Researchers are trying to put an end to all those pesky trend pieces.
There is some news about “hookup culture!” Wait, please don’t roll your eyes and close this tab. We aren’t linking to another clueless, leering foray into the world of kids today by a middle-aged writer employed by a legacy media company. (Those aren’t even fun to troll in the comments section anymore.) We’re presenting science!
At last month’s annual American Sociological Association conference, researchers who have been prying into their undergraduate students’ sex lives gave previews of two as-yet unpublished studies. Coupled together, one conclusion can be taken: Today’s youngsters are not having sex more frequently than their predecessors, nor are they bedding more partners, but they are expecting less commitment and courtship.
First up, a set of sociologists working out of the University of Portland compared survey results from two sets of cohorts, one of which attended college during some point from 1988 to 1996 and the other of which was on campus between 2002 and 2010. The millennial kids did not have sex more often than did those who may have had dial-up in their dorms and seen Nirvana live. They also didn’t report more partners. They were, however, more likely to describe their sex partners with terms like “casual date” or “pickup” or “friend” than were the Gen-X-ers.
Secondly, researchers from three southern universities found that a majority of students were against the idea of concluding a first date with sex. Nothing surprising about that; no man has gotten laid for providing one decent meal since we liberated France. But, a majority did find it “normal” and “acceptable” to have sex with someone they just met at a party. The reasons given for this disparity were the different rules and expectations that go along with the two scenarios and the “more sexually charged atmosphere” of parties “which numerous students said may involve excessive drinking” (and “where there have been reports of ‘twerking,’” added one researcher. OK, not really).
I think these researchers may have hit on the same phenomenon a group of French sociologists did when they found that drunk people rated their sexual attractiveness higher than sober people and so did people who merely thought they were drunk but who were slipped nonalcoholic drinks by the researchers. Alcohol is an excuse to lose the self-consciousness you’ve been looking for an excuse to lose. A formal first date, where you are politely interrogated about your values and life goals, adds on the self-consciousness and therefore is actually a libido killer. (That’s not from any of the above studies; it’s just my own theory. I call it “the first-date paradox.”)
That’s the state of “hookup culture” from those who have attempted to understand it from a scholarly perspective. As always, it’s not shocking, but I can’t help but think aspects of it don’t inspire the best behavior in men: If it’s easier to get laid by going to a frat party than treating a woman to a respectable dinner, you‘re going to see a lot more men pledging Phi Beta Kappa and fewer making reservations.