Study Flyer from Dr. Lisa Wade

Dr. Lisa Wade Explores Tulane's Post-COVID Hookup Culture

Study Flyer from Dr. Lisa Wade Photo by Dr. Lisa Wade

After the release of her book American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus in 2017 and the phenomenal praise that followed, Dr. Lisa Wade thought she was done researching and writing on hookup culture. But when COVID-19 suddenly struck in early 2020, Dr. Wade saw an interesting opportunity to study something scholars of sexuality and sociologists are interested in: how and why do cultures change?

“What we had, in this case, was a very vibrant culture that got its knees knocked out from under it. Before the virus we had a very vibrant Greek life, lots of fraternity parties, the Boot going full blast, we had other places to go and be together as young people in these kinds of fun, sexy environments, and suddenly that wasn’t allowed anymore.” Dr. Wade said about the culture shift at Tulane after COVID-19 restrictions were put in place. Essentially, Wade is conveying that the hookup culture at Tulane and many campuses had the rug pulled out from under it since the virus, and Dr. Wade is interested to know “how might students reconstitute hook up culture, could it survive this real assault on its infrastructure?” Dr. Wade says, “Studying that can tell us not only what students are doing, but it could tell us how cultures respond to shocks.”

Dr. Wade was exposed to her first sexuality studies class during her undergraduate career at the University of California-Santa Barbra. Before writing what is the definitive book on hookup culture on college campuses, Wade earned her MA in human sexuality from NYU and taught classes at Occidental College in Los Angeles before receiving her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was when she was teaching college students that Wade noticed a disconnect from what she was hearing from students in class about sex on campus versus news media, which was “dramatizing” hook up culture. Wade was noticing conversations about hook-up cultures as a “should she, shouldn’t she?” debate and wanted to shift the focus to “the context in which [young people] were making decisions”. 

Dr. Wade joined the Tulane faculty this semester and will be teaching sociology classes, classes in the gender and sexuality studies program, and working with the Newcomb Institute. Wade says that Tulane was interested in hiring a scholar who was doing research on students and student sexuality “because the hookup culture is such a real thing at Tulane”. She adds that Tulane thought it would be useful to have a culture expert be there “to interface with students to study what was going on to empower students to shape their sexual culture in the directions they wanted”. Luckily for Tulane, Wade experienced the “cliche experience of falling in love with New Orleans” as she calls it, visiting the city more and more frequently over the last twelve years. 

Now at Tulane, Dr. Wade is conducting confidential interviews with students, asking for their perspectives on the presence of hookup culture at Tulane, and how it has changed since that infamous day in March when the whole school learned they would be sent home because of COVID-19. Students can expect Dr. Wade to ask whether hookup culture follows students home or lives exclusively on college campuses and what aspects of hookup culture at Tulane have survived and which have vanished since the virus. 

Dr. Wade is urging Tulane students of all backgrounds and experiences to participate in her study, “in order to do a good job at this what I need to do is interview as many Tulane students as possible from as many different corners of campus as I can”. Students interested in participating in Dr. Lisa Wade’s study can contact her by emailing her at [email protected].