprising 5.9%.
Among the latter cohort, 72.7% reported being White,
14.3% Black, and 13.1% ‘‘Other.’’ Unfortunately, vari-
ables that provide greater detail on race and ethnicity
were not included consistently in earlier waves of the
GSS. Respondents from the later cohort were about
twice as likely as respondents from the earlier cohort to
report having at least one same-sex sexual partner since
turning 18.
Table 2 compares the sexual attitudes and behavior of
recent cohorts (2004–2012) with previous cohorts (1988–
1996) to evaluate changes and trends over time. Hypoth-
eses 1a, 1b, and 1c were not supported, as respondents
from the more recent era did not report having more sex-
ual partners, more frequent sex, or more partners during
the past year than respondents from the earlier era. In
fact, a similar proportion of respondents, 51.7% for the
early cohorts and 49.4% for the recent cohort, reported
having more than two partners since turning 18. Respon-
dents from the earlier cohort were somewhat more
likely to report having sex weekly or more often during
the previous year (55.3%) than respondents from the
more recent cohort (50.6%). Though this difference was
Table 4. Men and Women, Past and Present: Group Percentages (Weighted) and Logistic Regression
Logistic Regression Analysis
Dependent Variable Sex Era Percent N
Variable B SE Wald p Value
One of partners a spouse or
regular sex partner
Men Past 80.9 320 Sex .509 .215 5.612 .018
Present 72.2 306 Era .490 .191 6.559 .010
Women Past 87.6 356 Sex Era .159 .290 .301 .583
Present 83.6 335 Constant 1.447 .142 108.347 .000
Model v
(3) = 26.323; p ¼ .000
One of sex partners was a friend Men Past 48.6 140 Sex .701 .273 6.598 .010
Present 67.9 165 Era .790 .237 11.118 .001
Women Past 66.0 97 Sex Era .335 .375 .896 .344
Present 75.9 136 Constant .046 .169 .075 .784
Model v
(3) = 21.923; p ¼ .000
One of sex partners was an acquaintance Men Past 38.6 140 Sex .460 .284 2.631 .105
Present 39.2 166 Era .009 .235 .002 .969
Women Past 28.9 97 Sex Era .160 .380 .177 .674
Present 25.5 137 Constant .454 .173 6.870 .009
Model v
(3) = 9.033; p ¼ .029
One of sex partners was a casual
date or pickup
Men Past 47.1 140 Sex 1.356 .311 19.036 .000
Present 56.0 166 Era .352 .230 2.332 .127
Women Past 18.6 97 Sex Era .351 .394 .796 .372
Present 31.4 137 Constant .116 .169 .472 .492
Model v
(3) = 44.198; p ¼ .000
One of sex partners was of some
other category
Men Past 0.0 140
Present 7.8 166
Women Past 2.1 97
Present 2.2 136
Note. For each Wald test statistic there was 1 degree of freedom. The dependent variables in these analyses were coded so that 0 ¼No and 1 ¼Yes.
The Era variable was coded so that 1988–1996 ¼ 0 and 2004–2012 ¼ 1. The Sex variable was coded so that Male ¼ 0 and Female ¼ 1. The Sex With
Some Other Person variable had too few affirmative responses to allow for a meaningful logistic regression analysis. Due to weighting, Ns do not
correspond perfectly to actual numbers of respondents.
statistically significant, when we reran the analysis
without respondents under age 20 (weighted N ¼
1,315), the difference (55.5% compared to 51.9%) was
not statistically significant (v
(1) ¼ 1.73; p ¼ .104). How-
ever, when we reran the analysis again without res-
pondents who had reported same-sex partners
(weighted N ¼ 1,309), the difference remained small
(55.3% compared to 49.0%) but was statistically signifi-
cant (v
(1) ¼ 5.189; p ¼ .013).
Consistent with hypothesis 2, sexually active respon-
dents from the recent cohort were significa ntly less likely
than respondents from the earlier era to report that one
of their partners was a ‘‘spouse or regular sexual part-
ner.’’ However, the tendency to have a regular sexual
partner persists, with 78.2% of the more recent cohort
and 84.5% of the earlier cohort reporting one of their
sexual partners was a spouse or regular sexual partner.
