Note: this was originally published on Kinsey Confidential.
The Sexual Revolution of the 1960s, aided by women’s and gay liberation movements, have made for greater acceptance of casual sex, or “hooking up”, on campuses. While many celebrate the freedom to hookup, others are expressing concern for safety and health.
What Is Hooking-Up?
Hooking up has emerged as a new trend on college campuses across the United States, and some say it appears among high school students as well. Today, we see young adults getting together to have sex outside of the context of dating and marriage. For some, this is simply a one-time thing soon after meeting, while for others it can be a regularly occurring encounter with the same partner (sometimes called “friends with benefits”). Though we know about how common hooking up is today from research by scholars like Paula England and Kathleen Bogle, we see that there is no universal definition of “hooking up.” Sometimes it simply means oral sex, or mutual masturbation and “heavy petting”, and sometimes it means sexual intercourse. As I’ve noted in an earlier post, we tend to be vague and unclear about the specifics surrounding sexual activity in general, so it comes as no surprise that there is no clear, universal definition of hooking up.
So, Why Should There Be Any Concern?
What concerns could we expect aside from the obvious concern about hooking up from groups who would rather adults wait until marriage to have sex? (This assumes that everyone will get married and can get married.) Unfortunately, England has found a significant orgasm gap in her research on hooking up experiences of college students, at least in heterosexual hooking up. In almost every case, men can expect to orgasm, but women are often left in the cold. Men are more likely to initiate hook ups, and hook ups often happen after consuming alcohol. These points raise concern for women’s ability to maximize their sexual pleasure, including reaching orgasm, but also in terms of fully consensual sex, as consent is difficult to negotiate if you or your partners are not sober enough to give a fully-informed “yes” or “no” to certain activities.
Proceed, But With Caution
I am not the type of person to suggest avoiding an activity all together because of potential risks involved. Nothing in life is risk-free, even sex within a monogamous, marital relationship! Young adults, well, really all adults, should enjoy their sexualities, but, of course, while being safe. This does not only mean in terms of using contraceptives and other means to reduce one’s exposure to sexually transmitted infections. But, I also mean adults should be safe about their social and emotional selves as well. Be sure to have open communication with your partners about what you like, what you don’t like, and what you’re seeking in the end (or that you don’t yet know!). Make sure you are capable of consenting and receiving consent to engage in certain activities. Hook up all you want, so long as you’re being healthy and safe.