Hook Up Culture

As my parents remind me on a regular basis, things these days are much different than when they went to college. My mother is constantly telling stories of the boys she dated when she was in college and asking me why I have only gone on one date the entire time I have been in college. Well, she is right, things just are not the same these days.  College has gone from couples and dates to singles and sex. Dating is virtually nonexistent and “hooking up” has taken over. Everyone I have met in college is hooking up, trying to hook up, or trying to get over a hook up. As this is becoming more and more prevalent, many people, parents especially (or at least mine), are trying to figure out why dating has died.

A Structural-Functionalist would look at the hook up culture in college and ask how this is serving a function for society. Dating is a formal way to court possible mates or spouses. Like dating, hooking up is still a form of courtship, but it is a much more casual approach that seems to better suit the lifestyle of current college students. This demonstrates the idea of dynamic continuity; the age old need for companionship and sex are still there, but how one fulfills these needs changes with society. Society is becoming more detached from human interaction with the increasing amount of technology, so maybe college students feel it is normal for a sexual relationship to only involve sex and no personal connection. It is also true that students want their sexual needs met, but because of logistics, do not want to become emotionally involved; students are often from different states and plan on leaving or going home after graduation, making sustaining a relationship difficult.

A Feminist Anthropologist would also have a lot to say about the hook up culture in colleges. From this perspective one would probably note the performance of gender in the hook up culture. With any courting practices, both sexes try to make themselves look attractive for their potential mates.  For women this means putting on makeup, doing their hair, and wearing clothes they believe to make themselves look more attractive. For men they might put on their nicer clothes and cologne and shave their face (or not shave, if that’s what they think is attractive). At a party, which is where most people would go to find someone to hook up with, the way that people dance or flirt can be seen as gender performance. A Feminist Anthropologist would also probably note the sexual bias within hook up culture. It is very unlikely that a female would more aggressively pursue a male to hook up. Usually a female will wait for a guy to approach her and let him guide the relationship if both are interested in hooking up.  America has a patriarchal society and within the hook up culture it is no different.

— Casey K.

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62 Responses to Hook Up Culture

  1. Halle Bennett says:

    I am interested in looking at this from a cultural marxist point of view. You could look at it as though we are rebelling against the generation and views of our parents by “hooking up”. Our parents, usually, still hold the power over us- even though we are adults- because usually they are paying for our college- our version of hegemony. A form of rebellion could be our hooking up rather than dating mentality for our “class” of college students. Structures of feeling are present in our “hooking up” culture as well as our values of pre-marital sex in our generation have decreased significantly. We are having sex younger and more often- slowly becoming a sex-positive sub-culture. The meaning behind sex, the formerly normal attachment of love, is leaving because our cultural views of sex and love are changing because values are always changing.

    • Alex McNa says:

      I like the idea that you brought in about values continually being in motion and changing and the reasoning you provide from a cultural marxist perspective. It got me thinking about how else such a trend could be explained. The first thing that came to my mind was from a cultural ecologist perspective. I see the shift away from dating to a more hook-up culture as something that is happening parallel to forces of globalization. Especially in the United States, young adults are constantly saturated with information, and have less and less time to do things as multi-tasking and numerous distractions have become prevalent. It isn’t rare to see someone studying, listening to music, facebooking, and perhaps reading another website all at the same time or during class. I have to wonder if this carries over to young adults sexuality and their ideas and conceptions of relationships and sex. Hook-ups are the multi tasking of relationships. It allows for numerous relationships to be carried out simultaneously in a way that isn’t a social taboo like cheating on a girlfriend or boyfriend. I think the original post touched on this in their discussion of structural functionalism, but I just wanted to tease it out a bit more and add another additional approach to consider. What do you guys think the root cause of this phenomenon is?

  2. Alex Bayer says:

    When reading through your second point about Feminist anthropology, I found myself thinking that there is something very symbolic about how males and females get dressed up for one another. A symbolic Anthropologist might look at the different ways males and females dress and what this conveys to another person. Who are they trying to attract and how are they going about doing it? What is there body language telling other people? Are they confident, do they stand up straight? All these things Symbolic Anthropologist might look at.

    • Meghan McFarland says:

      I like that you bring up the points of how males and females act but specifically how they dress (definitely all things that a symbolic anthropologist would examine). When I read your response I couldn’t stop thinking about how males and females dress from an applied anthropologist’s perspective. How is fashion transformed by the shift from traditional dating to hookup culture? I could imagine a fashion designer or a large department store hiring an applied anthropologist to study the changes in culture and the increase necessity to highlight certain features of the body (in order to be “attractive” to attract a hookup partner). It would be interesting to look at how the fashion industry has transformed and see if their is a correlation between the change in dating culture and fashion trends.

  3. Brenda Camenga says:

    I wanted to bring up something that Professor McGranahan mentioned again in lecture today; she was talking about how Junigau is considered to be a sex-negative community- in other words, they do not consider sex to be a pleasant or enjoyable activity. I wonder how a Mugar from Junigau would view the common sex trend among young people in America, would they be offended, confused, jealous? I find it so interesting how our generation not only differs so significantly from our parent’s generation, but also how much we differ from cultures taking place at the same time. A Cultural Marxist would probably find this great juxtaposition in both generational gaps and cultural structures extremely interesting and worth looking into. By the way, excellent essay, very well done!

    • Samantha Verrill says:

      Brenda, you bring a very interesting point about something I hadn’t even considered. How would the people of Junigau view our sex trend in America. Honestly I think they would probably be disgusted. In Junigau being a virgin is a prized virtue, a girl that has lost her virginity before marriage is significantly less likely to be marriage than a girl who still has her virginity. In our culture virgins are not nearly as treasured. Which is why I think people from Junigau would be disgusted by how people in the United States are using their bodies for pleasure when they are younger and not really thinking about reproduction until they are older. In Junigau reproduction is the number one priority when a couple is married.