The differences in these responses between the two
cohorts cannot be explained merely by the higher
proportion of married respondents in the earlier era.
Even when married respondents were removed from
the analysis, the earlier cohort (80.0%) was somewhat
more likely to report having a regular partner (v
(1) ¼
4.403; p ¼ .021) than the later cohort (74.6%).
Consistent with hypotheses 3a, 3b, and 3d, sexually
active respondents from the more recent era were more
likely to report that one of their sexual partners during
the past year was a friend, a casual date=pickup, or some
other person than respondents from the earlier era.
Among the most recent cohort, 71.0% of sexually active
respondents who had sex with someo ne other than a
regular partner reported that that person was a ‘‘close
personal friend,’’ compared to 55.7% in the earlier
cohort. Sex with a ‘‘casual date or pickup’’ was reported
by 44.9% of the most recent cohort, compared to 35.4%
in the earlier cohort. Few reported sex with some other
person, with 5.3% of the recent co hort and 0.8% of the
earlier cohort answering in the affirmative. Hypothesis
3c was not supported, as respon dents from the more
recent era were not significantly more likely to report
sex with a ‘‘neighbor, coworker, or long-term acquaint-
ance’’ than respondents in the earlier cohort.
Across the attitude variables, only hypothesis 4d was
supported. Recent cohorts were significantly more
accepting of sex between adults of the same sex, with
61.4% identifying it as ‘‘not at all wrong’’ or ‘‘wrong only
sometimes,’’ compared to 41.8% among the earlier
cohorts. Hypotheses 4a, 4b, and 4c were not supported.
Respondents from the recent cohort were no more toler-
ant of sex between teens ages 14 to 16, married people
having sex outside their marriage, or premarital sex than
respondents from the past cohorts. When married per-
sons were excluded from analysis, respondents from
the earlier cohort (85.3%) were more likely (v
(1) ¼
3.620; p ¼ .035) than respondents from the more recent
cohort (80.6%) to find premarital sex ‘‘not at all wrong’’
or ‘‘wrong only sometime s.’’
Consistent with changes in the composition of college
populations over time, the newer cohort included a
slightly higher proportion of respondents who wer e
women and non-White. In addition, though the mean
ages were very similar (22.73 years and 22.37 years),
the newer cohort included more students under age 20.
We used logistic regression analyses, including age,
White=non-White, sex, and cohort in the equations, to
evaluate whether these demographic differences could
have affected the results described in Table 2. The pat-
terns remained consistent with one exception. Respon-
dents from the newer cohort were not significantly less
likely than respondents from the earlier cohort to report
having sex weekl y or more often over the previous year.
Results indica te that the minor differences between the
cohorts on some varia bles and the lack of differences
between the cohorts on other variables were not due to
modest demographic differences between the samples.
Using the original (not dichotomized) versions of the
ordinal variables, Table 3 shows means for each item by
time period (or era) and by sex. Analyses of variance
were used to evaluate the significance of differences
between the sexes and between recent and earlier cohorts,
as well as interaction effects between sex and time period.
We found few statistically significant differences between
responses from the two time periods. Consistent with our
previous analyses, respondents from the recent time per-
iod did not report greater numbers of partners since age
18, more frequent sex during the previous year, or more
partners during the previous year. No interaction effects
between sex and era were found for any of the sexual
behavior items. In terms of contrasts between the sexes,
women in both cohorts reported significantly fewer part-
ners over the previous year and fewer partners since age
18 but not significantly less frequent sex than did men.
In terms of the attitude questions, respondents from
the more recent era wer e no more tolerant of sex between
teens or sex before marriage than respondents from the
earlier era. They were, however, significantly less tolerant
of married people having sex with someone other than
their marital partner. There was a significant interaction
effect between sex and era, as men’s tolerance for extra-
marital sex declined more than women’s. Respondents
from the recent cohort were much more tolerant of
homosexuality than respondents from the earlier cohort.
