Hook Ups: A Pervasive Force on College Campuses

Thrill seeking, sexual gratification, and intense infatuation are all reasons college students engage in hookup culture as Kathleen Bogle describes in Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationship On Campus (2008), the culmination of years of research done on two college campuses that includes studies of sexual double standards, gender norms, and how relationships and sex have changed overtime. Bogle chronologically presents the evolution of hookup culture, from its roots in dating and calling to its present widespread cultural norm. Through interviews with seventy-six people (fifty-one undergraduates and twenty-five alumni), Bogle questions how these students understand this culture, how they participate, their interaction with the opposite and same sex, as well as fall into the structural roles that this sexual culture makes available.

In Hooking Up, Bogle addresses the chronology of hookup culture and how it has changed over time. Yet, she lacks a central argument. The interviews and reasoning based on opinions that she hears are not brought forth in a constructed viewpoint; rather the argument is left for the reader to construct. However, Bogle’s work does present a couple major conclusions. First, hookup culture and its script are less gendered, as both men and women have the ability to access these sexual interactions. Second, even with different powers in this system, there are still double standards between men and women that negatively affect the success and experiences of college women. Third, hookup culture supports those in the majority in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. Heterosexual white men, especially those involved in Greek life, tend to maintain dominance in this world of hook ups, while heterosexual women, gays, lesbians, minorities, and others are subverted and forced to find other methods of socialization. This book carries importance in understanding how hookup culture has evolved and changes within itself; the culture is very fluid and influential, but there are not many mainstream works that compile some brutally honest, eye-opening, and comprehensive discourse on this aspect of college like Kathleen Bogle has. Hooking Up provides many examples on the emotional, institutional, and systematic ways in which men have successfully taken full advantage of this hookup culture, while in the process of participation, have been able to maintain a higher status and control than women could ever hope to have.

Dr. Kathleen Bogle, author of Hooking Up, is an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from St. Joseph’s University and her Ph.D. from the University of Delaware. Hooking Up is her first book, but she has also published an article titled “The Shift from dating to hooking up in college: What scholars have missed” and a paper titled “Exploring the Connection between Pornography and Sexual Violence.” To this conversation of youth hookup culture, Dr. Bogle’s publications rightfully place her in the middle of the conversation; more than a few times in Hooking Up, she speaks to her work as being one of its kind as many previous scholars have failed to study this subject in the same way.

To compile her research, Boyle conducted qualitative data collection from 2001-2006 through interviews with thirty-three college women, eighteen college men, sixteen male alumni, and nine female alumni (Bogle 187-188). To find these interviewees, she asked professors at an unnamed religious college and a state university to find volunteers for her study. She used vague solicitations to these students so that a larger group of people would be interested in being a part of the study instead of a small group deciding to participate based on very specific characteristics (187-188) Her interviews were recorded and transcribed, lasting between one hour and ninety minutes (187-188). In this interview process, Bogle used a relaxed, conversational way of interviewing as a way to gain as much knowledge as possible from the participant, as the likelihood remains that they would reveal more of their opinions if they were comfortable.

In Bogle’s work, she gives chronological background to dating and hookup culture, interspersing quotes and conversation from interviews as they fit into this discourse. In the second half of her work, she includes more interviews as she tries to reveal more intrinsic and subconscious aspects of the culture. Beginning with a definition of a hookup, Bogle cites a national study of college women’s sexual behaviors that states that a hookup occurs when a girl and a guy get together for a physical encounter and don’t necessarily expect anything further (2). She proceeds to describe to question the change from adolescence to college life to life as an adult as denoting different norms of what sex and romantic culture should look like. She describes different sexual scripts that culture participants use in their different encounters overtime; in the early 1900s, the practice of calling, where young men call young women in the hope of getting invited to the woman’s home to meet their family, was well-practiced, but as time persisted, the concept of the date came around, as dating was more individual and less focused on the family (7, 12, 14).

