From Dating to Hooking Up to Dating Again

Barney Stinson spent most of his time on How I Met Your Mother having one-night stands and random hook ups with girls he had just met. Meanwhile, his best friend Ted Moseby spent all of the first eight seasons searching for his dream wife. With great hopes and high expectations at his side, Ted went on an almost never-ending journey to find this mystical creature known as a “wife”. As I spent years watching this show, I realized only now how much this television show shaped how I viewed what dating would be like in the real world. I grew up believing that I would have to go through messy relationships, odd encounters at the bar, and bizarre social situations until I would finally meet “the one”. As I, and other How I Met Your Mother fans, spent nine years watching this show progress, we all came to believe that this was the social script that we should use to engage in finding our future spouses; that our post-college years would be spent in bars and parties trying to find our life long companion.

In Hooking Up by Kathleen Bogle, a study was conducted at two college campuses to determine how sex, dating, and relationships function on campus and also after college students graduated and entered the real world. In the study, Bogle found that there was a shift from hook up culture to form dating as people transitioned from college to post-graduation. Bogle states that a reason for this is because college campuses were seen as a “safe haven”, where students “felt as though they knew everyone and could trust them, even though most of their fellow classmates were technically strangers” (Bogle 132). The most interesting part about this finding is how paradoxical it is that people feel safer on college campuses when women are more likely to be sexually assaulted on a college campus as opposed to not attending college.

The abrupt shift from hook up culture to formal dating left many who had graduated in a strange position. Transitioning from hooking up to formal dating entailed a new set of rules: the formalities involved in a date and a moral stance on having sex on the first date. Male college students in the interviews stated that they would not be too interested in a woman who had sex with them the first night. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango, so this double standard is held that it’s okay for these men themselves were to have sex on the first date with these women and were able to see themselves as good people but yet, find fault in the female that they had sex with. One possible reason for this could be that these men see these women as potential mothers of their children and would not want their daughters to be as sexually promiscuous.

Although there are these differences in hooking up and dating, Bogle was able to find some similarities between the two types of relationships. She found that the location for both relationships was the same: “they still primarily meet people at bars or parties” (Bogle 131). Bogle also found that even after the college, students who had graduated from college still found the term “hooking up” to be vague in reference to the sexual acts that were conducted between the people involved.

Bogle research is fairly accurate to the sexual scripts that I have seen on campus and have heard from friends who have graduated from college. Bogle conducts interviews with current students to understand this hook up culture phenomenon. However, the interviews that she conducted only addressed issued of a heteronormative society. The findings she found mainly implied the hooking up scene and dating scene between men and women only. In progressive college campuses, including New York University, arguments like these may be invalid and misrepresentative of college relationships. As America becomes as more progressive society, Bogle’s findings will soon be outdated and inapplicable because her findings only include those of white, affluent, heterosexual, and cisgender persons. Another issue that I found with Bogle’s arguments is that the context of these situations was in her own fantasy world where sexual assault was not an issue. As statistics have shown that one in four women in college will be sexually assaulted, Bogle makes readers believe that rape does not exist and that all sex and hooks up are consensual when that is clearly not the case.

Therefore, can Bogle’s findings be applied to college campuses in the next ten years? With changes in social morality in the United States, this may become outdated soon. And to what extent would findings that addressed sexual assault on campus differ from Bogle’s current findings? How do you feel about this flip flop from random hook ups to formal dating? Will this social script change and evolve like other social scripts have had in the past?

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6 thoughts on “From Dating to Hooking Up to Dating Again

  1. I am an avid HIMYM fan as well, and often compare the sexual script of what I am experiencing to the show. I feel like college is similar to the sexual facet of Barney’s life, but post college is more relatable to Ted’s wife searching, dating years. However, I must admit reading this in words in Bogle’s book really shocked me. I guess I never thought about what happens after college in terms of hooking up and dating. I thought that random hook-ups would continue but thinking about it now, I would not feel comfortable going back with a complete stranger as many of the women that Bogle interviews feel as well. Hmmm those are some thought provoking questions! For the most part, I think that these scrips on college campuses and dating after will stay similar, but as girls are becoming more sexually active and at an earlier age, everything will just shift with time. For example, my roommate participated in the hook-up scene in high school, so now she is just over it and is happier in a monogamous relationship with her boyfriend. Similarly, I feel like if girls and boys start hooking up at an earlier age like the trend indicates, by the time they hit college they will be ready for dating and relationships so everything will escalate at an earlier age.

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  2. Joanna, you bring up some great points. I especially agree with you when you explain “how paradoxical it is that people feel safer on college campuses when women are more likely to be sexually assaulted on a college campus as opposed to not attending college.” This makes me think about sexual assault on college campuses and how most perpetrators tend to, in fact, be acquaintances of the victim. So can we assume that just because you “know ” someone, it is much safer to have sex with them? If the majority of these offenses are taking place between causal acquaintances then how come there is this general assumption that, post-college, potential partners are riskier? As for these evolving social scripts, I’m not sure what the future holds. However “dating” hasn’t been around too long relative to our nation’s history so I would not be surprised if this social script was revised to be more conducive to our ever-changing lifestyles and desires.

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  3. I really enjoy this post! I completely agree when you say that Bogle’s findings may be outdated in college campuses in the coming years. For one, her findings depict all college hookups as consensual, but also they are completely heteronomative. As I believe our society will still be heteronormative in the coming years, I think that these studies will be completely outdated because our society is becoming more accepting of the LGBTQ community. In addition, your thoughts on HIMYM are very interesting as well. Media tends to configure our view of sex and relationships. We can already see this in shows like Modern Family, but how do you think media will change in the upcoming years to conform to the LGBTQ community?

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  4. Love this post! I think that the hookup culture will continue in the college environment for the next 10 years and maybe more. I say that because so many people in high school think that they will come to college and experience a whole new world with so many more options and independent decisions. In most aspects that is true, and many of them may end their relationships from high school to see “what else is out there”. I think that creates the transition to whether or not they will have more hookups or focus on a relationship after college. I don’t think there are necessarily specific events on your timeline. I would say it depends on the person and the way that they spent their time throughout high school and college.

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  5. I found this post to be very interesting for a couple of reasons. First, like the other comments, it is interesting that we feel safe with the people on campus, but in reality our acquaintances can be the ones that are most likely to be the perpetrators of sexual assault. Second, I think the hook up culture will eventually shift into a dating one, especially because of how much it is discussed now. We see more women voicing their opinions and more actions against sexual assault. It is necessary that we continue to talk about these difficult subjects to bring awareness of these ideas.

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  6. I found this post really interesting because I never thought about the shift from a hookup culture to a formal dating culture. Throughout high school and college dating is seemingly nonexistent. Hookup culture is quite prevalent and nobody asks people out on dates. But—after college all that goes away. Life after college revolves around formal dating and there is no hookup culture there to foster any sort of relationship. I think this odd social script will continue to stay in place since college life encourages hookup culture and post-college life does not.

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