Sexuality Research and Social Policy

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 323–333 | Cite as

Hook-Up Culture: Setting a New Research Agenda

  • Caroline HeldmanEmail author
  • Lisa Wade


Summarizing the major findings of literature on hook-up culture, we propose a new research agenda focusing on when and why this sexual subculture emerged. We explore a series of hypotheses to explain this sexual paradigm shift, including college and university policies, the gender distribution of students, changes in the nature of alcohol use, access to and consumption of pornography, the increased sexual content of non-pornographic media, rising self-objectification and narcissism, new marriage norms, and perceptions of sexual risk. We then recommend new directions for research, emphasizing the need to explore structural and psychological as well as cultural factors, the role of discrete events alongside slowly emerging social change, the need for intersectional research and studies of non-college-attending and post-college youth, and the benefits of longitudinal and cross-college designs.


Hook-up culture Hooking up Casual sex and college-aged students Media Pornography Raunch culture Binge drinking 


  1. Altman, D. (2001). Global sex. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  2. American Association of University Women (2009). SAAM: Sexual assault on campus. Accessed June 11, 2009.
  3. Aral, S. O., Patel, D. A., & Holmes, K. K. (2005). Temporal trends in sexual behaviors and sexually transmitted disease history among 18- to 39-year-old Seattle, Washington, residents: Results of random digit-dial surveys. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 32, 710–717.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Armstrong, E. A., & Hamilton, L. (2009). Gendered sexuality in young adulthood: Double binds and flawed options. Gender & Society, 23, 589–616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Armstrong, E. A., England, P., & Fogarty, A. C. K. (2009). Orgasm in college hook ups and relationships. In B. Risman (Ed.), Families as they really are. New York: Norton (in press).Google Scholar
  6. Aubrey, J. S. (2004). Sex and punishment: An examination of sexual consequences and the sexual double standard in teen programming. Sex Roles, 50, 505–515.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bogle, K. A. (2007a). Hooking up and the sexual double standard among college students. New York: Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA).Google Scholar
  8. Bogle, K. A. (2007b). The shift from dating to hooking up in college: What scholars have missed. Sociology Compass, 1, 775–788.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bogle, K. A. (2008). Hooking up: Sex, dating, and relationships on campus. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Brandt, A. (1987). No magic bullet: A social history of venereal disease in the United States since 1880. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Brener, N., Lowry, R., & Khan, L. K. (2002). Trends in sexual risk behaviors among high school students—United States, 1991–2001. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, 51, 856–859.Google Scholar
  12. Brown, J., L’Engle, K. L., Pardun, C. J., Gui, G., Kenneavy, K., & Jackson, C. (2006). Sexy media matter: Exposure to sexual content in music, movies, television, and magazines predicts Black and White adolescents' sexual behavior. Pediatrics, 117, 1018–1027.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Bruce, K. E., & Walker, L. (2001). College students’ attitudes about AIDS: 1986 to 2000. AIDS Education and Prevention, 13, 428–437.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Bushman, B. J., & Anderson, C. A. (2001). Media violence and the American public: Scientific facts versus media misinformation. The American Psychologist, 56, 477–489.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Calogero, R. M. (2004). A test of objectification theory: The effect of the male gaze on appearance concerns in college women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 28, 16–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Centers for Disease Control (2008a).
  17. Chaturvedi, A., Engels, E., Anderson, W., & Gillison, M. (2008). Incidence trends for human papillomavirus-related and -unrelated oral squamous cell carcinomas in the United States. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 28, 612–619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. D’Emilio, J., & Friedman, E. B. (1988). Intimate matters: A history of sexuality in America. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  19. Dines, G. (2010). Pornland: How porn has hijacked our sexuality. New York: Beacon (in press).Google Scholar
  20. England, P., Shafer, E. F., & Fogerty, A. C. K. (2008). Hooking up and forming relationships on today’s college campuses. In M. Kimmel (Ed.), The gendered society reader (3rd ed., pp. 531–593). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Engle, M. (2009). Rates of chlamydia, syphilis on the rise in U.S. The Los Angeles Times (January 14).Google Scholar
  22. Epstein, D., Elwood, J., Hey, V., & Maw, J. (1998). Failing boys? Issues in gender and achievement. New York: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  23. Flack, W. F., Kimble, M., Brian, L., & Neacsiu, D. (2006). Unwanted sex, alcohol use, and hooking up among students at two U.S. colleges. Los Angeles, CA: Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology (ASC), Los Angeles Convention Center.Google Scholar
