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"The problem stems not from there being 'too much' casual sex on campus but from the overall dissatisfaction with sex on campus and the lack of alternatives."
June 22, 2011 3:21 PM   Subscribe

So suddenly, everyone was talking about hookup culture, and they wanted to know: "What is this thing? What is it?" And they were afraid that somehow college was some alcohol-fueled Bacchanalian orgy.
The Promise and Perils of Hookup Culture: a talk by sociologist Lisa Wade (previously).
posted by NoraReed (46 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
they were afraid that somehow college was some alcohol-fueled Bacchanalian orgy.

It was, and there was nothing to fear.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:27 PM on June 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Many of you will not hook up in college and, among those of you that do, many of you will only hook up a handful of times over the four or so years you’re here.
• The average number of hook ups for a graduating senior is only 7.
• About 25% of college students will never hook up.
• About 30% will do so three times or less (that’s less than one hook up a year),


Kids these days, lazy slackers!
posted by Floydd at 3:35 PM on June 22, 2011


they were afraid that somehow college was some alcohol-fueled Bacchanalian orgy.

I waited 5 years for this to happen and then suddenly they handed me an engineering degree and kicked me out. WTF? I was lied to.
posted by GuyZero at 3:42 PM on June 22, 2011 [52 favorites]


Sigh.
posted by Zed at 3:43 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm a twentysomething guy (though out of college) and I feel like I'm supposed to participate in hookup culture - indeed, that there is no alternative to it. I'm not particularly good at it, socially, but I've internalized the 'don't get too attached' message. It's not the best.

a probable soundtrack to the thread
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:45 PM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Those hook numbers are roughly equivalent to what I believe the averages were when I graduated from college. In 1989. The hook up culture is nothing new.
posted by COD at 3:50 PM on June 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


find "hook up" replace "fuck"
posted by nathancaswell at 3:54 PM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yup: sounds like no significant behavioral changes in a generation.
posted by davel at 3:55 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Our youth have been euphemized!
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:56 PM on June 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


The hook up culture is nothing new.

The fact that we're borrowing the word bacchanalia from ancient Greece should you all you need to know.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:56 PM on June 22, 2011 [34 favorites]


Yup: sounds like no significant behavioral changes in a generation.

Well, in the talk she mentions that oral sex has become more commonplace. I skimmed the transcript of the talk and she does specifically address what has and hasn't changed and how they drew those conclusions.
posted by GuyZero at 3:57 PM on June 22, 2011


Isn't "alcohol-fuelled" and "Bacchanalian" redundant?
posted by Dark Messiah at 3:58 PM on June 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm Not Charlotte Simmons And I Never Was
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:58 PM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, in the talk she mentions that oral sex has become more commonplace.

Yup, no significant changes.
In the last three generations, birth control, summer of love, and AIDS are the only changes I can think of.
posted by davel at 4:01 PM on June 22, 2011


Well, sure, we baked long loaves of bread, lit ever-burning torches, and danced while waving a thyrsus all about, but we never considered it a Bacchanalian orgy.
posted by Think_Long at 4:01 PM on June 22, 2011 [16 favorites]


One of the points I think Wade uses is that the orgy isn't Bacchanalian because the sex isn't actually very good.
posted by NoraReed at 4:02 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


It doesn't sound like things have changed much since my (mid-'90s) day; a few people were getting laid all the time, quite a few weren't getting laid at all, and most people were somewhere in the middle (hey-yo!).
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:05 PM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


From reading the notes, it looks like she saying a lot more about how people think about sex rather than how much sex people have. I, at least, found that part pretty interesting, especially the discussion of how people who want to do something other than hookup feel like there aren't outlets for their preferred sexual expression. Maybe that's more interesting to me because I went to the University of Chicago, where the two sexual ethics are celibacy and mating for life.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 4:13 PM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I attended Brigham Young University.
posted by mecran01 at 4:16 PM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I got laid a lot more (in the "hook up culture" kind of way) in my late 20s and early-to-mid 30s than I ever did before or since.
posted by hippybear at 4:25 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Floydd: "
Kids these days, lazy slackers!
"

You know, I haven't yet spent the hour watching that video (queued up though) but unless they've instrumented every bed, bench and library shelving unit on campus with cameras, I don't know that we can trust those stats. One or two liars can dramatically skew the results. Hopefully there's a source cited for peer reviewing there.
posted by pwnguin at 4:28 PM on June 22, 2011


instrumented every bed, bench and library shelving unit

and pool table
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:03 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


No one has clarified for me whether it's better to have had sex with lots of partners or just lots of sex, period. Because college monogamists will always beat college swingers in number of sexual encounters. Perhaps there is a ratio? Like, every 1 new person you have sex with is worth 50 individual sex acts with the same person? I have no idea.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:22 PM on June 22, 2011


I have two degrees and scored exactly zero with my classmates over those several years. I guess I was much more of a 420 guy than a sophisticated love machine.
posted by Bubbles Devere at 5:51 PM on June 22, 2011


Fascinating. She doesn't say that 'hook-up' culture is bad ... but she does talk (a lot) about the BAD sex. Especially bad according to the women she interviewed. It seems oral sex is mostly FOR men, not women and that orgasms for women are not considered important.

It sounded like these college women were much like college women of the '50s - they believe men "need" sex so much that they shouldn't be refused ('blue balls' ... really?!); they don't seem to ask for their own sexual pleasure and some even take all the responsibility for sex on themselves (i.e., are much more unlikely to acknowledge 'date rape' - let alone report it).

