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Hookup Culture Is Not What You Think: Here’s the Rundown

For us university students, navigating the dating scene (if you can even call it dating) has become a wild game with a new set of rules that are constantly evolving. While most of us may have grown up knowing this to be the norm, just try to explain the new set of dating rules with your grandparents and even your parents and see what kind of reaction you get. In our world, somehow, we are supposed to remain firmly planted in the grey, fuzzy middle ground below needy desperation and above frigid loneliness. Text back eventually, but never too quickly. Be alone as little as possible, but never “catch feelings” for someone. Be honest I guess… but never reveal your cards or your vulnerabilities. Put your best face forward for social media, tinder, and bumble… and deal with the repercussions later. This acceptable and even expected aloofness has caused a state of crisis for me personally, and my rational mind cannot understand why it seems like most people perpetuate this cycle. Still, when I talk to people, so few seem to be truly content. To my relief, evidence suggests most students are NOT happy with the current state of affairs. Hopefully, it will bring you comfort to know that our generation is not entirely satisfied to become creatures mindlessly swiping left and right to find someone. 

Our generation is having less sex than our parent’s generation. With countless dating apps and websites at our disposal, I would have never expected this to be true. Maybe nothing can quite replace face to face interaction in terms of feeling out if you vibe with someone or not. Plus, sometimes too much choice is not such a good thing. Every time someone shows the slightest sign of weakness, it is easier than ever to jump ship and return to the pool of thousands of other eligible bachelors and bachelorettes at your fingertips. Regardless, I do think dating apps can be a great tool for bringing people together who would have never met otherwise. They don’t deserve all the criticism they get; just please do not use them as an excuse to let your social skills slide.

The media has been under a lot of fire lately… but I’m pretty sure they deserve a share of the blame for hookup culture, too. It is true, everyone loves a juicy storyline filled with romance or lust. Sex sells! The media has pounced on this opportunity and can fall into the habit of portraying cookie-cutter teen and young adult hookups over, and over again. Instead of a princess looking for her prince, we soak up Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman expertly achieving the tenuous balance that is the casual “Cool Girl” sleeping with JT and Ashton Kutcher, respectively. Ultimately, however, this facade comes crashing down and the couple gets together in a grand gesture of love and professes their true feelings to each other that they were too scared to express before. The new happily ever after?


A minority of university students report being happy and thriving within hookup culture. Lisa Wade is a sociologist who has been on the front lines of investigation for this topic. From her research, Wade eloquently describes that hookup culture is a pervasive mindset. Wade reveals through her research into university students, 14% report being truly happy about hookup culture. That leaves a remaining 86% of students who reported feeling less than ecstatic about hookup culture, to varying degrees. 34% of students chose not to participate for whatever their personal reasons were, and 8% were removed from hookup culture by being in a monogamous relationship. Finally, the largest group of students, coming in at 45%, engaged in casual sex from time to time but expressed “ambivalentfeelings about it (Wade, 2016). My biggest takeaway from this is that it seems like a small number of students are the most active with frequent hookups, and the rest are dipping their toe in the pool. It may be for some people, but it’s certainly not for everyone – and that’s okay! Whatever floats your boat.

There you have it, folks. Thankfully most have come a long way in sexual liberation, even though there is more work to be done. Anyway, meaningless sex may be a new social norm but fear not if it is not your thing – you are not alone. Not every university student is cheerfully hopping from bed to bed, unscathed. Far from it. Good luck out there. 


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