Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 464–492 | Cite as

Hooking Up as an Individualistic Practice: A Double-Edged Sword for College Women

  • Meg C. LovejoyEmail author
Original Paper


An increasingly large body of literature on the casual sex practice, hooking up, has documented that it tends to yield a wide range of positive and negative outcomes for college women. However, no research exists that provides an integrated explanation of these divergent outcomes. One recent influential attempt to highlight the benefits of hooking up for college women has implied that the individualistic character of the practice facilitates these positive outcomes. By contrast, the research here illuminates how the costs of hooking up can also be the result of its individualism (in addition to the commonly identified cause of gender inequality). The article presents the results of in-depth qualitative interviews with 30 college women from diverse backgrounds concerning their hookup experiences. The data suggest that the individualistic norms of hooking up (in combination with gender inequality) may be core contributors to the problems women can experience in the practice. Thus, the research identifies the individualism of hooking up as a “double-edged sword” for college women, potentially facilitating the costs, not just the benefits. It is claimed that this discovery contributes to a more holistic perspective than currently exists concerning the effects of hooking up on young women.


College students Premarital sex Health behaviors Women’s sexuality Individualism Gender roles 



Special acknowledgment is due to Jonathan Martin for his insights and support in the development of this manuscript. Thanks also to Robin Ohringer for her helpful comments.

Conflict of interest

The author of this article, Meg Lovejoy, declares that she has no conflict of interest. I have full control of all primary data, and I will allow Sexuality and Culture to review the data if necessary.

Ethical standard

This article is based on research I completed for my doctoral dissertation at Brandeis University. My thesis research was fully approved by the Brandeis Institutional Review Board. All research participants gave their informed consent prior to their inclusion in this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social WelfareAugustana CollegeRock IslandUSA

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