  4. zackparrinella says:

    Casey,

    This essay brings up a very good point. I think to add to this essay, it is also interesting to note that hook ups are almost always done at parties, and almost always go hand in hand with alcohol. It is possible to sustain some kind of relationship with someone that is based on hooking up, but usually it happens once or twice at a party, most likely with alcohol involved.

    Now, this is interesting because alcohol always makes the experience very fun during, but very possibly awkward or abnormal after the incident. Although some people don’t mind this, it just adds to the point that we have changed so much from our parents when they went to college. Maybe it is a part of cultural evolution, or maybe we have just shifted into a different type of love.

    Either way, you have brought up a very good point Casey.

    • Sarah Zall says:

      Zack brings up a great point about the use of alcohol when meeting someone of the opposite sex. Drinking and social gatherings have gone hand-in-hand for quite awhile, but it seems that in college, alcohol plays a more significant role. If you’re intoxicated and you hook up with a stranger or even a friend, you have a perfect excuse to not pursue the other person because, oops – you were drunk! Pop-culture adds to this because there are countless dating shows where someone is “looking for love” and social interactions throughout the show are always accompanied by booze.

      When looking at this from a Structural-Functionalist perspective, the alcohol serves the function of preventing an actual relationship, making hooking up easier and formal courting less popular. Not only do the individuals not have to continue seeing each other, but the “drunk” excuse allows the couple to part without any further explanation.

      It is unfortunate that our generation has become so far removed from our parents because young adults are losing the ability to communicate. Texting and Facebook eliminate the need for face-to-face dialogue which makes the hook-up culture all the more superficial. I feel this points to our generation’s fear of commitment. We have so many opportunities and ways to meet new people, why commit to just one? All we have to do is send a text to let the other person know we’re thinking about them, then we can escape any sort of commitment and go out looking for the next hook up.

      • Carson Hughes says:

        I definitely think that Facebook, and social networks are changing the state of courting. It allows us to almost pick a partner through looking at pictures, and seeing their friends before we have met them in person. This form of meeting is very efficient for our dating interests, and once the Facebook friends meet in person, they may have already established whether they are attracted or not. This accelerates our “hook up,” culture.

      • Rebecca Oliver says:

        I think these comments about drinking and hooking up and being so far away from our parents’ generation is really interesting. It is sort of funny to think about how many of our parents grew up in or around the 60s which is considered to be a time of “free love” and is really the first generation to begin the trend of sex before marriage. As strange as it is to think about, the 60s also involved a huge movement around new drugs being produced and all kinds of things that I think probably encouraged “hooking up” for that generation, just like alcohol and other drugs do for ours. Dating definitely prevailed back then far more then it does now, but if you think about it, our parents probably started the hooking up trend.

      • Courtney Antone says:

        Ha, fear of commitment, I agree that our generation is experiencing this hesitation to commit far and wide, at least in American college culture. Not only with relationships, but with choosing majors, choosing career fields, constantly changing hobbies and interests (as told by our facebook pages, right?). But I have to disagree with Sarah about our disconnection and inability to communicate these days because of facebook and texting– it’s a different form of communication, sure thing, and it’s really changing how we interact, but I don’t know if it’s necessarily good or bad, it just is what it is- interesting and changing constantly. And for me, this fear of commitment isn’t so much a concrete fear, but comes from our desires to seek out these incredible opportunities we have living in this globalizing world. We can travel the world, we can try different careers, hook up or date casually with many people so that we can have an expanse of experience (and great stories!) later on down the road when we ARE ready to settle in and pull on the breaks. I feel like our parents generation had a lot more pressure to commit to things young- a spouse, a career, a place. This ‘hooking up’ culture is all a part of our changing value system, and our changing ideals on sexuality- who knows if it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it just is what it is- we are transforming our culture and our culture is in turn transforming us and our values.

  5. Molly Small says:

    To continue looking at the feminist anthropologist approach, I would also make note that many girls can tend be feel embarrassed after a hookup and may not be as open about it, while men seem to be more proud and boast about their “accomplishment”. Looking at hookups from the perspective of the practice theory, it could almost be said that hooking up has become a practice of American young adults. I do not feel like it is something we think about doing, though hooking up is a conscious process, we do not tend to think twice about a random hookup, it is pretty typical. Hooking up is now how we may, or may not, find our significant other whereas our parents would take someone out on a date to accomplish the game goal. I guess you could just say that our generation has changed the structures of society in that we really like to test drive the car before we buy it.

    • Chrissa Maury says:

      I think that this is very interesting because it is so true. Women are rarely the one’s to kiss and tell anybody outside of their close, trusted friends. I think it is interesting that the men typically seem to have the freedoms in these situations. As stated in the essay, women will wait around at a party for a man to approach her, a woman will wait until the man is ready to ask her to be in a relationship (and it seems that women are usually timid to speak of her relations with a guy in case it gets back to him and “scares him off,” while she is flattered whenever she hears that her crush is speaking highly of her), and the most traditional, it is rare (though becoming less taboo these days) for a woman to propose to a man and it is seen that it is SUPPOSED to be the man that plans an extravagant proposal and then leaves the wedding planning to the woman.

