Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 47, Issue 5, pp 1387–1403 | Cite as

Heterosexual College Students Who Hookup with Same-Sex Partners

  • Arielle KuperbergEmail author
  • Alicia M. Walker
Original Paper


Individuals who identify as heterosexual but engage in same-sex sexual behavior fascinate both researchers and the media. We analyzed the Online College Social Life Survey dataset of over 24,000 undergraduate students to examine students whose last hookup was with a same-sex partner (N = 383 men and 312 women). The characteristics of a significant minority of these students (12% of men and 25% of women) who labelled their sexual orientation “heterosexual” differed from those who self-identified as “homosexual,” “bisexual,” or “uncertain.” Differences among those who identified as heterosexual included more conservative attitudes, less prior homosexual and more prior heterosexual sexual experience, features of the hookups, and sentiments about the encounter after the fact. Latent class analysis revealed six distinctive “types” of heterosexually identified students whose last hookup was with a same-sex partner. Three types, comprising 60% of students, could be classified as mostly private sexual experimentation among those with little prior same-sex experience, including some who did not enjoy the encounter; the other two types in this group enjoyed the encounter, but differed on drunkenness and desire for a future relationship with their partner. Roughly, 12% could be classified as conforming to a “performative bisexuality” script of women publicly engaging in same-sex hookups at college parties, and the remaining 28% had strong religious practices and/or beliefs that may preclude a non-heterosexual identity, including 7% who exhibited “internalized heterosexism.” Results indicate several distinctive motivations for a heterosexual identity among those who hooked up with same-sex partners; previous research focusing on selective “types” excludes many exhibiting this discordance.


Hookups Same-sex sexual behavior Sexual identity Internalized heterosexism 



The authors thank Joseph Padgett, R. James Leister, Lonnie McLendon, Rachel Madsen, and Stephanie Pruitt for their research assistance on this project, as well as Sara Crawley and Joseph Padgett for their helpful advice. This project was funded by a University of North Carolina at Greensboro New Faculty Research Grant and a New Faculty Summer Excellence Award Grant, as administered by the Office of Sponsored Programs. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Southern Sociological Society Conference, Charlotte, NC, 2014.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sociology DepartmentThe University of North Carolina at GreensboroGreensboroUSA
  2. 2.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyMissouri State UniversitySpringfieldUSA

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