Women were more tolerant of sex between people of the
same sex and slightly less tolerant of premarital sex than
were men.
Table 4 breaks down the responses of men and women
from each era to the questions about whether their sexual
partners over the previous year included a ‘‘spouse or
regular sexual partner,’’ ‘‘a friend,’’ an ‘‘acquaintance,’’
a ‘‘casual date=pickup,’’ or someone belonging to some
‘‘other’’ category. Logistic regression analyses were
used to evaluate the significance of differences between
the sexes and between recent and earlier cohorts, as well
as interaction effects between sex and time period.
Respondents from the more recent era were significantly
less likely to report having a spouse or regular partner
and more likely to report having sex with a friend than
were respondents from the earlier era. In contrast to
results of the chi-square tests reported earlier, the differ-
ence between the cohorts in terms of having sex with a
casual date=pickup was not statistically significant.
Women were signi ficantly more likely than men to report
that one of their partners was a spouse=regular partner
or a friend and less likely to report that one of their part-
ners was a ‘‘casual date=pickup.’’ No statistically signifi-
cant interaction effects between sex and era were found.
Very few respondents from either era reported having sex
with someone in an ‘‘other’’ category and the percentage
of affirmative responses was too small to run meaningful
logistic regression analysis.
Overall, our results provide no evidence that there has
been a sea change in the sexual behavior of college
students or a general liberalization of attitudes toward
sexuality. Among a national sample of persons between
18 and 25 who had completed at least one year of
college, respondents from 2004–2012, an era to which
the term hookup culture has often been applied, did not
report more total sexual partners, more partners during
the past year, or more frequent sex than respondents
from 1988–1996. Some patterns were consistent with
an increase in ‘‘sexual behavior outside of a committed
relationship’’ (Kalish & Kimmel, 2011, p. 137). Sexually
active respondents from the current era were less likely
than respondents from the previous era to report that
one of their sexual partners was a ‘‘spouse or regular
sexual partner’’ and more likely to report sex with a close
friend or a casual date=pickup. In terms of attitudes
toward other sexual norms, contemporary respondents
were no more accepting than earli er respondents of sex
between teens aged 14 to 16, sex outside of marriage,
or premarital sexuality between adults. Consistent with
recent national trends (Baunach, 2011), they were more
accepting of sex between adults of the same sex.
In light of the recent explosion of research concerning
the hookup culture on college campuses, it is important
to note that sexual behavior among contemporary
college students has not changed greatly over the past
two and a half decades. The alarmist concerns that ‘‘easy
sex is rampant on college campuses today’’ (U.S.
Catholic, 2008, p. 12; Freitas, 2013) are not justified
and are largely based on cross-sectional research, misin-
terpretations of research by the popular media, and
misconceptions about what the term hooking up means.
Large-scale studies of high school popul ations during
the same period also reveal little change in sexual beha-
vior in recent decades. The National Youth Risk Beha-
vior Survey, a study of students in public and private
high schools throughout the United States, shows a
decline in a range of sexual behaviors, including sexual
intercourse, from 1991 to 2001 an d little change since
that time (Eaton et al., 2012). The National Survey of
Family Growth (Chandra, Mosher, Copen, & Sionean,
2011) shows declining rates of sexual intercourse among
men and women aged 15 to 24. While research on college
populations indica tes that student s tend to overestimate
the de gree to which their peers are hooking up (Barriger
lez-Blasini, 2013; Lambert et al., 2003), many
journalists and some researchers also appear to have
been swept up in the new narratives, failing to evaluate
whether the many qualitative accounts about hooking
up have been accompanied by a general change in sexual
Part of the reason for popular misconceptions about
the sexual behavior of contemporary college students
may be that the term hooking up and its variants can be
provocative and ambiguous (Armstrong et al., 2012;
Kalish & Kimmel, 2011), contributing to the impression
that contemporary college students live in a no-holds-
barred sexual playground, featuring more partners, more
sex, and increasingly liberal attitudes toward sexuality.
