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#274: Hooking Up: Research Indicates Negative Impact for Women

What disturbs the [somewhat positive] picture presented above are the results of certain research. A portion of the research literature offers a different narrative for many young women. The sociological background of this phenomenon offers increased clarity which suggests a more complex view of hooking up. It starts with the double standard for the sexes which, while reduced, still exists and reflects the lack of equality and the greater need for more progress. Kimmel (2008), whose extensive surveys of students at college campuses, maintains that hooking up is really about male culture and their desires. Females accommodate to this culture. Thus, he claims, “When a guy says he hooked up with someone he may or may not have sex with her, but he is certainly hoping that his friends think he has. A woman, on the other hand, is more likely to hope they think she hadn’t” (Kimmel, 2008, p.197).
“The stereotype that males chase sex and are driven by lust but that females chase relationships and are driven by love” still has current valence (Reid, Elliot & Webber, 2011p. 548; see also Bogle, 2008). This leads to the idea that young women can have sex within relationships but young men are free to pursue sex indiscriminately. Thus, the hidden message for women seems to be the encouragement of being sexually attractive, thus inducing male’s desire, but not the active pursuit of their own desire. (This is the view of passive females that Freud wrote about in the early 20th century.) If females desire sex they are easily considered bad girls, sluts and hos (Armstrong, Hamilton & England, 2010). Thus, a study demonstrates that high school females’ popularity decreases with more partners even when some of these interactions become established relationships (Reid, Elliot &Webber 2011).. High school males, by contrast, experience an increase in popularity (Kreager and Staff, 2009). In college such men are called “studs” and “players” (Kreager and Staff, 2009) Women are not given favorable labels. In college hook-ups it is clear that females have to delimit their desire to guarantee their status as viable for future relationships.
It is also relevant to illuminate the cultural and psychosocial factors that engage males during the period of high school, college, and somewhat beyond. Male attitudes and behavior contribute to a negative impact on women’s sexual experience. Investigation of males between the ages of 16 to 26 illuminate their development and the pressures they experience (Kimmel, 2008. ) This author maintains that these young boys and men continue to live out the Peter Pan syndrome. They never quite grow up. They are plagued by group and family demands to be “manly” and this idea is accommodated with its fantasy distortion of what it means to be manly. They drink, focus on sex and conquests, watch pornography, play video games, concentrate on sports, and see violent shoot-em-up movies. If not following these rules they can readily be labeled as ‘faggots” (Corbett, 2001) and suffer the physical and psychological abuse that follows this label.
Heterosexual males of college age appear less interested in relationships with females. Their buddy connections appear far more important, therefore the expressions, “hanging out with their bros” and “Bros before hoes.” These expressions mean that nothing should interfere with their relationship to the guys in their group, especially not girlfriends or females in general. What is important to them are such questions as how each man stands in the pecking order; how manly or studly he is; how frequently does he “score”? He wants to be seen as a cool virile guy by his male friends, or as a patient offered, a” big dick guy.”
Such male standards, especially characteristic of the college fraternity experience, lead to the need for sexual conquest. In particular, fraternities foster “hyper-masculine attitudes characterized by competition, athleticism, heavy drinking, sexual domination of women, and sexism (Martin & Hummer, 1989; Schwartz and DeKeseredy, 1997). Thus, there is the increased report of sexual coercion, rape or attempted rape on college campuses.
Almost 28 % of “college women have reported unwanted sex that met the legal definition of rape or attempted rape” (Koss 1987; Flack, Jr, Daubman, Caron, Asadorian, et al, 2007)).A survey reported that almost 13% of completed rapes, 35% of attempted rapes, and 23% of threatened rapes took place on a date. (Kimmel, 2008, p. 273). Seventy-eight % of unwanted intercourse takes place in the context of hooking up (Fisher, Cullen & Turner, 2000 reported by Kimmel, 2008). This is a compelling statistic; yet, newspaper reports typically indicate that in most instances the experience of rape goes unreported.
There are complex reasons for unwanted intercourse occurring, but high on the list is high alcohol consumption (Flack, Jr, Daubman, Caron, Asadorian, et al (2007). A huge amount of alcohol is consumed by both males and females when partying on campus. In addition drugs are used. Males supply the “date rape drugs”. Power inequality and sexual abuse frequently dominate with the use of alcohol and drugs. Research demonstrates that there is considerable male coercion of females. For example, a third of college males who were active sexually admitted to coercive and manipulative responses to get a disinclined female to have sex with them (Ramsey and Hoyt, 2015).
Females report that even when in relationships that are not hook ups, these relationships threaten female academic achievement. They contribute as well to females’ feeling, or actually being controlled and manipulated in ways that interfere with their friendships, often inducing jealousy in their male partners. In some instances the control by male partners escalates into stalking behavior (Armstrong, Hamilton, & England, 2010 p.26)
Given the need to “score” it is important to seduce an attractive, sexy female. Male focus tends to be on the stereotyped physical attributes of females, that is, the objectification of female bodies mentioned earlier (Kozak, Franenhauser and Roberts, 2009; Strelan and Hargreaves, 2005). The problem for females is that they, too, highlight their body parts and then believe that to be desired is based on their physical attributes. Their self scrutiny and physical health can be in jeopardy (anorexia or binge eating and vomiting). Not only are females’ self-objectifying, but, more important, they are less likely to concentrate on their own needs and desires and instead focus on those physical attributes that may be pleasing to males. It minimizes the likelihood of freedom to choose one’s own sexual path.
For some females, hook ups are a way of coping with stress. They can lose themselves in the abandonment of drugs, alcohol, and sex. Others need an attachment and even a brief one can feel salubrious. For a distinct group of students there was significant evidence of alcohol abuse, depressive symptoms, feelings of loneliness, and low level of religiosity for those engaging in hook-ups (Manthos, Owen & Fincham 2014). Nevertheless, many females engage in hook ups because they realize it is an important way of finding and establishing a relationship (Bogle, (2008).

#274: Hooking Up: Research Indicates Negative Impact for Women

Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

Dr. Ellen Toronto is a licensed clinical psychologist/psychoanalyst in the state of Michigan.

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APA Reference
Toronto, E. (2018). #274: Hooking Up: Research Indicates Negative Impact for Women. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 23, 2019, from


Last updated: 25 Jan 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Jan 2018
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