Lindsay Beyerstein in Focal Point:
A recent study on college students' preferences for dating vs. hookup is, unaccountably, generating national media attention. The authors found that a bunch of 18-year-old college freshmen in the South embraced traditional gender norms. The study is called “To Hook Up or Date: Which Gender Benefits?” Notice the operative assumptions: That hooking up and dating are mutually exclusive; and that college intimacy is a zero-sum game that pits one gender against the other.
The paper opens with a startling claim, namely that “hooking up has replaced dating” on college campuses. The authors go on to say that college students now report more hookups than first dates. The authors define a hookup as an encounter between strangers or passing acquaintances with no expectation of commitment. The physical component can be anything from kissing to intercourse.
The authors acknowledge that theirs was a “sample of convenience. 221 subjects completed the 20-minute pencil and paper survey. They were all undergraduates, mostly freshmen, at James Madison University, a public school in Virginia. Their average age was 18.72 years. Women subjects outnumbered men by more than 2:1 (presumably because there were more female psych students in need of research participation credit).
If hookup culture killed dating, you wouldn't know it from this sample. Nearly half the subjects said they were in a relationship: 29 had been dating for less than 6 months; 76 had been dating for at least 7 months, and 1 was engaged. Unfortunately, the study doesn't break down relationship status by gender.
Students were asked whether they preferred traditional dating or hooking up in general. They were also asked about their preference for dating vs. hooking up in a variety of specific situations. For example, if they were drinking alcohol with an attractive person, would they prefer to go on a date with them or hook up with them? If they saw a potential for a long-term relationship with someone, would they prefer to date or hook up?