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19 September 2011
More talk, less action when it comes to college hookups
by George Atkinson

College students talk about hooking up a lot. In fact, they talk about it much more than it actually happens, as a new study in the journal Health Communication reveals.

In the University of Nebraska-Lincoln study, 84 percent of students said they had talked with their college friends in the previous four months about hookups. But when asked how many hookups they had during the school year, the students reported far fewer than what they assumed a "typical student" had experienced.

Study author Amanda Holman said that students had varied definitions of hookups, but the most common definition was unplanned, inebriated sex. In most student accounts, the hookup also originated in social contexts in which friends were initially present.

Interestingly, the study found that regular talk about hookups had a "normalizing" effect on students' views about the practice. This led to a more approving attitude toward hookups and, often, riskier sexual behavior, the researchers noted.

"Students who engage in hookups may find encouragement in the belief that the practice is widespread, as suggested by the observed association between self-reported hookups and the estimated hookups for the average student," the study noted.

Key findings included:

  • Ninety-four percent of participating students had heard of the phrase "hooking up" in reference to sexual activities. Slightly more than half described a hookup as involving sex, 9 percent roughly described it as not having sex and about one-third indicated that the term was ambiguous.
  • Fifty-four percent reported having participated in a sexual hookup during the school year. Strangely, a greater number of males (63 percent) reported engaging in a sexual hookup than females (45 percent).
  • Thirty-seven percent of students reported two or more hookups during the school year. But 90 percent of the participants assumed that a "typical" student had been involved in two or more hookups.

"This demonstrates the diversity of students' sexual goals and experiences," Holman said. "Second, it highlights the influence communication has on students' attitudes and behavior towards non-relationship sex. Interpersonal communication is a powerful influence, especially in peer networks."

Study finds no damaging psychological impacts from casual sex
One-Night Stands Linked To Menstrual Cycle
Women and men's attitudes to casual sex not so different after all

Source: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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