      • Jodye Whitesell says:

        I agree with both of the above comments. I would even take it one step further to discuss how gendered people’s responses are to hook-ups. For example, if a girl hooks up with a guy in a one night stand, or with many over several nights, she is seen as a “slut.” This creates an interesting contradiction because, as discussed above, women are not typically the ones to search out sexual contact, but are generally the receivers, implying a passive role in the process. Men hook up with women, not so much vice versa. However, the implications of the world “slut” complicate this. On the one hand, it suggests physical openness, an inability to, as negatively described “keep your legs shut.” This again implies a passive role wherein women simply fail to prevent male contact rather than initiate it. However, there is a subtle suggestion within the word “slut” that she had some part of the active role, that it was her choice. Perhaps the resolution of this binary lies in her choice to be the receiver of the sexual act — her active decision to allow the passive process to occur. Either way, men are not typically seen as sluts, but, as inferred from Molly’s use of the word “accomplishment,” as virile victors, demonstrating their sexual prowess and ability to woo women. Granted this is not always the case, but from what I’ve seen, women are often regarded with much harsher criticism than men for the same action.

      • Morgan Piper says:

        While I agree with what Chrissa is saying in some respect, I believe that a Feminist Anthropologist would be able to discover the true reason why a woman would not approach a guy at a party. In some cases it could be because she is timid, more often than not she holds back due to the repercussions of approaching a man in public. Everyone at that party knows what she would be approaching him for, so by making the first move she is labeling herself. While we would all like to believe we don’t care if someone were to label us a “slut” at a party, in reality that is why a woman would most likely not be approaching a man. This is an interesting concept to think about because we find that there is virtually no shame in the hookup mainly because for the most part it is kept quiet, but an applied anthropologists would observe that there is shame in the conquest of the hookup.

      • Rebecca Oliver says:

        @Jodye I think that you bring up a really interesting point about the double standard in our society for hooking up, in particular, having sex. As it has been said, if people find out about 2 people having sex, it is never the man who is called a slut, and yes the word comes with plenty of negative connotations. The same goes for the number of people a person has slept with. For men, it is “how many notches do you have on your belt?!” and the more it is the better. For women if they have slept with a lot of people, or even more than one, they suddenly are “easy” or really “get around.” Yes the women tend to take a passive role in hooking up, but what about the ones who are doing it because they want to. What if the girls are the ones who want to “get laid” or enjoy it like the men do? They are immediately labeled as sluts. This double standard definitely could be looked at from a feminist standpoint as a patriarchal fear of female pleasure.

    • H. Innes says:

      I agree with Jodye’s comment about the double-standard, though I thought about it in a slightly different way. Girls aren’t expected to broadcast their “accomplishments” because of the labels attached. Guys, on the other hand can be discreet or advertise their escapades and not be judged. A lot of the time alcohol is involved, as is the “freedom” from parents. This freedom is what raises underage drinking and binge drinking in new college students. They no longer have to sneak around and don’t have to worry about coming home drunk. They may also believe that because they don’t have to sneak around they can have sex frequently without worrying about their parents finding out. This “freedom” may also carry over to a freedom from relationships; they may feel that there is no need to be tied down to one person for an extended period of time.

      • Hannah Limov says:

        Being an RA, I’ve been able to witness a lot of this “freedom” that you speak of. I would think, then, that the repercussion of having freedom most highly manifests themselves within those who are first getting, more often than not first year students. Not that this is a diss at first years in any way, but it is interesting to see how this newfound power and freedom influences people to do things they would never, ever have done otherwise… one of them being hook-ups. Not only is there no judgment from parents, but there is none from high school friends or people in the community as well, because the everything and everyone is new. I guess it is just interesting how, when put in a new environment, people tend to react to the extreme. And as you mention, this extreme reaction causes both guys and girls to play out their prescribed gender roles (the dominant male versus the docile, coy female) to the extreme as well. A Feminist Anthropologist would love looking at those roles!

    • biscayeg says:

      one could also look at the “hook up” culture and how it is manifested across the globe, and the levels of hooking up in sex negative and sex positive areas. For instance, one culture, say in Junigau perhaps, would probably think exchanging texts or glances at the water fountain is a pretty scandalous “hook up” between two young or older villagers. America and Europe and even South America, however, go from dirty dancing to making out to one night stands… and these can be planned or spontaneous, once-in-a-while or every night…
      Where do each draw the line and why? Where is the phenomena taboo (dinner table with the grandparents, church) and where is it public (some random person’s house, a club)? Who has the power in this relationship? The man or the woman? Who seduces who? Who gets the blame for the repercussions?

  6. Rebecca Powell says:

    This essay brought up some really interesting points and Molly, I think you bring up a really relevant point about the differences between guys hooking up and girls hooking up. Obviously, the reactions people have about and after hook ups differ greatly, but in general I think that guys and girls follow general trends about how they behave in these situations. For a girl, a hook up is only okay in certain groups of friends, at certain times, and to a certain point. For each girl these standards are different and can change, but for the most part a girl is expected to be the one holding out more and is also more likely to regret her decision in the morning. Although guys can be the ones holding out and often can regret a hook up in the morning, they are more inclined to be congratulatory to each other than girls are.

    It’s an interesting phenomenon in our culture, and gender standards are very much adhered to.

    But maybe that’s just me! Girls, do you think you and your friends act differently about hook ups? Or guys, am I wrong about the reactions from your friends to a hook up that happened?

    • Cristina Gannon says:

      Rebecca,

      I agree with what you have brought up. Hooks up are viewed differently by males and females, and I feel also pursued differently. From my experiences and observations I feel guys “go after” anyone they find attractive and think they may have a chance with. Girls on the other, I feel try to stay in some sort of “safety zone”, usually within their group of extended friends. I think this relates back to the tendency for women to be more emotionally needy, with friends there is already some emotional relationship established.

