Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 361–383 | Cite as

Asking out and Sliding in: Gendered Relationship Pathways in College Hookup Culture

  • Rachel AllisonEmail author


The cultural dominance of non-relational sexual scripts for short-term sexual encounters on college campuses, combined with the persistence of gendered practices for heterosexual relationship formation, complicates students’ interest in committed, monogamous, and gender egalitarian relationships. This paper draws on interviews with 56 heterosexual undergraduates ages 18–23 at the University of Illinois at Chicago to examine how students perceive and experience committed relationships and the role of gendered practices in their formation. I find that relationships begin with “hanging out” and then follow either date (“asking out”) or hookup (“sliding in”) pathways into exclusivity. The dating pathway is characterized by “symbolic gendering” (Lamont, 2014) but presents clear progression into commitment. In contrast, “sliding in” is less characterized by gendered practices but also generates ambiguity in its lack of direct verbal communication. This ambiguity is particularly challenging for women, given perceptions and realities of their greater interest in relationships than men and the operation of a sexual double standard. Students face some trade-off between gender egalitarianism and definitional clarity in forming committed relationships.


Gender Relationships Dating Hooking up College 



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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyMississippi State UniversityMississippi StateUSA

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