With all the information available today it really saddens me that younger women have not learned anything from our past -- the feminist revolution taught women about their rights -- but it also taught us about sex -- the joy, intimacy, erotic pleasures, and multiple orgasms (all the time, lol). What happened?
posted by Surfurrus at 5:55 PM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


A paper she co-authored on the subject. More interesting than the video in my opinion.
posted by humanfont at 6:02 PM on June 22, 2011


Culture: an artificial medium for isolating and growing bacterium.

Sounds about right.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:58 PM on June 22, 2011


find "hook up" replace "fuck"

Except that she says that hooking up doesn't necessarily mean fucking. It can refer to oral sex or even just making out.
posted by asnider at 7:09 PM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


That paper linked by humanfont is really sad to read, especially the quotes. It may or may not be representative, but the authors found a bunch of students for whom the current set of practices isn't working well. The section that starts on page 13, about the normalization of sexual coercion, was particularly sad.
posted by Forktine at 7:48 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]



Except that she says that hooking up doesn't necessarily mean fucking. It can refer to oral sex or even just making out.


And in the article, there is a reference that the fucking has gone down, while other activities have increased.
posted by Forktine at 7:49 PM on June 22, 2011


Fucking has gone down, but going down has gone up.
posted by ShutterBun at 7:56 PM on June 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


In her own research, Lisa has found that students want sex to be pleasurable, empowering, or meaningful. But, alas, they seem to have difficulty achieving any one of those things in great measure.

Is it unfair of me to think it's a little creepy that this woman knows this stuff? Interesting though it may be, analyzing young people's sex lives for some kernel of truth about what's wrong with Kids These Days seems... I don't know, patronizing. What's the upshot?
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:21 PM on June 22, 2011


The use of the word "empowering" is full of all kinds of I dunno for me. I hope it's meant as more of an "I am in charge of my body!" kinda thing, rather than "I got someone to have sex with me. Go me!" thing.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:54 PM on June 22, 2011


I'd like to think that the point of publishing a study claiming that lots of young people are unhappy with their sex lives would be the hope that something could be done to improve the situation.
posted by straight at 8:55 PM on June 22, 2011


Maybe we just need an "it gets better" campaign aimed at young people having unsatisfying sex.

(assuming it does, of course)
posted by ShutterBun at 8:59 PM on June 22, 2011


The problem is kids these days and the culture of casual masturbation. In my day, masturbation was taken much more seriously. Some people got degrees in it.
posted by XMLicious at 9:28 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


And in the article, there is a reference that the fucking has gone down, while other activities have increased.

That's assuming that "fuck" refers specifically to intercourse (possibly even PIV intercourse); I think that it's a bit more flexible as a word than that.
posted by NoraReed at 10:16 PM on June 22, 2011


Seems to me that the younger college students more interested in the hook-up culture than their studies aren't doing so hot in school grade-wise.

You kids zip up, get back to your books, and get off my lawn.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:40 PM on June 22, 2011



• The average number of hook ups for a graduating senior is only 7.
• About 25% of college students will never hook up.
• About 30% will do so three times or less (that’s less than one hook up a year),


- In other words, hookups increase exponentially and a small proportion of the college group is having a disproportionately large number of sexual partners? - I'm shocked, shocked I tell you.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 2:20 AM on June 23, 2011


I think the most interesting claim she makes is that hook up culture is completely dominant to the point where no other form of sexuality is culturally normalized. And her statistics say that only 1% of the first-year college students formed any kind of lasting monogamous relationship, while over 70% of both male and female students said they would like to be in a relationship. So the problem is less that casual sex exists or even is popular, but that many people think that their preferred form of sexuality is abnormal and unrealistic.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:20 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's assuming that "fuck" refers specifically to intercourse (possibly even PIV intercourse); I think that it's a bit more flexible as a word than that.

"Hooking up" is the super flexible term (my friends use it for everything from orgiastic sex to a bit of kissing and snuggling); "fucking" is, well, fucking. There's a bit of flexibility to it, and plenty of sub-categories (eg face-fucking, ass-fucking), but no one is going to say "hey, we were fucking like animals last night" in reference to some kissing, whereas hooking up covers that and a lot more.
posted by Forktine at 5:39 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


"With all the information available today it really saddens me that younger women have not learned anything from our past -- the feminist revolution taught women about their rights -- but it also taught us about sex -- the joy, intimacy, erotic pleasures, and multiple orgasms (all the time, lol). What happened?"

Porn. Social backlashes against female empowerment. The prevalence of being "hot" and "sexy" as the sole measure of a woman's sexuality.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 8:35 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]



The problem is kids these days and the culture of casual masturbation. In my day, masturbation was taken much more seriously. Some people got degrees in it.


Where does one go to pick up one's honorary doctorate then? Hypothetically of course.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 10:48 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


For your honorary doctorate in masturbation, you hold the ceremony yourself.

I hope you see what I did there.
posted by GuyZero at 10:51 AM on June 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Porn. Social backlashes against female empowerment. The prevalence of being "hot" and "sexy" as the sole measure of a woman's sexuality.

There was plenty of porn and ridiculous expectations/exploitation of women in the '60s too. The backlashes against female empowerment is not new, either. I just never expected to see signs of things going 'backwards' after such a time of frank sexual expression for women. 'Hook up' sex does not seem at all empowering or free -- for men or women.
posted by Surfurrus at 11:24 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


With all the information available today it really saddens me that younger women have not learned anything from our past -- the feminist revolution taught women about their rights -- but it also taught us about sex -- the joy, intimacy, erotic pleasures, and multiple orgasms (all the time, lol). What happened?

From what I glean from Ms. Wade's talk, this generation's college students mistake disinterested sex with many partners for liberation, and they silence their natural objections with alcohol and denial. My guess is that today's pop culture (which promotes hook-up culture indefatigably) has more influence on college kids than any voices from the past, however sensible.
posted by millions at 10:08 PM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


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