Weekend before last, the Times Magazine published one of those heavy-breathing, “We’ve got trouble right here in River City” sorts of articles about Ivy League hook-up culture, which maintained that today’s coeds at elite universities are too busy with grade-grubbing for serious relationships and are therefore settling for brief, meaningless encounters.
All this didn’t really ring true to me, so I was not surprised to find some skeptical pushback in Time from recent Yale graduate Eliana Docktermann.
Iâ€™m straight, white, female, and just graduated from an Ivy League school, so these trend pieces are supposedly about me. But they donâ€™t ring true, and after a year of reading them, I am exhausted by the mediaâ€™s obsession with the â€œhookup culture.â€ Why, besides the obvious reasons, is this topic so irresistible? Dr. Lisa Wade, an associate professor of sociology at Occidental College who has done extensive research on the subject, explains, â€œThe media is talking about it because we love moral panic.â€
As it turns out, thereâ€™s not all that much to panic about. If you look at the data, this Ivy League â€œhookup cultureâ€ exists for only a tiny percentage of college kids. Whatâ€™s more, the sex lives of most of todayâ€™s college students may not be all that different from those of their parents or grandparents at the same age.
So letâ€™s look at the … biggest misconceptions about college kids and sex:
1. College students are having random hookups rather than meaningful relationships.
Well, it depends on how you define a hookup, but in general rampant casual sex is not the norm, despite what the media is saying. …
[A]ccording to the survey quoted in that same Times article, 20% of female students and 25% of male students have â€œhooked upâ€ with 10 or more people. That sounds like a lot. But waitâ€”10 or more people over the course of four years in college? Thatâ€™s only two to three partners per year. Moreover, the definition of â€œhookupâ€ spanned from kissing to intercourse. Of those women and men who had hooked up with 10 or more people, only 40% of those instances were sex.
Crunching the numbers, that means that only 8% of college women who responded to this survey had sex with 10 or more men who they were not dating over the course of four years. …
Most Ivy League girls too busy and ambitious for relationships.
[T]he demands of the modern world have left women at these elite institutions with no time for boyfriends, so they are opting out of relationships and into hookups.
Raisa Bruner …, who graduated from Yale with me in May, was dissatisfied with the conclusions of [an Atlantic] piece and decided to find out if Yalies were really dismissing relationships for hookups. She wrote in the Yale Daily News:
In a survey I conducted of over 100 Yale students, almost all of the single respondents, ambition be damned, said they were currently seeking a relationship involving dating, commitment or, at the very least, monogamous sex.
I know a number of very successful womenâ€”women who are now students at top med schools, analysts at the State Department and Rhodes scholarsâ€”who found the time while at Yale to maintain serious relationships with equally-as-busy boys (or girls). I know many other women who left Yale wishing they had had a relationship in college.
And while I canâ€™t say that the sex lives of Yalies represents all college students or even those in the Ivy League, the data from the school about sex is a good reality check. In 2010, the Yale Daily News conducted a sex survey on campus and found that only 64.3% of students had had sexual intercourse over the course of their Yale career. The median Yale student had had only two sexual partners by the time he or she graduated. Promiscuity is not the norm. Not even for men (whom we never hear from in these articles for some reason). 30.5% of Yale men had never had intercourse. Plenty of students are forgoing sex entirely, limiting their sexual partners or engaging in exclusive relationships.
Read the whole thing.