If you think the media is obsessed with the hookup culture, you are right. But they are not the only ones. Between 2007 and 2013, hooking up was the topic of 84 scholarly articles.
Sociology professor Martin Monto believes that all this talk about the hookup culture is part of a moral panic about the possibility that kids these days are engaging in sex at unprecedented rates. Supposedly, they are having more sex with more different people and in a more casual way than they did in the past.
Rather than simply add another opinion piece to the pile, Monto looked for evidence. He compared national survey data from two groups of young adults who had completed a year or more of college – those from a relatively recent data collection, 2002 through 2010, and those from a previous period, 1988 to 1996.
According to a talk Monto gave at the conference of the American Sociological Association, students today, compared to ten or fifteen years ago:
Their sexual partners, though, are less likely to be a spouse or a long-term boyfriend or girlfriend. In the earlier data collection, 85 percent fit that description, compared to 77 percent in the 21st century. The difference is that the contemporary students are more likely to have sex with someone who is a friend or a causal date.
I have a problem with sex surveys that focus on the frequency of sex and the number of partners. They leave unanswered some of the most psychologically and emotionally significant questions. I would want to know how people’s actual experiences compare to their preferred ones. Importantly, I would not assume that all adults – not even all college students and not even all young men – prefer more sex to less sex, or even that they all prefer to have at least some sex.
In all of my years of blogging, the most popular post I ever wrote was “ASEXUALS: Who are they and why are they important?” I think readers are eager to consider new narratives about sex. What we need now are more relevant data to get our stories right.
Singles in a bar image available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 15 Aug 2013