Even well-written popular books and articles often
feature salacious stories and provocative imagery (e.g.,
Rosin, 2012a; Stepp, 2007). This tends to obscure the fact
that hooking up can refer to relatively insignificant inti-
mate interactions, such as kissing (Fielder & Carey,
2010), which might have been characterized as ‘‘making
out’’ among earlier generations. The meaning of the term
and degree to which college students use it appear to vary
by region as well as by ethnicity (McHugh, Pearlson, &
Poet, 2012; Owen, Rhoades, Stanley, & Fincham,
2010). Researchers also mean different things when they
use the term. While some (Armstrong et al., 2012; Kalish
& Kimmel, 2011) allow respondents to define the term as
they understand it, Paul and colleagues (2000) defined
a hookup as ‘‘a sexual encounter usually lasting only
one night in which participants are acquaintances or
strangers’’ (p. 76), a definition that would apply to very
few of the sexual interactions described by respondents
in the GSS data we present. Clearly, it is important for
researchers to define the sexual behaviors they are
referring to when using the term hookup, and indeed,
whether the beh aviors are sexual at all.
Of course, the scholarly claims surrounding hookup
culture and its implications are nuanced (Armstrong
et al., 2010). We have not exhaustively identified the
propositions associated with scholarship on the hookup
culture, nor do the GSS data allow us to evaluat e them
in all their complexity. The rise in the term hookup and
perception among students that it is normative behavior
at college are significant in and of themselves. While col-
lege life is far from a sexual free-for-all full of ‘‘no-rules
relationships’’ (Waits & Pruitt, 2009, p. 376), the rules
appear to be changing and the implications are impor-
tant. The tradition of ‘‘dating’’ as a means to get to know
a potential marital partner has declined (Bogle, 2008;
England & Thomas, 2006), and students are slightly
more likely to engage in sex with people with whom they
are not in a committed relationship.
Our results show that contemporary college students
are less likely than respondents in the earlier era to
identify a sexual partner as a ‘‘spouse or regular sexual
partner,’’ and these differences persisted even when we
excluded married persons from the analysis. One
challenge in interpreting our results is that the categories
used by the GSS are ambiguous, and some of the gender
differences and differences over time may reflect the way
definitions are changing rather than differences in beha-
vior. When does a ‘‘close personal friend’’ become a
‘‘regular sexual partner’’? And how do respondents
separate a ‘‘friend’’ from a ‘‘neighbor, co-worker, or cas-
ual acquaintance’’? Women may be more likely than men
to call a casual pickup a ‘‘friend’’ to diminish the casual
nature of the encounter. A similar ambiguity has been
identified in the term hookup, which some have argued
is deliberately vague (Kalish & Kimmel, 2011), allowing
women to protect their reputations by minimizing an
encounter and allowing men to imply an encounter was
more sexual than it actually was. The finding that respon-
dents from the contemporary cohort were more likely
than those from the earlier cohort to identify a sexual
partner as a close personal friend is consistent with the
decline in dating and the increase in the practice of
spending leisure time in mixed-gender friend groups
(Armstrong, Hamilton, & England, 2010; Kalish &
Kimmel, 2011). Though sex with a close personal friend
may or may not imply casual sex, we see this change
and other changes as an indication that contemporary
students may feel less obligated to maintain the pretense
that a sexual partner must be a partner in a committed
relationship or a potential marriage partner. More
respondents in the recent cohort than in the earlier cohort
also said that one of their partners was a coworker, neigh-
bor, or casual acquaintance. These findings support the
idea that the norms surrounding sexuality are changing.
With declining rates of marriage and an increase in the
age at first marriage (Regnerus & Uecker, 2011), the idea
of delaying sex until marriage, though not faithfully prac-
ticed among recent generations (Regnerus & Uecker,
2011), has become an untenable narrative in all but evan-
gelical colleges (Freitas, 2013). The consequences and
implications of these issues remain worthy of study.
