The Size Of "Hookup Culture" Is Being Greatly Overestimated, Report Finds, And It's Having Some Damaging Effects
The scale of hookup culture is greatly misrepresented, new research finds — because it turns out, we really aren't great at judging how frequently people are getting down. Making Caring Common's new report The Talk: How Adults Can Promote Young People’s Healthy Relationships and Prevent Misogyny and Sexual Harassment was an in-depth look at young people and romantic and sexual relationships. How much do we know, what are our fears, how can we be better educated — the report sought to get to the bottom of some of the toughest questions. But an interesting side effect was seeing just how much we overestimate the hookup culture, which can have some truly detrimental affects.
The report explains:
Research indicates that a large majority of young people are not hooking up frequently, and our research suggests that about 85 percent of young people prefer other options to hooking up, such as spending time with friends or having sex in a serious relationship. Yet according to our research, teens and adults tend to greatly overestimate the percentage of young people who are hooking up or having casual sex. This overestimation can make many teens and young adults feel embarrassed or ashamed because they believe that they are not adhering to the norms of their peers. It can also pressure them to engage in sex when they are not interested or ready.
Although we talk about 'hookup apps' all the time, even calling them that is pretty misleading. "On the surface, the proliferation of hookup apps might make it seem seem as though romance is dead and all anyone (particularly men) is looking for is sex," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. "But once we scratch the surface it seems that people are not that different today from how they always were... If most people try their best to be loyal and monogamous while in a relationship, why should they be any different just because the relationship was started from an app?"
And the research backed her sentiments. Here's what they found, because it's not all about hooking up:
1. Casually Dating Isn't Very Popular
Sorry, but Tinder just doesn't have us all dating all over the place. The research found that, when it comes to 18- to 25-year-olds, only eight percent said they were casually dating. People were much more likely to be dating seriously, with 67 percent reported dating exclusively, cohabiting, or being married. Meanwhile, 25 percent reported having no relationship — casual or otherwise.
2. We Overestimate How Much Sex People Are Having
If you aren't having sex, but you want to be, it can feel like you're the only one. The report quotes Michael Kimmel in his book, Guyland: “I asked guys all across the country what they think is the percentage of guys on their campus who had sex on any given weekend. The average answer I heard was about 80 percent…The actual percentage on any given weekend is closer to 5 to 10 percent." So basically, especially among young people, it can feel like everyone else is hooking up — while really almost nobody is.
3. Pop Culture Is Partly To Blame
Why do we have this misconception? Why do we so completely overestimate how prevalent random sex is? Well, a huge part of the problem is in pop culture. "A steady stream of stories in the media over the last 15 years have inflated the hookup culture, and images from these stories have been reinforced by pervasive sexualizing in media, entertainment, fashion, and many other aspects of our culture," the report explains. It's scaremongering— not because having random sex is bad (if you want to, it's totally cool!) but because it presents it as scary. And young people are finding it confusing and damaging.
The report is aimed at improving how we communicate to young people about sex and dating — and that's so important. But a lot of us can benefit from knowing the facts. Do what you want, but don't buy into the hype.