  24. Flack, W. F., Jr., Daubman, K. A., Caron, M. L., Asadorian, J. A., D’Aureli, N. R., Gigliotti, S. N., et al. (2007). Risk factors and consequences of unwanted sex among university students. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22, 139–157.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Foucault, M., Hurley, R. (Translator) (1978). The history of sexuality: An introduction. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  26. Fredrickson, B. L., & Roberts, T. (1997). Objectification theory. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 173–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fredrickson, B. L., Roberts, T., Noll, S. M., Quinn, D. M., & Twenge, J. M. (2008). That swimsuit becomes you: Sex differences in self-objectification, restrained eating, and math performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 269–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Freitas, D. (2008). Sex and the soul: Juggling sexuality, spirituality, romance, and religion on America’s college campuses. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Fugere, M. A., Escoto, C., Cousins, A. J., Riggs, M. L., & Haerich, P. (2008). Sexual attitudes and double standards: A literature review focusing on participant gender and ethnic background. Sexuality and Culture, 12, 169–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gagnon, J., & Simon, W. (1973). Sexual conduct: The social origins of human sexuality. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  31. Gagnon, J. H., & Simon, W. (1987). The sexual scripting of oral genital contacts. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 16, 1–25.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Garcia, J. R., & Reiber, C. (2008). Hook-up behavior: A biopsychosocial perspective. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 2, 49–65.Google Scholar
  33. Gates, G. J., & Sonenstein, F. L. (2000). Heterosexual genital sexual activity among adolescent males: 1988 and 1995. Family Planning Perspectives, 32(295–7), 304.Google Scholar
  34. Gilmartin, S. K. (2006). Changes in college women’s attitudes toward sexual intimacy. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 16, 429–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Gindi, R. M., Ghanem, K. G., & Erbelding, E. J. (2008). Increases in oral and anal exposure among youth attending STD clinics in Baltimore, Maryland. The Journal of Adolescent Health, 42, 307–308.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Halpern-Felsher, B. L., Cornell, J. L., Kropp, R. Y., & Tschann, J. M. (2005). Oral versus vaginal sex among adolescents: Perceptions, attitudes, and behavior. Pediatrics, 115, 845–851.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Harding, D., & Jencks, C. (2003). Changing attitudes toward pre-marital sex: Cohort, period, and aging effects. Public Opinion Quarterly, 67, 211–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Heldman, C. (2008). Out of body image. Ms. Magazine, Spring, 52–55Google Scholar
  39. Hirschman, C., Impett, E. A., & Schooler, D. (2006). Dis/embodied voices: What late-adolescent girls can teach us about objectification and sexuality. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 3, 8–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Holland, J., Ramazanoglu, C., Sharpe, S., & Thomson, R. (1998). The male in the head: Young people, heterosexuality and power. London: The Tufnell.Google Scholar
  41. Jensen, R. (2007). Getting off: Pornography and the end of masculinity. Cambridge: South End Press.Google Scholar
  42. Kaiser Family Foundation (2006). Sexual health statistics for teenagers and young adults in the United States. Kaiser Family Foundation Publications, September.Google Scholar
  43. Karjane, H. M., Fisher, B. S., & Cullen, F. T. (2002, December). Sexual assault on campus: What colleges and universities are doing about it. United States Department of Justice.Google Scholar
  44. Kraus, S. W., & Russell, B. (2008). Early sexual experiences: The role of Internet access and sexually explicit material. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 11, 162–168.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Lambert, T. A., Kahn, A. S., & Applie, K. J. (2003). Pluralistic ignorance and hooking up. Journal of Sex Research, 40, 129–133.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T., & Michaels, S. (1992). National health and social life survey. Health and Medical Care Archive, Robert Wood Johnson.Google Scholar
  47. Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T., & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  48. Leichliter, J. S., Chandra, A., Liddon, N., Fenton, K. A., & Aral, S. O. (2007). Prevalence and correlates of heterosexual anal and oral sex in adolescents and adults in the United States. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 196, 1852–1859.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Levin, D. E., & Kilbourne, J. (2008). So sexy so soon: The new sexualized childhood and what parents can do to protect their kids. New York: Ballantine Books.Google Scholar
  50. Levy, A. (2005). Female chauvinist pigs: Women and the rise of raunch culture. New York: Free.Google Scholar
  51. Lindberg Duberstein, L., Jones, R., & Santelli, J. S. (2008). Noncoital sexual activities among adolescents. The Journal of Adolescent Health, 43, 231–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Littleton, H., Tabernik, H., Canales, E. J., & Backstrom, T. (2009). Risky situation or harmless fun? A qualitative examination of college women's bad hook-up and rape scripts. Sex Roles, 60, 793–804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. MacDonald, T. K., & Hynie, M. (2008). Ambivalence and unprotected sex: Failure to predict sexual activity and decreased condom use. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 38, 1092–1107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Martino, S., Collins, R., Elliott, M., Strachman, A., Kanouse, D. E., & Berry, S. (2006). Exposure to degrading versus nondegrading music lyrics and sexual behavior among youth. Pediatrics, 118, 430–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Mitka, M. (2009). College binge drinking still on the rise. Journal of the American Medical Association, 302, 836–837.