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Hooking Up and Dating on Campus Have Similarities

By Anastasiia Vorobeva
On March 7, 2017

Dr. Tracy Luff and colleagues, Dr. Kristi Hoffman and Dr. Martin Berntson find study wrong. 
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In 2005, Dr. Tracy Luff, professor of Sociology at Concord University and her colleagues from Roanoke College, sociologists Dr. Kristi Hoffman and Dr. Marit Berntson, decided to study the idea that the culture of hooking up replaced dating culture on college campuses. They carried out the research for about 10 years and found that the claim was somewhat wrong.

    “Rather than two endpoints on a continuum, dating and hooking up may be better viewed as two sides of the same coin,” Luff, Hoffman, and Berntson write in the article for Context Journal. The sociologists studied the patterns on students’ behavior concerning dating and hooking up, finding that the two share some similarities. For example, “the majority of hookup and dating partners were not strangers. Most students described both dates and hookup partners as friends or someone they knew from school. Hookups were more likely than dates to involve a partner the student had just met,” Dr. Luff and her colleagues say.

    The sociologists assume that the sensationalism associated with the idea of hooking up is so prevalent due to a lack of understanding the term “hook up.” “The most interesting finding - and the one most likely to reassure parents, is that casual sex on campus is not as rampant as most people think,” says Dr. Luff. “Students tend to perceive that ‘everyone else’ is hooking up all the time, while they themselves rarely hookup. Also, the word hookup is a little ambiguous. The most common form of hookup that students engage in involves only making out.” Dr. Luff believes that what happens is that the stories of “the most crazy hookups are the ones that circulate on campus and people believe that’s what’s happening all the time, when in reality those are the most rare.” She says that students definitely engage in hookups, yet student majority reports having committed relationships while in college. Dr. Luff says there is no need to worry that hooking up is replacing dating, because it seems that students “kind of pick and choose between casual relationships and committed.”

    According to the research findings, it seems that students make a choice between casual relationships and committed relationships while in college depending upon their priorities and personal value systems. “In fact, freshman and sophomores report more hookups than juniors and seniors, so it may be a pattern that people ‘age out’ of,” says Dr. Luff

    Concord students have their view on the idea of hook-ups. Paulina Prokofieva, student at Concord University, thinks that “Hook-ups are a modern trend that permits young adults to engage in relationships without any responsibilities.”

    “I think that it’s pretty divided on whether or not students prefer hooking up to commitment,” says Abby Rector, student at Concord University; who notes that she lives off campus. “I think some students like the lack of commitment and some find that more heart breaking. It really depends on the person. And I think that depending on what is going on in their lives will determine which they prefer.”

    Brahim Ladhar, student at Concord University says, “I feel like teenagers at Concord seek for sexual relationships more than anything else in most cases simply because it’s stereotypically known that this is what college is for. However, some people keep being loyal to their partners.”

    “My colleagues and I worry that since students are likely to overestimate the amount of hooking up that occurs, and assume that ‘everybody is doing it,’ they may engage in hookups even though they aren’t comfortable with it,” says Dr. Luff. “So my advice is, be true to yourself, and do what is right for you...And no matter what decision you make, always be safe!”

    On the last week of February, Dr. Luff found out that one of the article she and her colleagues wrote based on the research findings was selected to be included in a textbook called Gender, Sexuality and Intimacy: A Contexts Reader, edited by sociologists Jodi O’Brien and Arlene Stein. The book “brings together over 90 recent readings on gender, sexuality, and intimate relationships from Contexts, the award-winning magazine published by the American Sociological Association. It is intended to be used as a textbook in college classes. I had no idea my work was being considered, so I was very excited and honored to have it included,” says Dr. Luff.

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