A new study published in the Journal of Sex Research suggests that hookups are often more than meaningless flings. The study found that many college students are interested in forming ongoing connections with their hookup partners.
“I have conducted a few studies on college hookup culture. What draws me to this topic in general is that I believe it is commonly misunderstood by the general public,” explained researcher Heather Hensman Kettrey, an assistant professor of sociology at Clemson University.
“There is a lot of popular discourse that incites concern about college students’ sexual activity with supposedly anonymous and/or unattached partners. In general, research does not support this concern. Contemporary college students are no more sexually active than students of previous generations and they tend to hook up with people they know – often with hopes of forming some sort of future connection with these partners.”
“What drew me and my co-author, Aubrey Johnson, to ask the specific questions addressed in this particular study was the relative dearth of research on positive outcomes of college hookups, such as interest in relationship formation. This is especially the case for hookups among LGBTQ students, which the existing research tends to ignore,” Kettrey said.
The researchers examined responses provided by 10,141 students in the Online College Social Life Survey, which included data from 22 different colleges. Regarding their most recent hookup, survey participants were asked to respond to the statements: “At the end of the hookup, were you interested in hooking up with this person again?” and “Were you interested in a romantic relationship with the person you hooked up with after you hooked up?”
The participants also provided a variety of other information about their most recent hookup, such as how well they knew their hookup partner, whether alcohol was involved, and how much they enjoyed the event, among other things.
About 44% of women who hooked up with a man reported interest in a subsequent hookup with that partner, while about 40% of men who hooked up with a woman reported interest in a subsequent hookup. Among women who hooked up with another woman, about 51% reported interest in a subsequent hookup. For men who hooked up with another man, about 35% reported interest.
Nearly 30% of women who hooked up with a man reported interest in a romantic relationship, along with about 21% of men who hooked up with a woman. Thirty-five percent of women who hooked up with another woman reported interest in a romantic relationship, while nearly 20 of men who hooked up with another man reported interest in a romantic relationship.
“I would like the average person to walk away from the study with the understanding that both heterosexual and LGBTQ college students are interested in forming future connections, including romantic relationships, with their hookup partners. This interest is largely predicted by the quality of a hookup and subjective feelings following that hookup,” Kettrey told PsyPost.
About half of the participants reported enjoying their hookup “very much”, while similar percentage reported being “glad” about the experience.
Familiarity with one’s hookup partner was also linked to interest in a romantic relationship. More than 25% of women who hooked up with men, men who hooked up with women, women who hooked up with women, and men who hooked up with men reported that they had hooked up with their partner 1 to 4 times prior to their latest hookup. A substantial proportion also reported hooking up with their partner 10 or more times.
“Popular discourse that may incite negative post-hookup feelings, such as regret, could potentially hinder the formation of romantic relationships between hookup partners. Thus, I think it may benefit college students to witness a cultural shift that moves away from viewing hookups as trivial and toward a more nuanced understanding that recognizes hookups as potentially meaningful interactions among young people,” Kettrey said.
As with all research, the findings come with a few caveats.
“This study relies on data from the Online College Social Life Survey. A number of studies on hookup culture have utilized this valuable dataset. However, it does have its caveats. First, although the survey was administered to students on more than 20 U.S. college campuses, and boasts a high response rate, it was not administered to a random sample. Additionally, the survey was administered between 2005 and 2011 and, thus, data collected from a more contemporary sample may not produce the same results,” Kettrey explained.
The study, “Hooking Up and Pairing Off: Correlates of College Students’ Interest in Subsequent Hookups and Romantic Relationships With Other-Sex and Same-Sex Hookup Partners“, was authored by Heather Hensman Kettrey and Aubrey D. Johnson.