The Deal With Hookup Culture

by | Posted April 8th, 2013


Although it’s not a new phenomenon in the least, it has recently come to light among Women’s and Gender studies scholars and feminists. It’s the College Hookup Culture. Defined by Urban Dictionary as, “The era that began in the early 1990s and has since prevailed on college campuses and elsewhere when hooking up has replaced traditional dating as the preferred method of heterosexual liaison,” hookup culture is becoming more and more predominant among college students.

Professional Writing teacher, Stephanie Amada, recently released an e-book on the subject, titled, How to Deal With Hookup Culture.

“The book was actually inspired by some discussions in my WRA 140 class [Women in America].”

Hooking up, Amada explained, can range from anything such as making out to engaging in full out sex.

“So, when you’re talking to your friends and you say you ‘hooked up’ with someone, many students are unclear about what that might mean unless you are more specific.”

From the e-book emerged an idea for a research project. Aimed more towards women students, Amada wanted to know what do women (and men) really think of this hookup culture? Do they enjoy the casual, “friends-with-benefits,” relationship, or would they rather find someone to date seriously? Along with these questions, Amada wanted to incorporate social media into the project as a way to help students find a place they can talk about the hookup culture.

“The goal of the project is to create an online, anonymous forum that allows students to log on and ask questions or give advice from anything ranging from relationships to dating or sex to women’s health. It should be a comfortable setting where mainly college women can talk to other women students in similar situations as them.”

With the help of a CAL-URI grant, Amada and three student researchers, Emily Dallaire, Siobahn Jones, and myself, are working towards creating this forum as well as interviewing students about what they really think about the college hookup culture. Examples of questions are as follows: “What is your definition of hooking up?”, “How has your perspective of hooking up changed as a freshman to now?”, and “Do you feel more comfortable hooking up after having a few drinks?”

“I think it’s important for women to know that if they’re uncomfortable with this culture, they shouldn’t feel pressured into doing it. I want women to know they have a choice and to feel empowered by their decisions, whether that is to hookup or not,” Amada explains.

The team read several articles on hookup culture when the project first began, one published in The Atlantic titled, “Boys on the Side,” examining the opinions of what girls think in regards to casual sex and dating, as well as listening to an in-depth interview with Laura Sessions Stepp, author of the book, Unhooked, about “the emotional lives of young women today” and how they are attracted to the hookup culture. What some researchers have found is it allows them to pursue their career goals and dreams without being tied down in a relationship that might prevent them from doing exactly what they want to do with their life; they have their needs met sexually without any (most of the time) emotional attachment. The reasoning behind why women choose this nontraditional relationship route is what makes the hookup culture so fascinating to many Hookup Culture researchers.

“Writing the proposal for the CAL-URI grant helped me to get a clearer outlook on what I wanted the project to be,” Amada said. “It was just a matter of seeing the bigger picture after I got my thoughts out on paper.”

Dallaire, Jones, and myself will be presenting at the Michigan State University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF) on April 12th at 10:30 in the Green Room in the Student Union. The CAL-URI grant is given to over 100 undergraduate researchers each year to help fund and finance their projects that they then present at UURAF. The objective of UURAF is to provide MSU undergrads with the opportunity to showcase any research projects they have worked on and developed over the course of the school year. We will be discussing some of our (anonymous) findings from our interviews as well as presenting what we plan to do with the anonymous forum and any future research.

“Not only is this a learning experience for the students involved, but it’s also a learning experience for me,” Amada said. She hopes to expand on her first e-book by delving into each chapter more specifically and creating a series of e-books that focus on different aspects of the hookup culture and inform more students about how they can “deal” with hookups.

If you would like to watch the UURAF presentation, we will be presenting in the Green Room of the Union at 10:30 on April 12. If you want to learn more about Stephanie Amada’s work and the Hookup Culture, visit her website, check out her e-book, subscribe to her newsletter, like her Facebook page, and follow her on Twitter and Tumblr.