Academic journal article Culture, Society and Masculinities

Masculinities and Hooking Up: Sexual Decision-Making at College

Academic journal article Culture, Society and Masculinities

Masculinities and Hooking Up: Sexual Decision-Making at College

Article excerpt

A great deal of empirical research on hooking up has emerged in recent years. While gender is the most common variable examined in hookup behaviors, the overwhelming majority of this research is focused on women. It is often assumed that casual sex practices like hooking up are explicitly masculine, so that enthusiastic male participation is expected. This article examines males' assumption of agency in collegiate hookups regarding partner choice and sexual behavior. Using in-depth interviews from male undergraduates at a large public research university and focus groups from a small liberal arts college, both on the East coast of the United States, I find that the peer group is instrumental is shaping sexual decision making and reinforcing the double standard. Additionally, awareness of rape culture serves to complicate males' choices and behaviors regarding sex.

Keywords: hooking up, masculinity, college, sexual decision-making, agency

Hooking up is a North American term describing a form of casual sex among adolescents (Manning, Longmore & Giordano, 2005; Paik, 2010) and emergent adults (Olmstead, Billen, Conrad, Pasley & Fincham, 2013; Olmstead, Pasley & Fincham, 2013). However, hooking up differs from casual sex (Fielder, Walsh, Carey & Carey, 2013), as casual sex is characterized by intercourse with a stranger and hooking up can entail a wide variety of behaviors (Paul & Hayes, 2002) and can occur on multiple occasions (Bogle, 2008) with people who are friends or acquaintances (Bisson & Levine, 2009). Hooking up can be a potential pathway to exclusive relationships (Bisson & Levine, 2009; Wade & Heldman, 2012).

Hooking up is variously defined in the literature, with most entailing physical intimacy that may or may not involve intercourse (Paul & Hayes, 2002), with someone with whom there is no commitment (Heldman & Wade, 2010) and no explicit expectation that a relationship will ensue (Fielder, Carey & Carey, 2013; Owen, Rhoades, Stanley & Fincham, 2010). Yet, hooking up can be a pathway to relationships, leading some to suggest that it is a more common form of courtship than the traditional date (Bradshaw, Kahn & Saville, 2010).

Consistent within the literature are fairly high rates of hookup prevalence, with some studies finding well over half of participants of studied populations experienced hookups. One of the earlier studies using a nationally representative sample of college women found 40% had hooked up (Glenn & Marquardt, 2001), while other research teams found higher rates: Daniel and Fogarty (2007) find 87% have hooked up. The studies using waves of the online College Social Life Survey, a dataset with over 22,000 participants from over 20 American colleges and universities, finds consistently high rates of hooking up (Armstrong et al., 2012; England, Shafer & Fogarty, 2008). The studies finding the lowest prevalence of hooking up use samples that are not comprised of college students (Fortunato et al., 2010) or a mix of college students and those of a similar age not enrolled in colleges (Eisenberg et al., 2009), which suggest that hooking up is more common in college, or that the collegiate environment is conducive to hooking up (Bogle, 2008).

Heldman and Wade "theorize the distinction between a sexual culture that includes hooking up and a 'hook-up culture'" (2010, p. 323), with the latter characterized by the commonness of hooking up, to the extent that other forms of intimacy are devalued. Indeed, hooking up is considered the modal form of intimacy on college campuses (Fielder, Walsh, Carey & Carey, 2013), particularly among heterosexual students. Wade and Heldman (2012) assert that hooking up is hegemonic, and that "opting out of hookup culture felt, to many, like opting out of socializing entirely" (p. 135).

Gender is the most common variable examined in hookup behaviors (Wade & Heldman, 2012). However, the overwhelming majority of this research is focused on women, often regarding the negative emotional consequences they can experience (Hamilton & Armstrong, 2012; Paul & Hayes, 2002). …

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