Our analyses employed a national sample. Thus, our
findings do not preclude the possibility that parti cular
colleges or particular regions are actually characterized
by high rates of casual sex. In addition, though our study
included people who have completed at least one year of
college, it is possible that a more limited sample of
students who attend residentia l four-year colleges and
universities could exhibit higher rates of hooking up.
The GSS data we used allow a simple comparison of
responses over two time periods. We did not exhaustively
search for other national data sets that included college
students and asked about sexuality over time. We hope
that future research on the sexual and intimate relation-
ships of college students can provide greater detail. We
also note that though popular media attention and some
research on hooking up describes the phenomenon as
recent, other researchers ac knowledge that cultural and
behavioral changes surrounding sexuality have been
taking place for many decades (Armstrong et al., 2010;
Bogle, 2007; England & Thomas, 2006). Identifying
whether there was a significant change in the sexual
behavior of college students in the 1980s or before and
when it might have begun is beyond the scope of the data
available from the GSS, which began in 1972 and initially
did not include some of the questions we analyzed for
this article.
As described earlier, the idea that today’s college
students live in a very different sexual reality than earlier
cohorts has been a foundational assumption of a good
deal of research and has important social ramifications
(Bradshaw et al., 2010; Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008; Freitas,
2008; Kalish & Kimmel, 2011; Littleton et al., 2009;
Rhoads, 2012; Ven & Beck, 2009). However, given that
our investigation indicates only modest changes in the
sexual behavior of recent cohorts in comparison to
cohorts from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s,
and no increase in sexual activity, this stream of research
needs to be revisited and elaborated. If college students
today live in a hookup culture, it appears to be a similar
culture to the one inhabited by the earlier cohort. If
large-scale changes in sexual behavior occurred earlier,
prior to when the data for this study were collected, to
what degree do these more recent studies reflect newer
developments, and to what degree do they reflect issues
that have be en extant for decades? Recent qualitative
accounts and changes in terminology appear to reflect
actual changes in the way sexuality is interpreted and
understood by college students. Our simple investigation
provides little detail regarding the sexual lives and under-
standings of contemporary college students. It does,
however, suggest that one perception—that the sexual
landscape of contemporary college involves frequent sex-
ual encounters pursued by both participants without any
expectation of further emotional or relational contact—
is questionable.
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... Despite their traditional association with risky behavior, a breadth of evidence suggests that casual sex relationships themselves can be beneficial in the context of a familiar home environment. Adults are increasingly choosing to participate in sexual activity within casual sex relationships, yet this has not led to an overall increase in sexual partners (Monto & Carey, 2014). In addition, many casual sex relationships are characterized by explicit communication regarding sexual and relationship guidelines, and an emphasis on consistent condom use with all partners (Hughes et al., 2005;Weaver et al., 2011;Wentland & Reissing, 2011). ...
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Often viewed as right of passage in emerging adulthood on college campuses, most undergraduate students participate in casual sex during their undergraduate career. Sexual exploration typically continues during study abroad programs; however, these programs have previously been associated with an increase in risky sexual behavior due to a lack of familiar social norms and community. The current study examined the casual sexual relationships of 302 undergraduates participating in Semester at Sea, an eleven country, 106-day voyage which incorporates aspects of a traditional college campus combined with the novel experience of studying abroad. The purpose of this research was to explore students’ casual sexual relationship perceptions and behaviors in the context of a structured and community-oriented study abroad environment. Over half (52%) of the student population completed a series of open-ended questions regarding their uncommitted sexual activity during the Semester at Sea voyage. Results indicated that 16.9% of students engaged in at least one casual sexual relationship over the course of the trip. Casual sex relationships on-board the Semester at Sea voyage were less prevalent than those on traditional college campuses, but casual sex relationships at sea appeared to focus more on the importance of communication and boundaries during the sexual relationship and concluded on a more positive note. It is likely that these decisions were influenced by the established communal culture on-board the ship, which encouraged students to maintain harmonious social relationships and a high level of awareness of others.
