Image via Flickr
A college campus is considered one of the best place to get laid. You might expect that with over 80 percent of incoming freshmen toting smartphones in 2012—and nearly all with computers and Internet access—that no one has to wait their turn for the house landline to make a booty call anymore. Hookups are easier to orchestrate than ever. And with over 80 percent of students removing all or most of their pubic hair, a rate so high that might be eradicating crabs altogether, the sexualization of the college student stands at an all time high. But are they actually having more sex?
Circa 2009, photo courtesy Tyler Oestreich
For what's been termed the "hookup era," by media and popular thought, research from the University of Portland is now suggesting today's college kids aren't hooking up as much as we thought. Martin Monto and Anna Carey looked at data from the General Social Survey which included 1,800 18 to 25-year-olds who had graduated from high school and completed at least one year of college. The researchers compared results from 2002-2010 with 1988-1996, and found that 59.3 percent of college students from today's cohort reported having sex weekly or more often in the past year—while 65.2 percent of their predecessors had reported such frequencies.
Circa 1990s, via Flickr
Wait, so the porn videos on College Rules are just coming out of thin air? And to think, all of this time, I was convinced those were just documentaries of modern dorm life!
While a decline in hookups shouldn't raise too many eyebrows, and the number of multiple partners per cohort are almost neck and neck (31.9 percent had more than one partner with 31.6 percent for contemporary students), the research counters the popular belief that kids on campus are hooking up more than any other generation in history.
That today's generation is "characterized by a new and pervasive hookup culture in which students regularly have sex with no strings attached.
"This implies that the college campus has become a more sexualized environment and that undergraduates are having more sex than in the past," Monto says. "We were surprised to find this is not the case."
Contrary to popular belief, Monto says we're not seeing a "sea change in the sexual behavior of college students," nor "a significant liberalization of attitudes towards sex."
Could it be that our newfangled access to porn is stunting the urges of real-life encounters? Has the hyper-conectivity of the era given today's kids less reason to leave the dorm room? Are separated freshmen couples sexting and Skyping in lieu of getting it on? The research didn't answer these questions, but Monto suggests that marriages are averaging later age are shaping contemporary norms and could have something to do with the sex statistics we expected to be off the charts.
"The idea of waiting until marriage to begin sexual behavior is a less tenable narrative," he explains. "Courtship and relationship practices are changing, and the implications of these changes present a new unique set of challenges, but this study demonstrates that we are not in the midst of a new era of no rules attached sexuality. In fact, we found that, overall, sexual behavior among college students has remained fairly consistent over the past 25 years."
What begs my curiosity now is what the 2010-2018 sample will look like. With the rather recent prevalence of technologies that aim to aid tomorrow's leaders in their seeking of sexual partners, hookups or 'just friends' (OkCupid, Tinder, DateMySchool, Bang With Friends, Hinge, etc.), did the research—cutting off at 2010—possibly miss a swell? We can only wait and see.