In an alcohol-fueled hook-up culture, exacerbated by the media and our peers, where do we draw the line?
Kathleen A. Bogle, a sociology and criminal justice professor at La Salle University, posed this question to University of Richmond students and professors Monday night.
In front of a packed Jepson Hall auditorium, Bogle discussed what the term "hooking up" meant, how it had replaced traditional dating and how it was inextricably linked to alcohol and sexual assault.
Bogle conducted qualitative interviews with 51 college students and 25 young alumni students. Most of the students were white, heterosexual and from two different universities -- a small, Catholic university and a large, state university. Officials at both universities chose to keep the schools anonymous.
Hooking up is an ambiguous term that has various connotations and could mean anything from kissing to sexual intercourse, she said.
"I interviewed loads of people who said they have no idea what 'hooking up' even means because there are so many variations of the term," Bogle said.
Hooking up is a confusing and vague term, and engaging in it does not guarantee a steady, committed relationship. College students have adopted this term, and their lifestyles have shifted toward a "hook-up" culture, reversing many aspects of American culture, Bogle said.
"Hooking up has replaced traditional dating as the dominant sexual script on college campuses for beginning sexual and romantic relationships," Bogle said.
Bogle's data also suggests that many students believe dating is not a part of their culture, but rather a part of their parents' generation's culture.
"Dating is dead," sophomore Melanie Watkins said.
Two female Richmond students, who were interviewed after the program and wished to remain anonymous, said they had never been asked on a date. But a few of their friends had been asked on dates before, they said.
There are many possible outcomes of a hook-up, ranging from nothing at all to forming an exclusive and meaningful relationship, Bogle said.
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"In my study, most students believe that the outcome of a random hook-up will amount to nothing," she said.
Generally, one or both parties involved in a hook-up consume alcohol, Bogle said. An alcohol-prevalent college environment plays a substantial role on how men and women get together, she said.
"Alcohol culture and dating culture have collided to form a hook-up culture," Bogle said.
If alcohol had not been a factor, hook-ups would not happen nearly as often, most of Bogle's interviewees said.
If the person is vomiting, disoriented, slurring speech, or having difficulty walking, it is clear that the person is too drunk to consent to sexual activities, Bogle said.
"Women don't usually wait for a male to pass-out in an alcohol-induced blackout, lock the door and think 'gotcha,'" Bogle said.
This is because most women find it revolting to have sex with someone who's incoherent, she said.
Bogle tried to explain why college students drank so much.
"There's this general idea where college students think they are supposed to be drinking and engaging in this hook-up culture," Bogle said.
College students have several distorted perceptions that considerably influence their actions, Bogle said.
She then discussed two distorted perceptions: first, virginity is uncommon and second, everyone is hooking up.
"People think virginity is rare," Bogle said. "Men, especially, do not think other men are virgins."
A national study conducted in 2001 found that 25 percent of college men and women were virgins, Bogle said. These societal standards about sex often do not match what researchers find in major studies, she said.
Embellishment and inflation are underlying problems that significantly distort what students are actually doing on campus, Bogle said. The universal problem is that students drastically overestimate how often and with how many people they hook up, she said.
"Students believe extreme behavior is typical," Bogle said. "This affects their judgment, which affects their own behavior and their judgments of other people."
The media fuels these warped perceptions with films and television shows such as "Animal House," "Girls Gone Wild," and "MTV Spring Break," Bogle said. The media glamorizes and advocates college partying, which misrepresents the reality of college life.
"Only 28 percent of students have hooked up with more than 10 people by the end of their senior year of college," Bogle said.
Students are persuaded by the media and their peers to believe they have to be wild, drink heavily and have scores of hook-ups to truly be a college student, Bogle said.
Contact staff writer Fred Shaia at firstname.lastname@example.org
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