The gender imbalance of power in the hookup culture arguably began as men went off to war in the 1940s. There were a lot fewer men available and after they returned from overseas, the popularized concept of domestic life took hold for a few decades (17). Men were the ones who held the jobs, made money, paid for dates, and made decisions regarding where they and their significant other were going and doing. In addition to the post-World War II culture change, the 1960s were a defining decade in terms of liberation and feminist movements, group socialization, and party culture. Feminist movements encouraged women to be free as sexual beings and to value the expression of personal choice (21-22). This support of free expression was only furthered by the increased availability of the birth control pill (21). Both men and women were encouraged to start sexual interactions, taking away the role traditionally served by the male. Sexuality became more public, accepted, and supported; this openness can be considered a catalyst for the rise and continued popularity of hookup culture.

After describing the evolution of this culture, Bogle transcribes many interviews that ask students how hooking up occurs, stereotypes and sexualization of the other gender, factors that play into the hookup, and the gender roles that come into effect in a hookup. Bogle finds that women can remain under the impression that they must not be as sexually active in a first hookup with a male so as to be sure that the male does not think less of them because they are perceived as being aggressively sexual (38). This is only one of the many places in which Bogle points to the unfair conceptions of this culture that males and females undertake.
Later, Bogle speaks more to the logistics of hooking up on a college campus. As women tend to be enrolled in college at a greater ratio than men (80 men to 100 women), this presents another structural constraint to the already marginalized female (19). There remains very little incentive for men to settle into one relationship; instead, it has become normalized that males can have sexual interactions with more women than is acceptable for women to have with men (55). In these situations, alcohol is a resource that makes initiating sexual contact a much easier feat, as it sets a tone of relaxation (63).

After an exploration of campus culture and the logistics of a hook up, Bogle summarizes different arguments and opinions regarding the double standards that persist for men and women. Using Doris Day and Sandra Dee as examples of the squeaky clean, virginlike image of a woman, she divides undergraduate sexual desires as women looking more for relationships and men enjoying the status quo of the hookup culture (96, 97). Men garner little to no stigma for their sexual exploits, even if they are called a man-whore or slut, it tends to be perceived as a joke; for women, it is very easy to be labeled as a slut (103-104). Bogle describes this process of labeling as being one that alters one’s sense of self and leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy that subverts and harms, even if it was not their own construction (113).

Many of the factors that affect hooking up disappear after college as individuals tend to become more isolated and have less factors and comparisons to create between them and their peers. Alcohol remains central to adult socializing, but hooking up with strangers in unfamiliar places is a logistic factor that presents itself in this adult world (130, 133). Though these adults are older than their college days, there remain sentiments of a game, arguably inspired by the college hookup culture, including being more respectful, polite, and caring to women, as the circumstances expect formality as well as seriousness (137). Speaking to adult relationships, one male interviewee indicates that the less a girl does sexually the better (150). Though one’s environment has changed from the college campus to the working adult environment, this process of othering and subverting the woman, even as an adult, seems to have persisted.

One of Bogle’s strengths in her book and research is that she offers very clear examples of the gender hierarchy and the beliefs, concepts, and areas of influence that gender comes into effect. Bogle will question the men she interviews when they tell her their opinions on what women should do in their role in hookup culture and she turns the question to them, asking why he should not adhere to the same expectations.

A very obvious weakness is Bogle’s research is the lack of minority acknowledgment inside this college culture. At the schools she surveyed, there was a predominantly white student body, but there was a significant amount of minority (racial, sexual, etc.) representation. In the few thoughts she contributed to the discussion of minority students, she generalizes opinions heard from interviewees and says that many minority students are not interested in sexual encounters with white students and vice versa (68). Though she does speak to the lack of queer-positive cultures and spaces on college campuses, she marginalizes the already less supported minority groups by putting them all in the categories of inner-socialization and tied to friends from home (68-69).

