One-Night Stands In College: Are We Having Them?

Posted Dec 4 2012 - 7:00pm
Tagged With: dating & hooking up

None of the emotional commitment, all of the physical fun. That’s how college students do sex, right? While the idea that “everybody’s doing it” has been around for a long time, is it true? At Her Campus, we conducted a survey with 95 collegiettes nationwide and consulted Lisa Wade, associate professor and chair of sociology at Occidental College, and Paula England, professor of sociology at New York University, to see how prevalent one-night stands in college really are.

How prevalent are one-night stands in college?

Despite what society might believe, college students are not having as many one-night stands as we think, according to Wade. “Everyone thinks that everyone is having more sex, and better sex and liking it more than they really are,” says Wade, whose work includes research on the sexual behavior of college students, specifically hook-up culture.

She explains that pluralistic ignorance applies to this situation. Pluralistic ignorance is when people believe that their private beliefs and attitudes are different from the general public’s beliefs and attitudes. In this case, college students are overestimating how much casual sex people are having on campus.

“So really, what you see is young people coming to campus, trying to enact this vision of sex in college that they’ve learned from the media,” says Wade. Soon after, college students discover that sex is not as glamorous as it is on TV. The typical freshman will hook up more in her first few weeks on campus than she does in her first year in general. From then on, she will hook up less and less every following year, according to Wade.

According to England, who conducted research on hook-ups in colleges across the country, a hook-up can include any kind of sexual behavior including, but not limited to, kissing, touching, oral sex or intercourse. According to the data she collected, the average number of hook-ups that a graduating senior has participated in is seven, which comes to an average of less than one per semester. Of those seven hook-ups, only 40 percent of them include intercourse.

In a survey done by Her Campus, we asked you how many one-night stands you’ve had, leaving the term “one-night stand” up to your interpretation

  • 42.1 percent said they have never had a one-night stand.
  • 18.9 percent said they have had 1 one-night stand.
  • 14.7 percent said they have had 2 one-night stands.
  • 6.3 percent said they have had 3 one-night stands.
  • 17.9 percent said they have had 4 or more one-night stands.

And when asked if one-night stands are common for your group of friends, 32.6 percent said yes while 67.4 percent said no. About 42 percent of collegiettes who responded said that they have never had a one-night stand. When asked for the main reason why they haven’t, this is what they said:

  • 7.5 percent said they never had the opportunity, but if they did, they would.
  • 35 percent cited religious beliefs as the reason they abstain from one-night stands.
  • 7.5 percent said they are scared of getting hurt, emotionally.
  • 7.5 percent are scared of contracting an STI or getting pregnant.
  • 42.5 percent said it was just not their thing (not interested).

Chrissy*, a sophomore at Carroll University, said that it would be out of character for her to have a one-night stand. “I believe a physical relationship can only carry some kind of meaning if it follows an emotional relationship.”

Another reason she avoids one-night stands is because of the potential awkwardness that can arise. “Getting physical with my boyfriend was awkward enough the first few times and we knew we trusted each other. I can’t imagine being that vulnerable with a stranger. I think I’d be too mortified to even enjoy it.”

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