... The first component, labeled Risky Sexual Behaviors with Uncommitted Partners, addressed sexual behaviors with partners in an uncommitted relationship. This component includes items that resemble the types of behaviors college students have reported across the sexual risk literature (e.g., Brodbeck et al., 2013;Kotchick et al., 2001;Monto & Carey, 2014;Turchik & Garske, 2009). Importantly, items included in this component were different across groups (ADHD and non-ADHD), with the results from the non-ADHD group matching the item loadings originally reported by Turchik and Garske (2009). ...
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Young adults, particularly college students, report a higher prevalence of risky sexual behavior than the general population, increasing their likelihood for unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and negative psychological outcomes. Although sexual risk behavior and its consequences are a major public health concern, current prevention literature is insufficient and relies on sexual risk measures with limited psychometric support. The present study, therefore, examined the psychometric properties of a sexual risk survey (SRS; Turchik, Garske, in Arch Sex Behav 38:936–948, 2009), using data from the first year of a longitudinal study following the outcomes of college students with and without attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; N = 410). Principal components analyses were conducted to assess the factorial structure of the SRS comparing results from a general college population and a college population considered to be high-risk (ADHD). Results revealed four components across both samples. Internal consistency estimates for component scores and total scores ranged from .627 to 918. Implications of the findings are discussed and suggestions for future studies are advanced.
... These findings may be indicative of increases in orgasm frequency over time compared to when these population studies were originally conducted, perhaps due to cultural shifts surrounding sexuality (see Armstrong et al., 2010;Monto & Carey, 2014). As such, any frequency similarities between the current study and those consisting of offender samples may simply be a by-product of more recent and accurate population estimates. ...
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There has been renewed interest in the conceptualization and diagnosis of conditions marked by excessive sexuality. Researchers and clinicians have often utilized orgasm frequency (e.g., total sexual outlet) as an indicator of hypersexuality. Indeed, some have proposed seven or more (7+) orgasms by any means in a typical week as indicating hypersexuality. Most studies utilizing this criterion, however, have examined clinical or judicial samples of men, as opposed to general population samples. The purpose of the current study was to provide representative population data of total sexual outlet (TSO) for people varying in age, relationship status, and sex, while also examining the impact of the phrasing of the questions (i.e., time frame). A total of 1029 participants were recruited online via a Qualtrics panel, consisting of 442 males and 587 females, from diverse regions across the USA. Results indicated that between 10.3 and 16.7% of the sample met the 7+ criterion for hypersexuality, with considerable variation by age, relationship status, sex, and less variation by wording of the question. Results are discussed in terms of the applicability of the 7+ cut-off for identifying elevated TSO. Results from this survey could be useful to researchers and clinicians looking for comparison data for their research and clinical assessment results.
... It has been reported that between 44 and 75% of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 have experienced at least one casual sexual encounter within their lives (Flack et al., 2016;Lyons et al., 2014;Maticka-Tyndale et al., 2003). Casual sex, also known as a hookup or one-night stand, can be described as engagement in sexual acts, with the absence of intimacy (Monto & Carey, 2014). Casual sex is a term that is used to describe a range of sexual behaviours, from a 'once off' encounter to frequent encounters of sexual intercourse in the absence of a committed relationship. ...
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Casual sex, also referred to as a hookup, has been associated with a range of negative emotional outcomes for women, including regret, anxiety, depression and social stigma. However, it has been argued that it is the nature of the sexual motivation, not gender that influences the emotional outcome. This study was designed to ascertain what motivates people to have casual sex, what emotional outcomes follow casual sex and whether there are gender differences among these variables. Seven hundred and one participants (47% men and 52.8% women) completed a 44-item online survey. Gender differences were found for both sexual motivations and emotional outcomes of casual sex, with women generally having more negative emotional outcomes than men. Additionally, a principal components analysis uncovered four reliable principal motivations underlying engagement in casual sex, and three principal emotional outcomes of casual sex. Predictors of negative emotional outcomes included being motivated to regulate negative emotions and to achieve positive emotions. No predictors (apart from being a man) were found for a positive emotional outcome. While the stigma surrounding female sexual agency is diminishing, results generally support the presence of a sexual double-standard which encourages male promiscuity but dissuades female sexual autonomy.
