If you believe that everyone is hooking up instead of pairing up these days, you’re in for a pleasant surprise: A June 2014 study from The Journal of Sex Research shows that 80 percent of people aged 18 to 25 are only having sex within the confines of a committed relationship.
What’s more, the study researchers found that when comparing the sexual habits of young people living in today’s so-called “pervasive sexual hookup culture” to young adults from two decades ago, young people today “did not report more total sexual partners, more partners during the past year or more frequent sex than respondents from 1988 to 1996.” It’s time to shake up everything you believe about hooking up.
Everyone is not hooking up.
Turns out, not everyone is out on the town in search of a casual fling. “Young people tend to overestimate who’s having sex in hookups and how often,” says blogger and hookup culture expert Susan Walsh, founder of HookingUpSmart.com. “For example, when college students are asked, ‘What percentage of students here do you think had sex last weekend?’ they generally estimate 75 to 80 percent. In reality, the number is something like 5 to 10 percent.” Walsh says that while hooking up seems like the “prevailing script” young people generally follow, their actual behavior is more conservative in reality.
Dating isn’t dead.
Don’t fret if you’re a traditional romantic—hooking up has not replaced dating. Dating definitely exists, but it looks different depending on the context. “In college, dating is not the same as it is in the mid-20s, where you are inviting someone out on a formal date,” says Helen Fisher, Ph.D., chief scientific advisor at Match.com. “In college, you are not ‘dating.’ You are hooking up—you are getting together at a bar for drinks. You really don’t have to date.” Nor do many college kids have the money to do so.
Fisher says that when men and women graduate and are forced to seek out partners beyond the college campus, which was loaded with opportunities to meet someone on a near daily basis, they tend to turn toward traditional dating. So if you’re hoping for the latter, check out the mid-20s-and-above age group.
Men don’t just think about sex.
This is a classic complaint—and yet it’s far from accurate. “This is the American myth,” says Fisher. Sure, sex is certainly on the male brain, but it’s on women’s minds as well—and sex isn’t the only thing guys think about. Men want to fall in love, just as women do, and they fall hard, too. “I think men are just as romantic as women,” says Fisher. “They fall in love faster.” In fact, a 2011 Match.com survey found that 54 percent of men said they’ve experienced love at first sight, compared to 44 percent of women. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the guy you’re dating or hooking up with will fall for you. If you’d like to take things to the next level, but you’re not feeling the love from a certain guy, he’s probably not the right one for you.
You’re not the only one not getting any.
Surprise, surprise—not everyone is rushing to dive between the sheets. A 2011 report by the National Center for Health Statistics found that among people ages 20-24, 12 percent of women and 14 percent of men said they were virgins. And in the same survey, the majority—nearly 60 percent—of women ages 20-24 reported having sex with just one partner in the past year.
Hookups can—and do!—lead to relationships.
Hookups and commitment aren’t as independent as you might think. According to Match.com’s 2014 “Singles in America” study, 33 percent of single people polled had a one-night stand turn into an exclusive partnership, and there are more friends-with-benefits arrangements that have become long-term relationships than ever before—from 20 percent in 2011 to 44 percent in 2012. “I think we evolved three different brain systems for love: sex drive, feelings of intense romantic love and feelings of deep attachment,” says Fisher. “Any one can trigger any of the others.” Fisher says lots of young men and women engaging in a hookup are actually hoping it will “push the other person over the edge” into love. “Casual sex is never casual,” says Fisher.