    • Tanya Fink says:

      I have always been interested in the different connotations, labels, and reactions associated with hook ups from the male and female perspective. If people do not see a difference, just think about it in a linguistic way. For men who sleep around a lot, they coin the labels player, pimp, “the man,” womanizer, etc. Women receive radically different names such as whore, slut, skank, etc. Much harsher and negative connotations are attached to women who hook up frequently than men.

      To respond to your question of hook-ups in my friend circle… I agree with your statement that “a hook up is only okay in certain groups of friends, at certain times, and to a certain point.” But I’d have to add “to a certain extent.” One hook-up does not coin a girl a “slut,” but once it crosses a line of what is “culturally unacceptable” (totally dependent on the social circle), the negative connotations and disapproval kick in.

    • Holly Z says:

      I would imagine that both of these perceptions apply to modern hook up culture depending upon your gender.
      However, I think that women are expected to put on the performance of “holding out” the night before, and then performing the gender stereotype of regret in the morning! If women didn’t like hooking up as much as men supposedly do, then why do women put themselves in those situations at such a frequency?
      This reminds me of Ahearn’s “Invitations to Love,” when discussing performace of a culturally expected ritual. Women in US culture are not supposed to enjoy random sex because they are expected to want long-lasting, romantic relationships, and this is the role we are expected to play. Katherine Heigel’s recent rom-coms perpetuate this stereotype about a woman’s sexual and romantic preferences. Practice theory and its concerns would be interested in looking at the disconnect between women’s persuit of romantic relationships and the actuality of hook up culture.

      • Taylor Deisinger says:

        I would have to agree with what Holly says about how women hold back their emotions and play the “role” that society has set for them. This is very much like the role women in Junigau play in all aspects of love, where as women here have much more freedom in their actions, sexual or not, their are still consequences to these actions. Women in Junigau are expected to not want sex, or even a second helping of their dinner and women here in the United States are also suppose to suppress some of their feelings about sex and “hook ups.”

  7. Everett Warner says:

    I think you are absolutely right about the fact that men value or are more proud of a hook up, while the women regret it. I think that this is shown through the “walk of shame” that is reserved mostly for women to do on the morning after a hook up. Society even expects the women to regret a hook up, hence the use of the word shame. I can also see how this can be seen as acting, just as the women in Junigau are supposed to act sad at their wedding, women in America are supposed to regret hook ups and men are supposed to be proud of them. Society has told us to feel this way about certain events so we do so.

    • Carly Korbecki says:

      I think the ‘walk of shame’ point Everett brought up is very interesting. I never thought about why women are always forced to walk home ‘shamefully’. But I also question whether or not the women are acting. If the shame of walking home alone after an obvious hookup was so great, the hookup would not have taken place at all. Yet every saturday morning, I see girls walking home in their party clothes. I don’t think hookups are all that shameful to women, anymore. But since there was an aspect of shame at one point, women feel the need to act ashamed of themselves to keep the innocent image which they so carefully construct.

  8. Kelsey Robb says:

    This topic is really interesting and I agree with what you have said; however, I think that these hookups, more often than not, end in relationships. I know that men are regularly pegged as sexual deviants with no capability of having an emotional attachment but I don’t think that’s all true. I think that most of the time, men do form emotional attachments and just choose not to show it because they’re afraid they may get made fun of. And since women are more apt to form an emotional bond after hooking up I think this, with the idea that men too feel the attachment, will lead to a more serious relationship after the hook up.
    This in itself is interesting to me because it’s showing how both sexes are seen differently in the world of relationships and hooking up. Men are usually the ones initiating the hook up and wanting a less serious relationship (at least in the eyes of the public) where as the women follow the man’s lead and hope for a more serious relationship. I think a feminist anthropologist would be interested in looking at this.

    • Rob Peixotto says:

      I am in agreement with you that a hook-up has a very strong potential to lead to a relationship. I think it is one thing to talk about hooking up and having one night stands, but is a completely different to actually participate in it. People can talk the sex talk but can they walk that same sex walk? I don’t think so, it is a big deal, especially if you both are not under the use of a drug and can remember fully. There could not be a more intimate moment and to blow it off is to deny feelings. A relationship is often at least attempted. You say that women are more likely to want the relationship. I wonder where this comes from. Is it media? Almost all the movies these days have a man who sleeps around and upsets women. Could this be where this gender difference has derived from? Or is it more biological in nature, the details of which I will not get into. Regardless, I do agree that one-night stands are less common in practice than in talk.

  9. laine smith says:

    I think Everett brings up a great point. The social expectations are for women to regret a casual, spur of the moment hook up. For me, at least, if a girl friend has a one night stand, she always has some degree of embarrassment or regret retelling the events. Whereas my guy friends get a high five and an “oh yea”! But I have to say, I don’t think these hookups usually end in relationships. With the addition of alcohol: memories get hazy, details skewed and in fear of embarrassment one or both parties often try to avoid one another. Relating back to our parent’s generation of dating, that awkwardness also comes with the territory. Going on a first date can be awkward, intimidating and scary, the same feeling is connected to the aftermath of a hookup. In a way, its just another way to see if you can get past the uncomfortable first date or the uncomfortable morning after. If you really like the person: you’ll contact them again.

  10. Hannah Chatelain says:

    Someone already noted this but during the last portion of your essay on feminist anthropology and how women are more embarrassed or viewed with more shame for hook ups the “walk of shame” popped into my head almost immediately. You hear about this all the time, and it is only used when talking about a girl. While a man is praised for his sexual conquests with a woman, a woman even if she only wants hook ups in her life is judged and shamed for her choice. This is probably due to informal social rules that say women are the ones who are supposed to place sexual restrictions on themselves and men- they are to hold the control since men can’t be placed with their own responsibility.
    The more men women hook up with the more typically bad names are associated with her such as hoe, slut, skank etc. how many male names are there for being sexually promiscuous..not to many. This goes into a more symbolic anthropologist approach but is also interesting to look at.