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Mosher, W., Chandra, A., & Jones, J. (2005). Sexual behavior and selected health measures: Men and women 15–44 years of age, United States. Advance Data, 362, 1–55.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Noll, S. M., & Fredrickson, B. (1998). A mediational model linking self-objectification, body shame, and disordered eating. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 22, 623–636.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Owen, J. J., Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., & Fincham, F. D. (2010). “Hooking up” among college students: Demographic and psychosocial correlates. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 653–663.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Paasonen, S., Nikunen, K., & Saarenmaa, L. (2007). Pornification: Sex and sexuality in media culture. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
  60. Paul, E. (2006). Beer goggles, catching feelings, and the walk of shame: Myths and realities of the hook up experience. In D. C. Kirkpatrick, S. Duck, & M. K. Foley (Eds.), Relating difficulty: The processes of constructing and managing difficult interaction (pp. 141–160). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  61. Paul, E., & Hayes, K. A. (2002). The casualties of “casual” sex: A qualitative exploration of the phenomenology of college students’ hook ups. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 19, 639–661.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Paul, E. K., McManus, B., & Hayes, A. (2000). “Hook ups”: Characteristics and correlates of college students’ spontaneous and anonymous sexual experiences. Journal of Sex Research, 37, 76–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Peter, K., & Horn, L. (2005). Gender differences in participation and completion of undergraduate education and how they have changed over time (NCES 2005-169). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  64. Prinstein, M. J., Meade, C. S., & Cohen, G. L. (2003). Adolescent oral sex, peer popularity, and perceptions of best friends’ sexual behavior. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 28, 243–249.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. Remez, L. (2000). Oral sex among adolescents: Is it sex or is it abstinence? Family Planning Perspectives, 32, 298–304.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  66. Roberts, C. M. (2005). Genital herpes in young adults: Changing sexual behaviors, epidemiology and management. Herpes, 12, 9–14.Google Scholar
  67. Rossi, A. (1994). Sexuality across the life course. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  68. Sanchez, D. T., & Kiefer, A. K. (2007). Body concerns in and out of the bedroom: Implications for sexual pleasure and problems. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 808–820.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  69. Sanders, S. A., & Reinisch, J. M. (1999). Would you say you “had sex” if…? Journal of the American Medical Association, 281, 275–277.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  70. Schmitt, J., & Wadsworth, J. (2002). Give PCs a chance: Personal computer ownership and the digital divide in the United States and Great Britain. London: The Centre for Economic Performance.Google Scholar
  71. Seaman, B. (2005). Binge: What your college student won’t tell you. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  72. Tiggemann, M. (2004). Body image across the adult life span: Stability and change. Body Image, 1, 29–41.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  73. Tiggemann, M., & Boundy, M. (2008). Effect of environment and appearance compliment on college women’s self-objectification, mood, body shame, and cognitive performance. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 32, 399–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Tolman, D. (1994). Doing desire: Adolescent girls’ struggles for/with sexuality. Gender & Society, 8, 324–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Twenge, J. M. (2007). Generation me: Why today’s young Americans are more confident, assertive, entitled—and more miserable than ever before. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  76. Twenge, J. M., Konrath, S., Foster, J. D., Campbell, W. K., & Bushman, B. J. (2008). Egos inflating over time: A cross-temporal meta-analysis of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory. Journal of Personality, 76, 875–902.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  77. U.S. Census (n.d.b). Current Population Survey.
  78. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2009). Digest of Education Statistics, 2008 (NCES 2009-020).Google Scholar
  79. Wade, L., & Heldman, C. (2010). First-year college students confront hookup culture. In J. DeLamater and L. Carpenter (Eds.), Sexuality over the life course: Emerging perspectives. New York: New York University Press (in press).Google Scholar
  80. Wade, L., Kremer, E., & Brown, J. (2005). The incidental orgasm: The presence of clitoral knowledge and the absence of orgasm for women. Women & Health, 42, 117–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Wechsler, H., Lee, J. E., Kuo, M., & Lee, H. (2000). College binge drinking in the 1990s: A continuing problem. Journal of American College Health, 48, 199–210.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  82. Whitmire, R. (2008). A tough time to be a girl: Gender imbalance on campuses. Chronicle of Higher Education, 54, A23.Google Scholar
  83. Zubriggen, E., Collins, R. L., Lamb, S., Roberts, T., Tolman, D. L., Ward, L. M., & Blake, J. (2007). Report of the APA task force on the sexualization of girls. American Psychological Association.

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Politics DepartmentOccidental CollegeLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Sociology DepartmentOccidental CollegeLos AngelesUSA

Personalised recommendations