'Hookup Culture' Is Officially Not a Thing that Exists


Sorry, trend-piece writers, you sweet and clueless scribes: it’s really, really time to cast aside your moral panic and that blunt reed you were planning on using to inscribe upon a clay tablet a record of the strange mating habits of the college-aged millennial. “Hookup culture” is just not a thing.

Martin A. Monto, a professor of sociology at the University of Portland, will present a new paper at the American Sociological Association conference today, in which he argues that there is “no evidence of substantial changes in sexual behavior that would support the proposition that there is a new or pervasive ‘hookup culture’ among contemporary college students.” Damn, Monto.

By comparing national survey data on two waves of young adults who had completed at least one year of college — the first wave was 1988 – 1996, and the second was 2002 – 2010 — Mr. Monto found that young people today are not having sex more often, nor are they having sex with more partners. Even more revealingly, the youth of today are substantially less likely go for a walk in the bone yard (do you like my hip millennial slang? I throw terms like this around because I am desensitized to sex.) once or more a week.

The most marked change has been in the narrative surrounding the hook-up. Mr. Monto points out that “hookup culture” appeared in “only a handful” of scholarly articles from 2000 to 2006; between 2007 and 2013, however, hookup culture reared its mythically promiscuous head on 84 separate occasions.

In short, college students today are having sex with the same amount of people, but they’re doing it less frequently and a vocal few are squawking about it more. We like to think that some sort of revolution is happening, but it simply is not. As Mr. Monto argues:

“In many generations, there’s a sense that sexual behavior is changing or becoming more liberal, or we’re in some brave new era. I was a little skeptical about that myself. Because I was alive during the ’80s, and it doesn’t seem all that different.”

The main difference is that, during the 80s, having sex could sometimes summon a wily and seductive incubus with the face of Prince. The other prominent disparity is that young adults today are more likely to have (the same amount of) sex with “a pickup or a casual date,” which is science talk for “some guy you wobbled into at a party after guzzling Franzia right from the pouch.” Today’s fledging sexual deviants are also less likely to be married or have a regular sexual partner (duh).

“Study Casts Skeptical Light on Campus ‘Hookup Culture'” [Chronicle of Higher Education]
Image via wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock.

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