  11. Zoe Adelman says:

    I really liked your idea of hook ups from a structural-functionalist point of view. I was actually thinking of leaving a comment about hook ups in relation to technology before I got to that part of your essay. One thing I would add though it how technology has altered our generation. The main thing that comes to mind for me is time. With technology, we can find out just about anything by the click of a button. Because of this, I think our generation has become much more impatient and doesn’t like waiting. The dating that our parents generation was doing was for the same purpose as our generation. Eventually it was supposed to lead to sex or a partnership. However, they took a longer route to get there. We on the other hand don’t have the patience to follow all the steps to get to that same conclusion. Hook ups are our version of a short cut.

  12. Alyssa Paylor says:

    With “Invitations to Love” in the back of my mind and the various approaches Ahearn employs, I would love to look at what “hooking up” represents linguistically and how its meaning has changed. As I was reminded at the being of this essay, the differences between my generation and my parents’ generation are very different. Whenever I idly mention to my mom, “oh so and so hooked up with so and so”, I’m instantly reminded that what hooking up meant to my mom may or may not mean the same thing to me. Even between my friends and I, hooking up has become an all encompassing term that covers a broad range of sexual acts. To my mom it means one thing: heterosexual intercourse. My mom is horrified at my nonchalant discussion of hooking up, when really I may be referring to an act that doesn’t go beyond kissing. I think it would be interesting to look at the fluidity of the term hooking up, and how it changes from generation to generation.

    • Mackenzie Clarkson says:

      I also thought about this linguistically. It’s interesting to think not just about the broad range of meanings of “hooking up,” (and I completely agree with you, Alyssa, about how it is interpreted cross-generationally) but also about what the term itself represents. It suddenly struck me how strange this term is when I accidentally skipped over the “up” in reading another comment. How strange that a colloquial term for turning tricks/prostitution, “hooking” would be used to describe this practice of brief encounters of the sexual kind. That’s not to say that this is a form of prostitution, and I’m definitely not passing judgment, but it is interesting that this became the popular terminology. When I step back and actually think about the literal term “hooking up” I’m completely at a loss for why it makes so much sense. There’s the physical connection I suppose, to have the physical encounter is kind of like a literal “hook” connecting to people? Beats me, but interesting to think about.

  13. Bryan Daino says:

    I agree with everything you have said about this “hook up” culture and how times are changing from when our parents were in college. I also think that when people say that their hooking up with another person, that its a modern way of dating by trying to keep it more casual. In the way that men and women get prepared for a night out is a lot different too, so i wonder if theirs a symbolic relationship to that; that symbolic anthropologist would look at? Could it be that women care more about appearances then men?

  14. Kate Barry says:

    I really liked the essay but I cannot help but comment it was very opinionated. While many people will hook up in college, there are also many that are in committed relationships. So I would not go as far as saying that hook ups have taken over relationships in college. It is easy to say that it is just with our generation, but if you look back at history, you will find that things have not changed that much. For example, they had brothels in Pompeii. The importance of sex has not changed with our generation and will probably never change. Hook ups have been happening for generations, I believe the change to be on how we advertise it.

  15. Erica Edelberg says:

    I definitely think the generalities of how guys and girls feel differently about hookups is true. However, I know lots of girls that seem to be the ones actively seeking a hookup and approaching guys at parties, as well as guys that expect the girl to be the one to approach them. College is a time in which people are still getting to know and understand themselves, and I wouldn’t say that hookup culture is necessarily one set way all the time. In fact, dating is probably has more set gender norms than hooking up. People generally picture as a date consisting of a guy asking the girl out, picking her up, paying, etc. Not that this cannot vary, but I feel that hookups have a less definitive set of standards based on gender.

    • miarizzo says:

      I agree with Erica also. The “hook-up playing field” seems more leveled in comparison to dating. Dating comes with so many expectations and sometimes people just want what they want at the time being and nothing else. With hook-ups you can kind of get that.

  16. Megan Long says:

    @ Erica. I definitely agree. I have many friends who are always the ones to pursue the boys, rather than the other way around. These are the girls who appear to be more confident, and therefore more appealing to the boys. This shows a definite shift in the courting between males and females over the years. In the past, it was the males who always approached the girls who are found standing against the walls gossiping with their friends. Today, girls put on the most revealing outfits as they can to snag the attention of boys they like, and if this doesn’t get them as much attention as they would like, they begin to pursue the boys themselves. I am not going to analyze which way is the right way, but it is something that a Feminist Anthropologist I am sure would be vert fascinated in. To not only really analyze the change, but look into what has changed in the minds of men and women to bring about this change in society.

  17. Cristina Gannon says:

    This was a very relevant topic to look at, especially since we are all currently experiencing these types of relationships in our lives currently. You did a great job briefly touching on varies ways to examine this new type of courtship. To elaborate a little further, I think this topic can and should be examined a variety of ways, including performance, cultural relativism, Feminist anthropology & gender, and post-structuralism.
    Performance is a key aspect to this behavior. How we as human beings, with primal needs act, and how we use our culture to acquire what we want (body language, dress, behavior).
    Cultural relativism is also very important. How our technological society has, as mentioned, made “courting” a lot less formal. Most conversations seem to be held through text-messaging now. Also the media I’m sure has a great impact on how males and females believe they should act, whether they consciously realize these decisions or not.
    Extremely important to look at in these situations is the role and power of the different genders. This can be examined through both feminist and post-structuralist approaches. Who has the power in the pre-hook up gaming? Does each gender have a basic set of rules or standards that tend to be followed?
    Great topic for discussion Casey!

