The 3 Misperceptions of Hook Up Culture

In her book Hooking Up, Kathleen Bogle examines the hook up culture on college campuses. Bogle analyzes the shifts in scripts, from hooking up to dating, between the college and post-college years. She attempts to deface the term “hook up” in numerous interviews with college and graduate students, recounting their experiences with the hook up culture. Looking for commonalities in the students’ definitions hooking up, Bogle actually discovered the ambiguity of the term and the repercussions that this ambiguity had on the campus culture. A concrete definition of hooking up remains to be found due to three common misperceptions of the term, consequentially leading to a normless society characterized by assumptions and misled beliefs.

Interviewing the students led Bogle to conclude that three misperceptions of hook up culture existed among all of their experiences. To begin with, there seemed to be a generalization that there were almost no virgins in college. In various interviews students reported their beliefs on virginity, or the lack there of, in college. Bogle even noted, “…even those students who were virgins believed that the overwhelming majority of students on campus were not virgins” (Bogle 82). Underscoring the reality that these students lived was this assumption that virginity was nearly nonexistent. Contrary to what these students believed, Bogle found a 39% virginity rate for college women in 2001, and a 25% rate for men and women combined (Bogle 85). What these statistics tell us is that the general perception of virginity is skewed from the truth. Why is there such a dramatic difference in what students believed about virginity and the truth about virginity? The answer to this is tied into the second an third misperceptions that Bogle discovered in her interviews.

Nearly all of the students talked about how “everyone” was hooking up. Their common belief that there were very few virgins in college is credited to this idea that the entire campus community takes part in hook up culture. However, it is the broad interpretation of hooking up that led students to think that the percentage of virgins in college was lower than it actually was. Some interviewees thought a hook up could involve just kissing, while others only thought of sex when they heard hook up (Bogle 87). I think by any person’s standards the difference between kissing and sex is quite large. It became apparent that so many contrasting perspectives on hooking up created a gray area, so that when someone uses the term “hooked up,” the meaning is not completely clear the listener. In this way, people may think that someone isn’t a virgin if they heard that person hooked up with someone. Realistically, the person could have just been caught making out with someone at a party and by a bystander’s definition, hooked up at the party. This led to the disparities in hook up discourse between men and women. Using the ambiguity of the term to their advantage, men may use it to insinuate that their sexual encounter went “all the way.” On the other hand, women are able to disguise the happenings of an encounter by saying they hooked up with someone, leaving it unclear as to what exactly happened. That being said, it is important to note the gender double standard that appears in hook up discourse. When a male student uses the term hook up, do we automatically suspect that he had sex? And then applaud him for this conquest? Contrarily, why do we not necessarily assume that a female had sex when she says “hooked up”? Is it because her image may be tarnished if people knew all about her sexual encounters? The gender double standard exists and thrives in hook up culture discourse, some would even argue that hook up culture perpetuates this double standard.

The culmination of the misperception of virginity and the idea that everyone on campus is hooking up created the final misperception: the number of people that people are hooking up with. Seeing as college students do not think very many virgins exist on campus and are under the impression that everyone is hooking up, the number of hook up partners they believe other people to have varies from the truth. An interesting fact that Bogle takes note of is the common way of thinking among the students that lead them to believe that “other people were” always more promiscuous than they themselves were. Here’s the problem: students are basing their sexual activity off of mislead assumptions regarding the rest of their peers.

It is possible then to say that students have created this hook up culture by simply overestimating the sexual promiscuity of their peers. Driven by the need to fit in, they start doing what they think everyone else is doing, consequentially becoming a part of and creating a hook up culture.

The following videos include a multitude of interviews of college students, inquiring their thoughts and experiences with hook up culture. While some students embrace hook up culture, others push against it wondering, what ever happened to romance? Do you think it’s true that people pride themselves on not being emotionally invested in sex? Does hooking up emphasize the sexual liberation of our culture, or does this casual sex reflect our lack of moral values?


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