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American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus

American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus

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The media both celebrates and condemns “hookup culture,” a mythical environment in which college students have an endless string of casual sexual partners. In fact, students are having a lot less sex than these stories suggest. More, they report that the sex they are having is disappointing, to say the least. In this talk, I discuss the difference between hooking up as a behavior, a script, and a culture; what it means to live in a hookup culture; and why students report distress, disappointment, and trauma. The solution? Not to abandon the casual hookup (it has some interesting advantages), but to even the playing field on college campuses by taking power away from privileged students, giving everyone the information they need to make informed decisions, and then let students themselves nurture and innovate new sexual cultures, thus diversifying sexual options on campus.

The media both celebrates and condemns “hookup culture,” a mythical environment in which college students have an endless string of casual sexual partners. In fact, students are having a lot less sex than these stories suggest. More, they report that the sex they are having is disappointing, to say the least. In this talk, I discuss the difference between hooking up as a behavior, a script, and a culture; what it means to live in a hookup culture; and why students report distress, disappointment, and trauma. The solution? Not to abandon the casual hookup (it has some interesting advantages), but to even the playing field on college campuses by taking power away from privileged students, giving everyone the information they need to make informed decisions, and then let students themselves nurture and innovate new sexual cultures, thus diversifying sexual options on campus.

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American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus

  1. 1. “I’m basically in a paradise full of girls I’m attracted to. I love it here. Everyone is fucking each other. Last semester was one of the most interesting, exciting, and strangest times of my life.” – Owen (white, heterosexual)
  2. 2. “A lot of the social life I’ve experienced is some twisted sort of self-perpetuating vicious cycle of unrealistic expectations, boundless enthusiasm, and copious amounts of alcohol.”
  3. 3. “When I think about my sex life, it feels like my insides tie themselves tight together... I can’t handle another negative sexual relationship…My heart might break.”
  4. 4. Most students are excited to hook up, but they often discover that they don’t like it. Why not? • sexual assault • unequal pleasures • bias and exclusion • emotional distress
  5. 5. The Research: • 101 student journals • Visits to 80 colleges • Over 300 articles in college newspapers • 100s of research studies
  6. 6. It’s not the hookup, it’s the hookup culture.
  7. 7. “I know that I should want to have sex all the time and should take advantage of it when I get the chance. [When] I didn’t, I felt like a loser, or uncool. … “You’re at college and you’re not having sex. What’s wrong with you?” – Wren (white, pansexual)
  8. 8. • How did college become fun? • How did sex become part of that fun? • And how did sex-for-fun become so widely endorsed?
  9. 9. I would incomparably rather resign my place than allow young men the right to meet in secret when they choose without knowledge of the Faculty.
  10. 10. I did get one of the nicest pieces of ass some day or two ago.
  11. 11. Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry.
  12. 12. “I railed against the idea that women were needy, dependent, easily heartsick, easily made hysterical by men, attention- obsessed, and primarily fixated on finding romance. I did this by proving how very like a boy I could behave.” – Eloise (white, heterosexual)
  13. 13. My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.
  14. 14. Not just any hookup culture…
  15. 15. competitive vs. cooperative I win win-win personal pleasure shared pleasure status-based status-neutral achievement discovery exploitation care
  16. 16. Doing sex-without-care is a challenging interpersonal task because: • students are having emotions • sex is often and ideally emotional in American culture • when two students hook up, it means they picked each other when they could have picked someone else
  17. 17. Strategies for “doing” casual: • Be drunk.
  18. 18. “[If you are sober] it means you both are particularly attracted to each other and it’s not really a one-time thing. When drunk, you can kind of just do it because it’s fun and then be able to laugh about it and have it not be awkward or mean anything.” – Riley (white, heterosexual)
  19. 19. Strategies for “doing” casual: • Be drunk. • Be hot, but not warm.
  20. 20. “That little touching definitely signifies something, something a little more than just fucking.” – Keiko (Asian, heterosexual)
  21. 21. “I can’t hug you because I’m just trying to hook up with you.” – Dominic (Latino, bisexual)
  22. 22. Strategies for “doing” casual: • Be drunk. • Be hot, but not warm. • Keep cool.
  23. 23. “Being mean is the best way to handle it.” – Giselle (white, heterosexual)
  24. 24. Strategies for “doing” casual: • Be drunk. • Be hot, but not warm. • Keep cool. • Cap your hookups.
  25. 25. “We’ve only hooked up once, so . . . it automatically is not a big deal.” – Hiro (Asian, bisexual)
  26. 26. competitive vs. cooperative I win win-win personal pleasure shared pleasure status-based status-neutral achievement discovery exploitation care
  27. 27. “The stigma attached to women being the emotional creatures in the relationship and the men being the physical ones had never been so apparent to me. . . . He clearly thought that he was the one with the power to hurt and I was the one that was expected to cry with anguish.” – Deanna (white, heterosexual)
  28. 28. • sexual assault • unequal pleasures • bias and exclusion • emotional distress
  29. 29. “When you have a hookup buddy, you never admit true feelings. It’s best to show the least amount of interest or emotions or even more so, be cold… It can come across as rude but, rather than showing any emotion, I would prefer to act like I don’t care.” – Farah (Asian, heterosexual)
  30. 30. “For the first time ever, we lie in bed together, kissing now and then and holding hands. We’d never done anything that personal. We spoon and snuggle.”
  31. 31. “My heart kind of stopped. I sat next to him on the concrete in the cold and hoped the question would come again so I could say, ‘Yes, I do like you.’”
  32. 32. “From the stories I have heard, the only guys that do not pressure girls are the ones that actually might care about the girl.” – Gaby (Latina, heterosexual)
  33. 33. “The guy kind of expects to get off, while the girl doesn’t expect anything.” – Celeste (white, heterosexual)
  34. 34. “In our room, sex is a commodity, which, like gold, increases a man’s social status, especially if he ‘scores’ or ‘pounds’ an especially blonde girl.” – Justin (Latino, heterosexual)
  35. 35. “This kind of judgment… makes for a hostile environment where you have no idea what is going to be said about you for your actions and [it] concerns me whenever my friends or I choose to hook up with someone else as I don’t want our reputations to be hurt or judged by for that.” – Corey (white, heterosexual)
  36. 36. “The whole point of hookups is get some and then be able to point the person out to your friends and be like, ‘Yeah, that guy. That’s right. The hot one over there. I got that.’” – Alondra (black/white, heterosexual)
  37. 37. “Hooking up is not for black people.” – Jaslene (African American, lesbian)
  38. 38. QUESTIONS!

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