In my opinion, Bogle’s Hooking Up does offer a more contemporary and knowledgeable analysis of the hookup culture that has become normalized since its evolution from the era of calling and dating. Personally, I thought the shear amount of interviews she had with clear demonstrations of male privilege and the subversion of women were very valuable to her overarching arguments. One can talk about the sexual double standard, but until those opinions are truly expressed with valid examples, there will be no acknowledgment of a need for change. Bogle’s research does well in identifying the amount of sexualization, stereotypes, and preconceptions play into the game of hooking up. Though Bogle has recognized that this work is not intended to speak to all of college students, as well as in any large way to minorities, it would be good for further research to expand on Bogle’s to include sexual, ethnic, and racial minority hook up culture, so as to offer some deeper insight in the possible different spectrums of college youth culture. Audiences that enjoy this work would include college students, as a way to reflect on one’s role in the culture that may or may not be present around them, as well as adults, administrators, and other outsiders that would like to learn more about the sexual culture perpetuated on college campuses.


BookReview (Full paper attached w/ footnotes included)

The Prevalence of Double Standards: Representations in Comedic Manners with Serious Undertones

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In the Netflix Original Series Master of None, Aziz Ansari, a comedian famous for his stand-up and other television roles, plays Dev, a thirty year-old Indian-American actor trying to get by in New York City. Created by Alan Yang and Ansari, this show covers many aspects of Dev’s life including episodes on parents, childbearing, social culture, ethnicity, and gender. In episode seven of the series, titled “Ladies and Gentlemen,” Dev, his girlfriend Rachel, and a woman working on the same garden supply commercial as him all interact with the constrictions of gender in their respective lives. In this paper, I will show speak about three different scenes: one with a man trying to pick up a woman at a bar, a scene split between shots of what men and women go through walking home at night, and a scene where Dev’s girlfriend and friend talk him through experiences that affect men and men differently. Through scenes depicting gender roles and restrictions blatantly or subconsciously, they show how gender is such an omnipresent and powerful force in everyday culture.

The first scene of the episode begins at a busy bar. Here the audience is shown an interaction between a man going up to a woman (Dev’s friend from the garden commercial) at the bar counter. He tells her that he has two tequila shots for them. She rejects him and he persists by responding aggressively that he will have to throw out both of the shots. In the end, he drinks both shots of tequila and lurks to see if maybe there would be a chance for them to be friends. She shrugs him off and walks away. In Barbara J. Risman’s Gender as Structure, she speaks to the social structure of gender as being “the context of daily life [that] creates action indirectly by shaping actors’ perceptions of their interests and directly by constraining choice” (Risman 128). In this scene, the woman consistently pushes the man away from her, dropping hints that she does not desire having any further interaction with him. His persistent actions can be attributed to the fact that he, as a male, is comfortable with being able to push for his own desires without much hesitation. Even after he takes both tequila shots, he does not respect the fact that she has said no. In examining this situation in terms of power structure, it is clear that the male aggressor believes in his power to enthrall and entertain this woman, even though what unfolds proves that theory wrong. This scene is only one of the ways in which Master of None shows how men and women act and respond in different ways, whether it be through socialization and stereotypes, and how these learned and practiced customs translate into their interactions with the other binary sex. Her interaction with this aggressive man at the bar is not presented in as much of a serious vain as it would be in a drama or a mystery series and because of this, the message that comes across to the viewer is that of ridicule and lack of pity for the man in this situation, which goes against the normative behavior of having the audience sympathize with the male who tends to be the protagonist. This is not to take away from the seriousness of the interaction, but her reaction, mixed with disgust as well as empowered confidence, characterizes the situation with a bit of comedy and a bit of seriousness.

