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'Hookup' culture on college campuses not all that new

Updated: Aug 13, 2013 03:05 PM
© iStockphoto.com / Quavondo Nguyen © iStockphoto.com / Quavondo Nguyen

TUESDAY, Aug. 13 (HealthDay News) -- College students today are not having more sex than they were two decades ago, according to new research that challenges the perception of a campus "hookup culture," in which students regularly have sex with no strings attached.

The study involved more than 1,800 students who graduated from high school and completed at least one year of college. Co-authors Martin Monto, a sociology professor at the University of Portland, and Anna Carey, a recent graduate, compared survey responses compiled between 1988 and 1996 to responses collected between 2002 and 2010.

"We found that college students from the contemporary or 'hookup era' did not report having more frequent sex or more sexual partners during the past year or more sexual partners since turning 18 than undergraduates from the earlier era," Monto said in American Sociological Association news release.

Instead, 65 percent of students surveyed in the late '80s and early '90s said they had sex at least once a week in the past year, compared with 59 percent of students surveyed between 2002 and 2010.

Moreover, 31.9 percent of the earlier group surveyed said they had more than one sexual partner within the past year, compared with 31.6 percent of students from the so-called hookup era. Similarly, 51.7 percent of the earlier group said they had more than two sexual partners since turning 18, compared with 50.5 percent of the students surveyed between 2002 and 2010.

All of the students involved in the study held similar views on adultery, premarital sex and sex between young people aged 14 to 16, the researchers found.

The study did reveal some differences between study eras. One was that contemporary students were more accepting of adults having homosexual sex. Students surveyed between 2002 and 2010 also were more likely to report having had sex with a casual date or a friend. These students were less likely to have a spouse or regular sexual partner than the students surveyed between 1988 and 1996.

The fact that more people are waiting until they are older to get married could have played a role in their results, the authors said, making it less likely that young people will hold off on having sex until they are married.

The new findings are expected to be presented this week at the American Sociological Association's annual meeting in New York City. The data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about college health and safety issues.

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