The Hookup Culture

Prior to her current position as non-resident research associate at the University of Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Religion and Society, Donna Freitas was a professor. While teaching a dating and spirituality class, she became intrigued with the hookup culture on college campuses.

Her students often talked about how great hooking up was and that everybody was doing it. Following spring break, students discussed what happened over the break. One woman who hooked up all the time said, “I hookup a lot. Not sure why I do it. I don’t like it.” One by one, other students said they felt the same way.

This sent Freitas on a quest to discover if her students were different from students on other college campuses.

For nine years, Freitas has traveled to college campuses to talk with students about sex and hooking up. Freitas interviewed students at private secular, public and Catholic colleges and universities. Her findings shed light on what drives the hookup culture.

Forty-five percent of student interviewees said young adults believe they are expected to be casual about sex in college. Thirty-six percent thought their peers were too casual about sex. Students preferred a very broad definition of a hookup because of the pressure they feel to do it. They defined it as anything from kissing to sex.

Freitas also discovered an official social contract surrounding hooking up.

Concerning hookups and feelings, 41 percent said they were profoundly unhappy. Another 23 percent expressed ambivalence about their feelings toward the experience, and 36 percent said they were more or less fine with it.

Many students said that hookups were efficient because they were really busy, over-scheduled and always on the go. They said they really didn’t have time for relationships in college so hookups were an efficient way to get sex. Yet when Freitas asked students about dating, both sexes said that nobody dates on campus, but that they wished they would. In reality, many respondents said if someone would ask them out on a date they would go. There was much interest in dating, but the students felt like they couldn’t date. Additionally, Freitas said there was so much yearning for romance and a connection of knowing and being known.

So what is the response to the hookup culture? Freitas made these three recommendations:



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