  18. Allison Metzger says:

    I think this is a very interesting topic, and one that I had not thought of before. Sure, hooking up has become increasingly more dominant over the years, but it is a little strange and almost off-putting to think about the fact that formal dating has declined so greatly.
    It is true, that with the demands of college, maintaining a serious relationship would be strenuous and therefore becomes undesirable. However, there is more at play here as you point out. It is not just the fact the relationships are time consuming and take work. We now live in a society where independence and freedom are becoming more of an aspiration in a large majority of America’s youth. This has led to a more casual and detached form of courtship, as you mention in your essay. However, the fact also remains that almost everyone needs or desires companionship. Thus, the lust for sexual interaction leads to the behavioral practice of “hooking up”, that now dominates every college campus. It is an interesting phenomenon and one that leads me to question, why are people so fearful of emotional attachment? And what specific cultural shifts have led to this decline in dating, and pressure to become more independent?
    You also mention in your essay, the difficulty to maintain a relationship in college, “students are often from different states and plan on leaving or going home after graduation, making sustaining a relationship difficult.” This is a very true statement, but I also wonder if the recent economic problem in America has led many college students to reconsider living at home after they graduate. Also, the pressure to find a career immediately is one that daunts many upcoming and former graduates. This could also be playing a large role in the decline of dating. College students aren’t looking for a life partner at this time in their life. Many of us are just trying to survive these four years, graduate, and hopefully find a job opportunity. It seems as though our culture has shifted to receiving an education and finding work first, and then experiencing the world of dating and marriage later on.

  19. Parker Robbins says:

    The final paragraph of this essay grabbed my attention, but sparked an idea about how this “hook up” culture would be viewed by a symbolic anthropologist. There is a fine line between flirting and casually talking, and a symbolic anthropologist would get to the bottom of this. Whether a girl is twirling her hair while talking or casually touching a guy’s arms, what do these actions symbolize? Are they always intended to be flirtatious, or can these gestures be used in a different context?

  20. Dana Melby says:

    The days of going to college get your MRS degree are long gone for many women. Many women of today are equally invested in the hookup culture as their male counterparts. I think it’s an interesting point that you make that women are not playing the active role of pursuing a hook up. I think the whole game of playing coy and dressing to impress rather than for comfort is just as active of a role as a guy laying down lines. Perhaps one is more obvious than the other however each is equally important for the hookup to be achieved. I think a cultural ecologist would have an interesting point of view of this shift in sexual selection.

  21. miarizzo says:

    Might a feminist anthropologist explore the possibility that the women of this type of culture might be only interested in hooking up because their roles are no longer the same? You could say that back in the day women were mostly trying to find a suitable husband, so dating was a necessity. Women in college now are all about working on their own success and if hooking up with a guy with no strings attached satisfies that secondary need for sex, or attention, or whatever you would like to call it, then it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Just a thought. Nice write.

    • Carly Korbecki says:

      I completely agree. Times have changed since the author’s parents have gone to college. Women are more valued in the workplace than they were twenty or thirty years ago. College no longer means going to school to find an appropriate husband. Women are attending college to earn degrees, just as men did. People aren’t getting married as early as they did a few decades ago, which leaves the dating scene less of a priority for college students. A feminist Anthropologist should look at this change when assessing hook-ups.

  22. angie larson says:

    I enjoyed reading this essay because it is a very interesting topic that is true in so many ways. I definitely agree that technology and our lack of human interaction due to Facebook and texting has effected our face to face relationships and could possibly have an impact on making relationships more sexually prioritized. I also agree that dating has become less common and the image of the boy picking the girl up at home and taking her out to the drive-in and to ice cream has faded with our parent’s generation. However, I do think there has been a longer trend of hook-up relationships going on for decades that we can’t ignore. The amount of casual sex that went on in the 60s and 70s could definitely give our generation a run for its money! I would almost argue that we (our generation) have much safer sex now then our parents’ generation now that we have advanced birth control and have developed so many STDs over the years (which many are accumulated from our parents’ generation!). So while I agree that dating has faded, I don’t think that casual sex, or hooking up, has taken it’s place because that has been there for longer than we’ve been around! Hey, maybe it’s even WHY we are all around 😉

    The evolution of casual sex and hooking up would be interesting to look at thought. I wonder if with the “invention” or marriage, if there was a huge trend to wait until marriage to have sex and then that slowly faded out or how the pattern has evolved with humanity and cultures around the world. Definitely a deep and interesting topic!

  23. Amanda Kim says:

    The assumption of the whole hook up is behind the mentality that sex is just another recreational activity. Popular culture has constructed and instructed us that sex has no moral significance. Rape is bad, but all other sex is good. Young people eager to impress a member of the opposite sex let themselves get talked into all kinds of things. Or maybe, perhaps that it’s due to pressure. Maybe in some groups, and in other groups, people like it, but unless your friends are a forcing it upon, there’s no pressure to hook up just because somebody’s there.

    I don’t know where to talk about this because this whole hook up scene and culture is relatively something I dislike about in American culture. This may be a broad overstatement, but I think that sexual relationships in American culture are pretty shallow nowadays. I’m always hearing people saying they want someone who are sensitive, respectful, and intelligent. Everywhere I look, they’re always some person hooking up, such as the typical arrogant men who have no respect for women and whatnot, for example. I know that hookup has been around even back in history but this whole hookup is probably based on physical appearances and desperation of getting some “recreation” as well. Sex is now just for entertainment rather than for sexual reproduction or emotional connections with two mates. Just my two cents.

