Wait, What’s Hooking Up?

Sociologist Kathleen Bogle, a woman who experienced the early stages of the hookup scene herself in the early 1990s, found herself intrigued after trying to explain the hookup culture to a fellow member of the sociology department who was a member of the dating-era. Upon this episode, she was urged to follow up and do a study on it. To do so, she conducted a series of interviews throughout northeastern college campuses, and began to collect data. All of the information that she gathered was organized, forming her book, Hooking Up. She seeks to reveal many aspects of the current hookup scene on college campuses today, including what hooking up is, the shift from the dating scene, the existing double standard between men and women, and life after the hookup scene. the most interesting aspect of all of the studies to me personally is the question of what it means to hookup.

The main assertion in Bogle’s chapter about what it means to hookup is that there is no concrete definition; the definition can change based on the people involved, the situation, and the environment. This chapter features an interview with a man named Tony who attends a State University and helps explicate this idea further. In the interview upon being asked to define a hookup, he said that it could be taking someone home, spending the night with them, and having intercourse- but it could also mean just kissing, having sex, or other sexual acts. In Bogle’s dissection of this interview and others, it became clear that the term, “hooking up,” is very ambiguous. It can refer to multiple things, such as having sex, oral sex, making out, sexual touching, and just kissing. Students are aware of the ambiguity of this term, and it is clear that different people use the term differently. Because of this, saying that you have “hooked up” with someone begs follow up questions to clarify exactly how far the hookup went.

This is the problem with the term “hooking up”. The obscurity leaves room for people to make assumptions and form ideas of what happened when they really cannot be sure unless follow up questions are asked. Because of this obscurity, it is easy for people to blur the lines of hooking up, embellish stories, and downright make up stories of what happened during a hookup. The issue with this term is not what constitutes as a hookup, because clearly, the definition will shift based on the person that is asked and the situation, but it is the uncertainty that follows the term because of the ambiguity of the term itself. A person saying that they hooked up with someone is normal, and expected of college students; however,  problems can begin to arise when others make assertions about someone else’s hookup.

In class when asked to define hooking up, most everyone had different answers, similar to Bogle’s interviews, yet some were the same. The definitions really do vary based on a student’s age, friend group, environment, social scene, upbringing, etc; agents of sexual socialization could also play into this. The definitions also shifted between males and females. From these discussions, it has become evident that the “bases” metaphor to hooking up no longer stands and has shifted, and that there is a disparity between what these terms and ideas mean whether you are a man or a woman. It seems as if the bases are beginning to go further than they have previously. What is now “first base (making out accompanied with sexual touching” is what used to be second, and what is now “second base (oral sex)” used to be third. Some might even argue that oral sex comes with first base, but not necessarily both male and female oral sex; oral sex performed on males is now expected to happen prior to oral sex performed on females in heterosexual relationships.

Relating all of the assertions made in Bogle’s book, formed and class and made by me, myself, proved to be very interesting when relating them to the social groups I am involved on here on Vanderbilt’s campus as well as other college campuses across the country. Once again, the definition of hooking up varies based on the person. In my friend group here, hooking up seems to mean having sex to the more sexually experienced girls, whereas to the less sexually experienced girls, it could mean kissing, making out, or possibly oral sex. To those who are more sexually experienced and hooking up means sex, they would say they just made out if that is all that happened rather than saying they “hooked up.” This is very normal here on Vanderbilt’s campus, but compared to other schools, there are disparities on the hookup scene and definition of hooking up. My three best friends go to Arizona State University, University of Kansas, and University of Portland. At Arizona State, my friend said that the hookup scene is so prevalent that hooking up, regardless of who the person is, almost means sex. The same goes for at Kansas, yet not quite to the same level ASU. However, at Portland, the scripts are much like here at Vanderbilt.

Why do think that the hookup scenes vary from campus to campus? Why is Vanderbilt’s so unique? Does region and prestige play in a role in this? How influential are the agents of sexual socialization in someone’s definition of hooking up?

 

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