- In their lifetime, about 80% of college students have ever hooked up with someone (Lambert, Kahn, & Apple, 2003; Paul, McManus, & Hayes, 2000).
- In the last year, 76% of single college men and 60% of single college women have hooked up, according to one study. The median number of hookups for men was 3, and the median number of hookups for women was 1 (Owen & Fincham, 2011).
- Fewer people have had a hookup involving oral or penetrative sex. About half of people who have hooked up in their lifetime have had a hookup involving sexual intercourse (Paul et al., 2000). Similarly, about half of people who hooked up in the past year reported having oral/penetrative sex with a hookup partner (Owen & Fincham, 2011).
What the stats mean for people who want to hook up:
Most people in college have hooked up at some point. If you’re waiting for your first hookup to happen, don’t fear! Statistics say that a hookup is probably in your future. In the meantime, know that you’re not the only one who isn’t hooking up right now. People talk about the hookups they had, but not the times they didn’t hook up, which can make it seem like everyone around you is getting some (Holman & Sillars, 2012). But, in reality, even people who have hooked up do it infrequently. And who knows how many unsuccessful attempts at finding a partner there are for every occasion of sexy fun time? Take solace in the fact that, on any given weekend, the majority of single people spend the night alone.
What the stats mean for people who are not interested in hooking up:
The fact that most people in college have hooked up might not be comforting on the face of it. But that statistic alone doesn’t tell you enough. For example, it doesn’t tell you that hooking up is not for everyone. It’s likely that the 20% of college students who have never hooked up are people like you who aren’t interested in casual sexual encounters. Maybe they’re waiting for a romantic relationship. Maybe they aren’t interested in sex at all. Maybe they’re focusing on school or work right now and don’t need the distraction. All of those are valid reasons not to hook up. Whatever your reason for not wanting to hook up is, there are people who share it.
The statistic also doesn’t tell you that not everybody who hooks up enjoys it. Most college students over-estimate how comfortable their peers are with hooking up (Lambert et al., 2003). In reality, people who hook up are ambivalent about it (Holman & Sillars, 2012). Feeling regret is common after a hookup (Campbell, 2008; Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008), especially for people who have negative attitudes about hooking up (Lewis, Granato, Blayney, Lostutter, & Kilmer, 2012). If the idea of hooking up with someone isn’t exciting to you, you’re better off not doing it.
A word of advice for everyone:
Statistics can either be normalizing or alienating, depending on whether or not you’re in the majority. But the stats don’t tell you what is best for you, and they don’t tell you not to worry about what everyone else is doing. Just because it seems like everyone else is hooking up doesn’t mean that they are, or that they’re enjoying it, or that they are better off than you are.
Campbell, A. (2008). The morning after the night before: affective reactions to one-night stands among mated and unmated women and men. Human Nature, 19, 157-173. doi: 10.1007/s12110-008-9036-2
Eshbaugh, E. M., & Gute, G. (2008). Hookups and sexual regret among college women. Journal of Social Psychology, 148, 77-89. doi: 10.3200/SOCP.148.1.77-90
Holman, A., & Sillars, A. (2012). Talk about “hooking up”: The influence of college student social networks on nonrelationship sex. Health Communication, 27, 205-216. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2011.575540
Lambert, T. A., Kahn, A. S., & Apple, K. J. (2003). Pluralistic ignorance and hooking up. Journal of Sex Research, 40, 129-133. doi: 10.1080/00224490309552174
Lewis, M. A., Granato, H., Blayney, J. A., Lostutter, T. W., & Kilmer, J. R. (2012). Predictors of hooking up sexual behaviors and emotional reactions among US college students. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41, 1219-1229. doi: 10.1007/s10508-011-9817-2
Owen, J., & Fincham, F. D. (2011). Young adults' emotional reactions after hooking up encounters. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 321-330. doi: 10.1007/s10508-010-9652-x