... In the USA, romantic and sexual relationships have shifted dramatically in recent decades. More specifically, people are engaging in sexual relationships with no assumed future commitment more often than before (Monto & Carey, 2014). Although this behavior is not new, the discussion of, and exposure to, casual sexual relationships (i.e., through media) is more prominent than before (Fielder & Carey, 2010a). ...
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There has been a longstanding debate about what constitutes hooking up. To date, little research has analyzed how hookups are being defined such that the field can foster consistency across definitions. To inform this debate, we conducted a content analysis of 122 empirical articles across disciplines (e.g., human sexuality, public health) from 2000 to 2019 by systematically coding conceptual definitions of hooking up contained in the articles using five commonly discussed dimensions of hooking up (behaviors, nature of partner relationship, span of hookup interaction, frequency of hookup behavior, and level of romantic commitment expectation). Unspecified sexual intercourse (52.5%) was the most frequently identified behavior in definitions. The majority of hookup definitions did not mention the nature of partner relationship (e.g., acquaintance, friend), the duration of the hookup interaction, or the frequency of hookup behavior. Additionally, most conceptual definitions (82.0%) mentioned that the relationship was uncommitted, but only half discussed the level of romantic commitment expectations. Overall, most conceptual definitions relied on behaviors rather than all five dimensions, resulting in broad and non-descript definitions of hookups. We suggest that future hookup definitions explicitly reference behaviors, nature of partner relationship, span of hookup interaction, frequency of hookup behavior, and level of romantic commitment expectation to provide clarity, comparability, and validity across future research.
... Today, the dominant cultural script dictates that genital contact is not appropriate on a date, but it is unclear if this is also true in practice given the changing circumstances of respectability in contemporary America with the rise of a hookup culture around the turn of the twenty-first century. Hookup culture encompasses a set of values, ideals, norms, and expectations that are part of the system that accepts casual sexual interactions (i.e., hookups) as a feature of, not replacement for, courtship (Heldman & Wade, 2010;Kuperberg & Padgett, 2016;Monto & Carey, 2014;Wade, 2017). ...
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Despite increasing egalitarian values expressed among college students, dating is still characterized by traditional gender roles. Because traditional dating scripts are predominantly recited and enacted to the extent that men initiate and pay, there are assumptions that the sexual processes have not changed. This study investigates the sexual processes of male-initiated and female-initiated dates among college students in the US. Using data from the Online College Social Life Survey, we ask whether traditional components of the dating script explain traditional sexual outcomes (non-genital contact), as well as whether alternative dating scripts explain nontraditional sexual outcomes (genital contact). Using multivariate logistic regression models, we found that violations of the traditional script are associated with higher odds of genital contact for male- and female-initiated dates; however, the predictors of genital contact for female-initiated dates are not the same as those for male-initiated dates. This study highlights the variability of sexual scripts in dating practices, suggesting that the sexual scripts associated with dates are not as homogenous as we have previously believed.
... Many have framed hooking up as a form of "risky" sexual activity, particularly for women and those who participate in campus party culture or Greek life (Armstrong, Hamilton, and England 2010). There is a concern with the "no strings attached" nature of hookups and that young people are engaging in more casual sex than previous generationsdespite a lack of evidence for this argument (Monto and Carey 2014). Researchers have documented that for some college students, especially women, hooking up is associated with psychological distress, negative emotion, sexual stigma and less satisfying sex (e.g., Armstrong, England, and Fogarty 2012;Fielder et al. 2014;Flack et al. 2007;Vrangalova 2015). ...