  24. Courtney O'Rourke says:

    Although I liked this essay, and it brings up many valid points about hook up culture in America, I wished it would have went into more detail about how the actual atmosphere and space on a college campus allows the hook up culture. In a sense, college could be seen as a sort of liminality between two phases of life; adolescence and adulthood. Even though this is a broad example applied, the way the author describes men and woman within hook up culture as trying to look attractive through similar practices and appearances (makeup, shaving), could be seen as a sort of homogeneity. Further more, like all liminality, college is transition state filled with all types of changes from life outside of it. If college is a state of liminality then perhaps increased promiscuity and sexuality are just two aspects of the overall rite of passage between adolescence and adulthood.

  25. Sarah Kell says:

    I think you have brought up great points in this essay. It is very interesting how hooking up has become the norm for our age group in society. I would argue that a large majority of our college friends would consider going on a date rather strange or awkward, unless they were already boyfriend and girlfriend. It is interesting in that I mainly only see college friends who go on dates that are already in a relationship. Those who are single, are usually meeting people at parties and hooking up. Where it used to be that dates were common before the relationship to get to know each other, it now seems more like singles are hooking up to get to know each other. Formal dates occur more frequently with those already in a relationship. A feminist anthropologist might also argue that males do not want to spend time and money on a woman they do not know if they will like. It perhaps seems easier in our day and age to meet at parties, randomly hook up, then see if there is something more. It has definitely become more normal. While I agree there is still some male bias, and some females feel more embarrassed about hook ups, I believe females are becoming more comfortable with this role and less ashamed. While it has always taken “two to tango” (so to speak), females seem less inhibited to show happiness from these hook ups. It is interesting to see how women are beginning to view themselves differently within society today all over the world. Great paper!

    • Michelle LaGreca says:

      I agree with what you said about how dating has been reduced to a practice only shared between those in a relationship. I find that in college, the typical date has changed dramatically from what my parents have told me. Instead of a romantic dinner at an expensive restaurant where the ladies wear dresses and heels (classy — not provocative) followed by a nice stroll around a park or something, a date consists of looking as suggestive as possible and going to a party. Since being in college, I have yet to be asked anywhere other than a frat party or to any location where we would be alone, not surrounded by a thousand of our closest drunk friends.

  26. storegrove says:

    I do not know much of anything about ‘hooking-up’ culture, but as stated Sarah above, I know that many if not most hook-ups are enacted under some sort of influence other than libido. It seems to me that this trend of drinking and getting together, smoking and fetting together, or doping and getting together is an example of both social reproduction and transformation.
    Surely generations preceding our own have done the same, I’m talking before and after the free love era of the 60’s and 70’s. Grandparents can every once in a while be cajoled into recalling their rompous experiences of their teenage years and early twenties, regardless of college’s presence. I am sure their predecessors could tell the similar tales.
    The main issue stem from a silent confirmation of this hook-up culture’s existence by our society through all facets of media and entertainment and despite vocal condemnation.

  27. Holly Z says:

    I wouldn’t say that “dating has died,” at ALL! I insist upon being taken out on dates – whether I set them up or not – when I want to meet new people. Just because the prevelance of hooking up is on the rise doesn’t mean dating and its rates are declining! In fact, I would argue – with little to no data – that dating is on the rise due to the increased comfort experienced by those who hook up frequently around their partners.
    One may look at this phenomenon – if it really is one – in the context of Practice theory. What the media projects to us as an increase in hook up culture may, in fact, differ from what we actually experience. Perhaps we are more ready to accept the notion of a hook-up culture because of our age or location, but I would curb the assertion that dating is dead and hook up culture killed it!
    However, I loved this essay!

  28. Sara Helt says:

    I think that this person did a great job analyzing the hook up culture. Im sure that this does not just occur here at CU, but occurs all over the united states. I have definitely thought to myself before about why dating or courting partners has changed so drastically from the previous generation. I also, like the author, have only been on one date in my entire life, but then again Im not really a dating kinda gal. When people go to party they are not looking for their next boyfreind and potential husband, they are looking to serve their more animal needs, namely sex. People don’t realize that this is an unsafe way to go about getting what you want because of one night stands or maybe getting involved with someone who isn’t right for you. I think the author picked out perfect theoretical approaches for this topic. Structural functionalism is perfect because, seriously, what is the purpose of going out drunk just so one can hook up with a complete stranger? There really is not much of a purpose but to feed the need of the animal brain and find a mate to have sex with. And feminist anthropology is a perfect theoretical approach as well, but I think it could have been taken farther, like how boys sometimes take advantage of women, since they tend to get more emotionally attached, in hook up situations and toy with their thoughts so they will sleep with them only to dump them in the end. I am not saying women do not do this too, but as a generalization from personal experience its easier for men to be less emotionally attached.

  29. Alex Myers says:

    I like your topic and how it relates to our generation. I think it would be interesting if you talked through a feminist point of view about the sexual double standard between men and women. How when men hook up with many girls he is considered a pimp and it is a positive label. If a girl hooks up with a bunch of guys she is considered a slut, a negative label. Also how girls can kiss other girls and still be considered heterosexual, while if a guy kisses another guy he is considered gay or a fag.

  30. Payton Bess says:

    I really like this essay. It brings up some great points! However, for the point made about parents trying to figure out why dating has died…it hasn’t. Atleast not in my opinion. I can’t think that the college days have really changed that much since our parents attended school. There was drinking and hooking up in those years too. I don’t think that dating has died, but I think it has taken a new form. Dating is much more casual than it was. For example, boys may not drive to a girls house, walk to the door and meet the parents or he may not open the door to the car and pull out a girls chair, but dating in a different form exists. Boys and girls hang out one on one, go places together, and probably in most cases date someone casually before getting into a relationship with them. There has not been a loss of attraction in the other sex, therefore dating has not disappeared. As civilized people, most of us don’t just see someone, have sex with them and move on to the next person. Very interesting to know a parents point of view.

