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In her book, sociologist Lisa Wade observes of college students, Between the hookup and a monogamous relationship is 'talking,' 'hanging out,' being 'exclusive,' 'dating but not in a relationship,' and a whole host of other statuses.' I just don’t know if, like, we hook up sometimes or like, we’re ‘hooking up,’ wondered a male student one day about a girl he liked.Hookup culture itself is a “feat of social engineering,” as Wade notes.After outlining in detail the various steps and behaviors associated with a hookup, Wade says, “its aim is a fun, harmless romp, a supposedly free expression of one’s sexuality, but within oddly strict parameters. There are few obvious markers for men and women to figure out which script the people around them are following.It’s possible that the often precarious living arrangements of these young adults—sometimes moving in with multiple people of both sexes whom they barely know in order to split the rent check, or couch surfing from friend’s house to friend’s house, or living in the same home with their mom and her live-in boyfriend—might contribute to the high rates of sexual assault.The same act—casual sex—can end in nothing, or in a relationship, or even a marriage.She thought it quite odd, but characteristic of hookup culture.‘It is as if they are dating in secret,’ she wrote insightfully, ‘except that the secret is only to themselves, as the entirety of the outside world sees it for what it is.’ In one sense, the problem is the loss of a courtship script, and yet if we look closely we see an elaborate set of new social cues evolving.
They sometimes also blamed the kinds of technology—social media, dating apps—that they saw as facilitating casual sex and cheating.
Both he and his girlfriend had been with other people, and they agreed, “This isn’t gonna be easy for either of us.” They told each other that they trusted each other, but it was difficult for those words to feel true: [T]here’s always a little thought in the back of your head, even when we were together it’s always just a little thought like, ‘I wanna go out with my girlfriend to the bar.’ Well, what if she gets too drunk and ends up doin’ somethin’ with a guy? So, it’ll never happen again, but that’s what I believe. Likewise, Rob, also in his twenties and living with his girlfriend and their two sons, described how he didn’t trust himself to be faithful.
” There’s always gonna be that thought, but time–I don’t wanna say I’m gonna be naïve, but I’m pretty much gonna be naïve. Well, if it happens again I’m sorry to say I just can’t do it.” It’s like, “It obviously doesn’t mean anything to you, so I just can’t do it.” But, fool me once, shame on you. “My mind,” he said, was the biggest obstacle to marriage.
Last week, I wrote about how the sexual culture in small town America differs from hookup culture on campus. The first similarity I noticed is the mind-boggling ambiguity that young adults face when it comes to relationships.
In the small town in southwestern Ohio where my husband and I conducted interviews, couples often had difficulty describing how their relationships began. Sometimes, it was a drunken “one-night stand” at a party; or a friendship that became physical; or something that began with a meeting through mutual friends, in person, or via social media.
That’s why it can feel inevitable.” So perhaps it is more accurate to say that the problem is not that we have no scripts, but that we have an overly intricate one—making for more of a maze than a map. A regular “meaningless” hookup, or one that ends in a relationship? A second similarity in the relationship landscape for young adults, both on campus and elsewhere, is the risk of sexual assault.