The purpose of this paper was to examine the relationship between weight misperception, age at first intercourse, and lifetime number of sex partners. We used Wave III of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health ( N = 11,522; 53.7% female), collected in 2001–2002. Results show that men who underestimate their weight have more lifetime sexual partners compared to men who accurately assess their weight. Women who underestimate their weight had fewer sexual partners and a higher age at first intercourse compared to women who accurately assess their weight. White participants who overestimated their weight had an earlier age of first intercourse, African Americans who underestimated their weight had more sexual partners, and weight misperception was not related to sexual behaviors among Hispanic and Asian participants. These findings suggest that weight underestimation’s relationship to sexual behaviors may differ by gender and race.
This national survey demonstrates age-disparate (≥5 years; AD-5) sexual partnerships remain common among males and females aged 20-29 years in the U.S. (2005-2016). Females reported more older AD-5 partners and males reported more younger AD-5 partners. Having AD-5 partners was associated with greater lifetime and recent number of sexual partners.
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“Girls can't be guys in matters of the heart, even though they think they can,” says Laura Sessions Stepp, author of Unhooked: HowYoung Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both, published in 2007. In her view, “hooking up”—casual sexual activity ranging from kissing to intercourse—places women at risk of “low self-esteem, depression, alcoholism, and eating disorders.” Stepp is only one of half a dozen journalists currently engaged in the business of detailing the dangers of casual sex.
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Current work on hooking up—or casual sexual activity on college campuses—takes an individualistic, “battle of the sexes” approach and underestimates the importance of college as a classed location. The authors employ an interactional, intersectional approach using longitudinal ethnographic and interview data on a group of college women’s sexual and romantic careers. They find that heterosexual college women contend with public gender beliefs about women’s sexuality that reinforce male dominance across both hookups and committed relationships. The four-year university, however, also reflects a privileged path to adulthood. The authors show that it is characterized by a classed self-development imperative that discourages relationships but makes hooking up appealing. Experiences of this structural conflict vary. More privileged women struggle to meet gender and class guidelines for sexual behavior, placing them in double binds. Less privileged women find the class beliefs of the university foreign and hostile to their sexual and romantic logics.
This book tells the definitive story of the sexual and relationship values and practices of young adults. The authors draw upon their analysis of nationally representative data and scores of in-person interviews to help shed light on numerous questions about the sex lives of young Americans, including how long their relationships last, how quickly they become sexual, why the double standard is so stubborn, who remains a virgin and for how long, how gender imbalances in college change the rules of mating, the "price" of sex and its effects on relationship security, how online social networking and porn alter the market in relationships, how emerging adults think about marriage and relationship permanence, who marries early, why the age at marriage is rising rapidly, and how "red" and "blue" politics are reflected in our sexual choices. This book reveals striking disparities between college students and those who never pursued higher education, between conservatives and liberals, and between men and women in their experiences of romantic and sexual relationships. Although women continue to make great strides in higher education and the economy, their relationships are stalling and making many of them unhappy. Quests for sexual chemistry fall short or even backfire, revealing discordant experiences with serial monogamy among many men and women. And yet the powerful scripts of sexual equality and romantic individualism propel emerging adults forward to try again. The result is an omnibus study of sex and relationships in the lives of heterosexual emerging adults in America.
Hooking up, or sexual activity outside of a committed relationship, has become the normative form of intimacy on American college campuses. Much research has focused on the extent of hooking up, and its effects. We situate hook-ups within the institution of heterosexuality, arguing that it is deeply gendered. Hooking up becomes a mode of homosocial communication, as well as a way for young adults to prove their heterosexuality. Others have pointed out that hooking up leads to negative consequences for women; we aim to highlight the positive aspects of hooking up for agentic and sex-positive young American women.
Today’s college students are a lot like Peter Pan—they are in no hurry to grow up. Young people are staying in school longer, and taking longer to become economically self-sufficient. They are also waiting longer to marry and start families. The college “hook-up culture” has emerged as a way for students to remain sexually active while avoiding long-term commitment and emotional entanglement. High-achieving young women, in particular, face social pressure to prioritize career development over relationships. Modern feminism has encouraged a singular focus on professional advancement. In terms of relational pursuits, young people are taking longer and longer to “grow up.”