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Study says college 'hookup culture' not what it appears to be

By Michael Thomas     Aug 15, 2013 in Health
While numerous scholarly articles and media features are portraying modern campus "hookup culture" as unprecedented and possibly out of control, a new study is saying that nothing has really changed over the years.
The study, led by Martin A. Monto of the University of Portland, was presented Tuesday at the American Sociological Association conference.
The paper finds "no evidence of substantial changes in sexual behavior that would support the proposition that there is a new or pervasive ‘hookup culture’ among contemporary college students."
Monto says that the publicity of these headlines generates a sense of moral panic.
“In many generations, there’s a sense that sexual behavior is changing or becoming more liberal, or we’re in some brave new era,” Monto said in an interview. “I was a little skeptical about that myself. Because I was alive during the ’80s, and it doesn’t seem all that different.”
To reach this conclusion, Monto analyzed two sets of national surveys of college students: one set covered 1988 to 1996, and the other covered 2002-2010. Both sets of data showed students reporting the same number of partners. This suggests that students aren't dating more often than ever or more often than their parents did.
TIME noted that there was a decrease in the number of students they had a "regular spouse or partner," but the number is now 77 percent from 85 percent in the previous data set, indicating only a slight decrease and refuting the idea that "dating is dead."
Monto added that the slight decrease likely has to do with a change in the average age of marriage.
Part of the reason "hookup culture" has been so highly publicized is because of its ambiguous meaning. As Monto has said, along with Kathleen Bogle, author of Hooking Up: Sex, Dating and Relationships on Campus, the term can encompass anything from having sex to making out.
As well, internet forums are making news of hookups more public, according to Mercury News, distorting students' views on how much sex is actually happening.
One study showed that college students reported five to seven hookups in their college career, but when Bogle asked students how often they think their peers hook up, the average answer was seven times a semester, or 56 times over four years.
According to the most recent data, 59.3 percent of students report having sex weekly or more often, which is down from 65.2 percent as reported a generation ago.
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