Another scene in this episode that deals with the differences in experience that men and women face is the switching back and forth between shots of Dev and his friend Arnold walking home and shots of Dev’s friend from the garden commercial walking home alone. Looking first at the demeanor of the scene, Dev and Arnold talk about the weather over light-hearted background music while the woman walks alone through dark streets with haunting music in the background. She pulls out her phone and, even without any blatant threat to her person, dials 9-1 just in case she will have dial the last 1 to call the police. As they walk, Dev and Arnold meander through parks and take their time through the dark night. On the other hand, the woman darts home as fast as she can, but, much to her chagrin, the man that offered her tequila at the bar is following her home. He is obviously drunk, but even as she picks up her pace, he gets into her apartment building and bangs on her door saying “Let a nice guy win for once” (Shelton). This active stalking situation really demonstrates the norm of aggressive and empowered masculinity where even with the amount of rejection that this man has received from her, he pushes her beyond the point of comfort and reprimands her for not giving him a chance to form some kind of sexual relation between them. After both of these scenes unfold side by side, Dev meets up with this woman the next day on the set of the commercial and he asks her how her night was. The opening credits interrupt her story and with that, all of the events of her treacherous night after leaving the bar remain unshared with Dev. The intended purpose of these scenes is to show the blatant differences between the experiences of both men and women in a general context. Women have to be vigilant and watch out for themselves, while men do not have to face the same struggles in any relatable way. One of Dev’s friends, Denise, speaks to this situation with a more general viewpoint in that “if you’re born with a vagina, everybody knows creepy dudes are part of the deal” (Shelton). This is definitely an exaggeration in some way, but by looking at this situation in a more broader lens, one can make the observation that generally women do have to watch over for and take care of themselves more than men need to in terms of their person and the external factors that they face. In Luisa Capetillo’s “Mi opinión sobre las libertades,” she speaks to how a “woman educated in what concerns her sex…has to know how to defend herself” (Capetillo 24). As a woman, Dev’s friend is impelled to learn to protect herself and stand her ground. This scene does insinuate some humorous dialogue in the sense that the circumstances and experiences of these men and women are so starkly different from each other to the point of being ridiculous. Like the scene in the bar, this scene has comedic elements present, but in its blatant portrayal of these inescapable norms, show how seriously concerning these normative and stereotypical behaviors can be.

With Master of None, a significant aspect of the way these characters conduct themselves is through a sense of where their roles, as influenced by sex and gender, stand within time. Through subtle and obvious situations, many conceptions of blatant sexuality are highlighted negatively, which is very different from the normal and stereotypical boy chases girl scenario. In that common plot, the man goes after the girl, but it tends to be portrayed in an endearing light, rather than verging on the category of a stalker. The woman’s interactions with the man at the bar can be viewed within the context of how culturally accepted beliefs and differences between men and women have been up to this point in time. As Sharon Marcus speaks to “Between women: Friendship, desire, and marriage in Victorian England,” many perceptions of women have defined them “in terms of male standards, desires, and power,” and the casual demonstrations of power by the woman in Master of None, in response to her aggressor, shows that even as he remains a threat to her, she knows how to avoid trouble, be successful, and keep herself safe (Marcus 9). As this is a comedy television series, she also does maintain some casual humor throughout her disacknowledgement, self-defense and unwillingness to give into this man’s assertions and pleas.

Through this episode of Master of None, the argument that men and women do differ in their common experiences as well as think about situations with different mindsets is put forward within the context of a humorous yet serious dialogue. Women and men become socialized into certain gender norms very easily, as they are constantly interacting with the culture around them and all of its implications. Towards the end of the episode, Dev’s girlfriend, Rachel, confronts him in his dismissal of her experiences at a restaurant regarding comments another man said to her. She tells him that what she does not want to hear is someone telling her that her experience is wrong. This episode, through satire and humor, shows how blatant and influential certain gender roles and expectations are in our everyday life and how there are underlying factors that each gender carries with them, burden or not.


Capetillo, Luisa. Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Library Heritage Series: Nation of Woman: An Early Feminist Speaks Out: Mi Opinion: Sobre Las Libertades, Derechos y Deberes de la Mujer. Houston, TX, USA: Arte Público Press, 2004. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 28 January 2016.

“Ladies and Gentlemen.” Master of None. Writ. Andrew Peters. Dir. Lynn Shelton. Netflix, 2015. Web. http://www.netflix.com/search/master%20of%20none

Marcus, Sharon. Between women: Friendship, desire, and marriage in Victorian England. Princeton University Press, 2009.

Risman, Barbara. “Gender as structure.” Gender Vertigo: American Families in Transition (1998): 127-132.