Hooking Up and Dating
In The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap, historian Stephanie Coontz challenges those who lament the loss of “traditional family values” by debunking myths about families of the past.1 Coontz contends that the images of ideal family life that many people conjure up resemble a hodgepodge of old television shows' depictions of a bygone era (i.e., The Waltons [1930s], Leave It to Beaver [1950s], etc.), which often misrepresent the realities that families faced during those time periods. Thus, sentimental views of the past are often presented using revisionist history. Likewise, many critics of the hooking-up phenomenon have compared it to the rose-tinted version of dating, emphasizing the deterioration of courtship customs since the glory days of the dating era.2 This raises the question: How significant is the shift from dating to hooking up? In Dating, Mating and Marriage, sociologist Martin Whyte states that “the topic of continuity and change in premarital relations is a 'blank spot' in the study of social change in America.”3 With this in mind, let's consider the similarities and differences between the traditional dating script and the contemporary hookup script in college.
The most notable difference in the shift from the dating script to the hookup script is how sexual behavior fits into the equation. But it would be a mistake to assume that men and women in the dating era were any less interested in sexual interaction than those in today's hookup culture. In some cases, a man asking a woman on a date was a thinly veiled attempt to see how much she would “put out” sexually.4 Therefore, one of the primary objectives of a date was the same as that