“Hookups”: Characteristics and Correlates of College Students’ Spontaneous and Anonymous Sexual Experiences


“Hookups”: Characteristics and Correlates of College Students’ Spontaneous and Anonymous Sexual Experiences

Elizabeth L. Paul, Brian McManus, and Allison Hayes

The “hookup” is defined as a sexual encounter, usually lasting only one night, between two people who are strangers or brief acquaintances. Such sexual encounters usually “just happen”; alternately, the goal of hooking up is planned but the desired individual is unknown. Additionally, hookups are usually anonymous in that the individuals involved are strangers or only brief acquaintances and rarely continue to build any sort of relationship, let alone see each other again.

This study focuses on the hookup and specifically the college culture in which hookups have become a prominent feature. An important aspect of this topic is the concept of casual sex, which has been loosely defined as sexual intercourse without commitment or emotional involvement (Paul, McManus, & Hayes, 2000). While approaching this study, there are a multitude of variables to consider. Social variables (ex. Alcohol use), individual psychological variables (ex. Dependence, self-esteem), and relational psychological variables (ex. Love style, intimacy issues) were considered as possible predictors of coital or noncoital hookups. Participant gender was also considered with this study.

A random study sample of 555 undergraduate students at a state college was taken to explore this study of the hookup. Over 75% of the participants had experienced at least one hookup; a third of the participants had sexual intercourse with a stranger or brief acquaintance. Alcohol use, self-esteem issues, and love styles were some of the more prevalent variables determined the hookup experience, whether it was coital or noncoital. There was no overall gender difference in the likelihood of having hookup encounters. However, more men reported coital hookup experiences while more women reported noncoital hookups. Between the sexes, there was rarely a difference in social variables, individual psychological variables, or relational psychological variables.

Risk Factors and Consequences of Unwanted Sex Among University Students: Hooking Up, Alcohol, and Stress Response


Risk Factors and Consequences of Unwanted Sex Among University Students: Hooking Up, Alcohol, and Stress Response

William F. Flack, Jr, Kimberly A. Daubman, Marcia L. Caron, Jenica A. Asadorian, Nicole R. D’Aureli, Shannon N. Gigliotti, Anna T. Hall, Sarah Kiser & Erin R. Stine

Among college students, unwanted sexual behavior, including assault and rape, remains an all too common experience. Unwanted sexual behavior is a general concept that includes sexual assault or rape but may also incorporate any behavior involving sexual contact. There are four types of unwanted sexual behavior: vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, oral intercourse, and fondling. Sexual assault among college students is known to occur frequently in the context of romantic or intimate dating. However, “hooking up” (single, casual encounters) with the possibility of sexual intercourse but with no expectation of future commitment, is becoming increasingly prevalent among college students. The consumption of alcohol is believed to be greatly linked to sexual assault as well as hooking up.

A survey-based study (sample of 250 over-18 year-olds) was done to show the relationships between self-reported occurrences of unwanted sexual behavior; the types of social circumstances in which such events occur (hookups, dating, ongoing relationships, parties, bars); the factors that contributed to those encounters (alcohol or other drugs, easier to just go along, happened before could be stopped, verbal and physical pressure, desired at the time, maintain a relationship); and predictors of unwanted sexual behavior, including consistency of hooking up and alcohol use.

Researchers of this study expected three major hypotheses. First, women were expected to report more experiences of unwanted sexual intercourse and unwanted fondling compared to men. Second, the unwanted sexual intercourse would be reported to occur most often in hookups and that individuals who hooked up more often would be more likely to report unwanted intercourse. Third, alcohol will play an important role in the unwanted intercourse/fondling.

Results of the study supported the hypothesis that female students were more often the victims of unwanted intercourse and unwanted fondling. 23% and 37% of women, as compared to only 7% and 18% of men, reported at least one incident of unwanted intercourse and unwanted fondling, respectively. Results of the study also support the hypothesis that hooking up is a risk factor for unwanted sexual intercourse. 78% of unwanted sexual intercourse occurred during a hookup. Not surprisingly, the results showed that alcohol did in fact play a significant role in unwanted sexual behavior. Impaired judgment from intoxication was most frequently appointed as the top three reasons for the occurrence of unwanted intercourse/fondling.



Welcome to Ryan Shimanuki and Lindsay Kido's website. This website was designed to be an educational tool for our project in PSY 352: Psychology of Human Sexuality at University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. We have conducted studies, research and readings on casual sex in college and have created a sexual literacy campaign with our findings. In this blog, we will discuss several topics, including but not limited to: social settings leading to casual sex, frequency and duration of casual sex, and “one night stands” vs. casual encounters leading to relationships. We hope you enjoy the information we have found in our study. Mahalo!