  31. Luke Nelson says:

    Very good application of Feminist Anthropology to this interesting topic. I know you probably didn’t have room, but it might be interesting to bring up how the Sexual Revolution, which was occurring at about the same time as Feminist Anthropology was gaining steam, and may also help us unravel the phenomenon of “Hook-Up Culture”.

  32. Katherine Caldwell says:

    I agree that there is more of a hookup culture now than before and less of a dating scene, but I don’t agree that it’s because people do not want to become emotionally involved. I think that being promiscuous is easier now because its easy to slip in and out of someone’s life without much notice. With cell phones, text messaging, etc, its easy to text someone at a party, meet them at home, and have them leave the next morning- all without your friends noticing. Now you can easily joke about it with your friends online or through texting without ever having to face anyone and tell them what you actually did last night. If we still had to call home phones or show up to people’s houses unexpectedly, I think people would be less likely to hook-up with so many people.

  33. Landon Shumaker says:

    Hooking up is the in thing, and the writer explains this perfectly. Feminist anthropology examines this phenomena the best by talking about gender rolls, and how both genders are going out of their way to look the hottest and be the most attractive at the party. Women going out and looking good for sex is sort of a undertone but is becoming much more mainstream as the years progress. Women have always wanted to look good before going out but now instead of showing the other girls their better they are now accepting the fact that they are going out and looking good so they can hook up with the hottest guy they find on the hill.

  34. Brenna Hokanson says:

    Casey-
    While I don’t exactly disagree with your Structural-Functionalist argument, I would alter it slightly and apply it to Practice Theory. Specifically, I would look at what you call the “logistics” that make long term dating unpopular among our generation. I believe that “logistics” are less the point than changing structures of feeling to do with commitment to a relationship (which is often in opposition to commitment to one’s own priorities, e.g. travel, career, etc.). There is an increasing movement amongst our generation to delay serious relationships in order to achieve personal goals. This seems to be a slow shift that can be explained by Practice Theory and happens through social transformation over a long period of time, with a shift in structures of feeling motivating our generation to exercise our agency and put off serious dating until later in life.

  35. Bryan Rosenau says:

    The only thing that I will disagree with and/or challenge in this essay is the following:
    Why does “hooking up” have to be the casual approach for college students? What about playing “hard to get”? Many play that game, so that when the person is finally “gotten” by the pursuer, one person or the other expects the sex to be fantastic? Maybe the sex is fantastic, maybe it isn’t. There are other more casual approaches that fall in the range of “hooking up”, like playing the whole “re-bound” card (for those of you who don’t know: re-bounding is when someone pursues a sexually significant other who just ended a relationship).
    I really like what you said about the feminist approach, I quote “At a party, which is where most people would go to find someone to hook up with, the way that people dance or flirt can be seen as gender performance.” This is most certainly gender performance. For guys, gender performance may involve: who can drink more and hold their booze, who is and is not good at particular drinking games, and who looks the strongest and most athletic. For women I can’t give any particular examples, because I am not a woman, but if i were to guess they would probably do some of the following: who is or is not a social butterfly, who wears the most scandalous outfits and who can or cannot pull it off.

  36. Rosa McAvoy says:

    This essay definitely reflects what is sad but true which is that dating is in a way out of style. I think that people are hooking up because our society has seemed to tell people that being sexy is good and why else would someone want to be sexy unless they intend on having sex? Also I feel as if the fact that especially in college so many people like to drink and go out has a lot to do with hooking up. Drunken hook ups are really common and unfortunately not always something to be proud of. At the same time the definition of what a date is may be different now than it was before. Our generation just seems to have more freedom that previous ones and our emphasis on sex seems to be promoting the random hook ups. Magazines like cosmopolitan always say things like 10 ways to please you man which clearly shows that sex is not as taboo as it has been. Another thing that may lead to hook ups is that many people feel that being a virgin is not a good thing so some hook up just to have something on their record.

  37. Katie Carbaugh says:

    I have concerns that by looking at hook up culture under the feminist and structural-functionalist views, that one misses the true picture. I think that by taking another approach, such as viewing hook-up culture under the lens of a post-modernist would allow for a clearer assessment. A post-modernist would focus on the power relations between people. This can reveal a lot because, if you think about it, the people hooking up are protesting traditional practices. Especially because hooking up is a popular college activity, one could argue that by hooking up, not only are they rebelling against society as a whole, but they are focusing on rebelling out against their parents. During college, a person may discover that they have new-found freedom and may be using this time of freedom to make a statement, feel special or significant, and eventually gain an understanding of their identity, as separate from their parents. This gives them power, in a way. By exercising their agency (rebelling) they have control and power over their parents because they are resisting past values and views and making a personal, stand-out choice. Some post-modernists would also look at the linguistic differences between hooking-up and dating activities along with how communication between two individuals would differ if that couple were to have a long-term courtship as opposed to a one-night hook up experience. Even the words that they would use to let each other know that they had an attraction would mean a whole different language and therefore a completely different view on their relationship because language is powerful.

  38. Brian Cortese says:

    Most animals do not have monogamous relationships and humans after all are still animals. I think the basic desires of lust and sex outweigh the desire for true love. No matter how hard we try we are all sexual beings and those urges cannot be taken away. I think that this “hook-up” culture should be accepted just as dating is. I think everyone has a preference of how to meet their desires. And after all as young people we should be able to have a little fun!

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