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A hookup culture is one that accepts and encourages casual sex encounters, including one-night stands and other related activity, without necessarily including emotional bonding or long-term commitment.
Adolescents and emerging adults engage in hookups for a variety of reasons, which may range from instant physical gratification, to fulfillment of emotional needs, to using it as a means of finding a long-term romantic partner.
Lisa Wade, a sociologist, documents that 19th-century white fraternity men often had what would be called hookup sex with prostitutes, poor women, and the women they had enslaved.
Technological advancements such as the automobile and movie theaters brought young couples out of their parents' homes, and out from their watchful eyes, giving them more freedom and more opportunity to engage in casual sexual activity.
Many female college students explained how the "frat boy" perfectly embodies the persona of a sex driven male.
Students often feel that hookups are the only option and that their peers do not date, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as fewer students date because they believe their classmates do not believe in dating.
A little over 31% reported to having at least one sexual partner per year, and about 50% said that they have had more than two sexual partners since the age of 18.
Self-esteem is also an indicator: men with high self-esteem and women with low self-esteem are more likely to have multiple sexual partners, but hookups are less likely among both genders when they have high self-esteem.
Historians D'Emilio and Freedman put the beginning of casual sex, including college hookups, further back in history, to the early 1800s, and explain the phenomenon as shaped by historical and cultural forces.
They give as examples planter class white men who had casual sex with enslaved African American women, and white male college students who had casual sex with both white and black women.
Jennifer Aubrey and Siobhan Smith have found that between genders there are minimal differences when it comes to behavior and frequency in hookups; on the other hand, women still face a harder social stigma, because their social status decreases with increased sexual partners, while men's social status increases with more sexual partners. Currier, she explores how the phrase "hooking up" conveys different meanings depending on whether a man or woman uses it when describing their sexual encounters; furthermore, Currier notes that men use "hooking up" to emphasize their masculinity and heterosexuality whereas women use the phrase to preserve their femininity by being strategically ambiguous in order to downplay their sexual desires.
Studies have shown that most high school girls are more interested in a relationship compared to high school boys, who are mostly interested in sex.
Freitas' study has found that students on these campuses generally feel that the decision about whether or not to be in a relationship is out of their control and that "hookup culture dictated for them that there would be no dating and that they simply had to endure this reality." Oftentimes, men and women seem to not be on the "same page." According to Bogle, many males believed that females often invested themselves or had an ulterior motive for pursuing a hookup like situation.