WhisperThe sexual hookup culture seems to be in the process of crowding out traditional dating.

Sexual hooking up is common among college age youth and in sexually active kids of high school age.

But recent findings suggest that it may exist on a continuum from normal exploration to harmful and even addictive sexual behavior.

What is a sexual hookup?

Sexual hooking up is defined in the recent APA review article as a “brief uncommitted sexual encounter between individuals who are not romantic partners or dating each other.

The studies show that 60-80% of North American college students have had some sort of hookup experience and 61% of sexually active high school kids report sexual experience outside a dating relationship.

The majority of the research studies including the findings reported in a soon to be published book by Donna Freitas entitled The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy leave no doubt that hooking up comes with a cost.

Negative emotional effects of hooking up

In the research on college students 49% of women and 26% of men reported a negative reaction to hooking up. A 2012 Canadian study found that 78% of women and 72% of men reported feeling regret after a hookup.

In another study, regret was particularly prevalent following one night stands and sex with someone known less than 24 hours, with women being more negatively impacted than men.

Of men and women surveyed in singles bars, 32% of men and 72% of women said they feel guilty or would feel guilty about having sexual intercourse with someone they had just met.

There are indications that young people experience not only regret but depression and lower self esteem following sexual hookups, particularly women for whom the degree of depressive symptoms increased with the number of previous sex partners within the last year.

Another branch of research indicates that people engage in uncommitted sex even when they feel uncomfortable doing so and that they overestimate the other person’s comfort with many different sexual hookup behaviors.

Also the research finds that

“…hookups can include negative outcomes, such as emotional and psychological injury, sexual violence, sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy.  Despite these risks…nearly half of participants were not concerned about contracting sexually transmitted diseases from intercourse during a hookup… “

Finally, by far the majority of unwanted or non-consensual sex occurred in the context of a hookup.

Hookups, drugs, alcohol and addiction

Drugs and alcohol play a strong role in hookups.  In one study the greatest alcohol use was associated with penetrative sexual hookups, less alcohol use with non-penetrative sexual hookups and the least amount of alcohol use occurred among those who did not hook up.

Some people appeared to be more prone to hooking up.  Those who engaged in penetrative sex hookups were 600% more likely than others to repeat this over the course of a university semester.

A 2010 study showed an association between the dopamine D4 receptor gene polymorphism (DRD4VNTR) and uncommitted sexual activity (including infidelity and one night stands) among 181 young men and women.  This gene variant is termed a “risk-taking” variant of the dopamine D4 receptor gene which is also associated with substance abuse.

Normal exploration vs. problematic trend

“Uncommitted,” “not dating,” “one night stands,” what do these mean?  In hookups there is by definition no relationship between the participants.  Although the research found that people significantly wanted a relationship to result from a hookup they did not expect it to do so.

Add to that the fact that having hookups correlates with alcohol use, with having multiple concurrent partners, with a drug abuse related gene and with non-consensual sexual experiences and you begin to see a pattern that suggests that hookups are being used, at least by some people, as a drug.

Further, there are across the board differences between men and women, with women being less sexually gratified in hookups and experiencing more negative emotional effects.  Although sexual freedom to explore and experiment is generally accepted as healthy for young people, the hookup scenario seems to have developed a life of its own exhibiting many of the dangers we have come to associate with intimacy disorder and addiction. Find Dr. Hatch on Facebook at Sex Addictions Counseling or Twitter @SAResource

 


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From Psych Central's World of Psychology:
Best of Our Blogs: March 8, 2013 | World of Psychology (March 8, 2013)

How do We Look at the Hookup Culture? | the Green Atlas (November 8, 2013)






    Last reviewed: 4 Apr 2013

APA Reference
Hatch, L. (2013). The Sexual Hookup Culture: Findings Related to Mental Health and Addiction. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex-addiction/2013/03/the-sexual-hookup-culture-findings-related-to-mental-health-and-addiction/

 




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