Being intimate with multiple partners while in college has become so expected that it has become a stereotype. And, after a crazy weekend of partying, students love to gossip about who ‘hooked up’ with who.
But that’s not to say every college student is participating in risky sexual promiscuity. In fact, a new study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln says quite the opposite.
The study finds students talk about ‘hooking up’ so much, they begin to believe their peers are ‘hooking up’ more than they actually are.
Students overestimated peers sexual encounters and personally reported fewer ‘hook ups’ than peers over an academic school year.
Ninety percent of college students thought peers were hooking up two or more times per school year. The truth — only 37 percent of students reported two or more hookups in a school year.
The study — titled “Talk About ‘Hooking Up’: The Influence of College Student Social Networks on Nonrelationship Sex” — found that 54 percent reported having one ‘hookup’ during the school year. Males were more likely to participate in sexual ‘hookups’ than females.
Amanda Holman, the lead researcher of the study and communication studies graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, decided to look into how friend groups influence the way students define, perceive and participate in ‘hookups.’
“Students who engage in ‘hookups’ may find encouragement in the belief that the practice is widespread, as suggested by the observed association between self-reported ‘hookups’ and the estimated ‘hookups’ for the average student.”
Kate Rosenbaum, a senior at the University of Nebraska, said tallking about sex with her friends is healthy as long as it is not judgemental or used to pressure. She said sex is not something her social group does drunkenly and then forgets.
“I don’t think my close friends participate in hookups because they feel peer pressure,” Rosenbaum said. “Rather, they participate because they are sexually inclined to do so. Some people may feel that student chatter about sex normalizes sexual behavior, but I would rather my friends and I talk about sex than keep it under the rug.”
‘Hooking up’ is an ambiguous word that originated among Greek life, Holman said. To students, ‘hooking up’ could mean kissing, oral sex or most commonly, unplanned, drunk sex.
The study defined ‘hooking up’ as “a phrase used to describe intimate interactions outside of dating or exclusive relationships.” When mixed with alcohol, ‘hookups’ can lead to unprotected sex and lack of communication about sexual health, Holman said.
The study was conducted through an online survey at the University of Montana. The survey had far more freshmen — 51 percent — and sophomores — 26 percent — than junior and seniors. Most of the 274 survey participants were Caucasian heterosexuals.
While universities might have slightly differing results to a similar survey, Holman said the study findings reflect subcultures on campuses nation-wide.
“It is concerning that sexual communication among peer networks may normalize risky sexual script,” Holman said. “It highlights the influence communication has on students attitudes and behavior towards non-relationship sex. Interpersonal communication is a powerful influence, especially in peer networks.”
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