Freshmen opt for romantic relationships rather than hookups

SF State
Maria Duong, right, a second-year student, sits on Matthew McGrath's lap, left, a third-year student, in the Cesar Chavez Student Center Monday Nov 26, 2012. They flirt, giggle and look at one another when asked if they're in a relationship. Duong says "it's complicated," and they both laugh. Photo by Deborah Svoboda / Xpress

A recently published study has revealed that hookups – noncommittal sexual forays – might not be as prevalent in a woman’s first year of college as is commonly thought.

The Miriam Hospital’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine study was published in the “Journal of Adolescent Health,” “Are Hookups Replacing Romantic Relationships? A Longitudinal Study of First-Year Female College Students,” discovered that more first-year female college students are having sex in the context of a relationship rather than hooking up.

Out of the 483 female students ages 18-21 surveyed, 56 percent had oral and/or vaginal sex with a boyfriend or romantic partner during their first year of college, while one-third of the women surveyed had engaged in at least one hookup.

“Hooking up is one way that young adults explore intimate relationships, but it’s not the most common way, and it is often exploratory,” Robyn L. Fielder, a research intern at Miriam Hospital’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, said in a press release. “So while hooking up gets more attention in the media, college students continue to develop romantic relationships, which are actually the most common context for sexual behavior.”

In the 2006-10 National Survey of Family Growth, 70 percent of females and 56 percent of males said their first time having sex was in a steady relationship. On the other hand, 16 percent of females and 28 percent of males say their first time was with someone that they weren’t in a relationship with.

Kristin Perez, a freshman computer science major, believes that the results of the study mirror the experiences of her female freshman peers at SF State.

“My friends (at SF State) go far, but they hold off on sex until they’re in a relationship for a while,” Perez said. “But it isn’t uncommon for my peers to hook up with people while drunk.”

Some students think the results from the study may not be an accurate portrayal of the relationship sexual activity to hookup sexual activity ratio at SF State. Brianna Williams, a certified peer sexual health educator and part of Peer Educators Advocating Campus Health, believes that the results vary from college to college.

“SF State is a different type of school in (a) cosmopolitan area where many people are commuters,” Williams said. “The results would vary depending on where you would conduct the study. Social attitudes toward sex vary from campus to campus.”

Focusing on sexual activity among women during their first year of college and the summer following, the average number of hookups per month ranged from one to three. Of the women surveyed, one in five hooked up with others regularly.

The findings of the study do not surprise Ivy Chen, an SF State lecturer in the human sexualities department who teaches the sex and relationships class. Chen believes that the results of the study reflect female college students who are having sex for the first time.

“Many people feel that sex, especially for the first time, is a special experience to be shared with a trusted familiar partner,” Chen said. “Many people remember their ‘first time’ and having sex with someone with whom they are comfortable goes a long way to make the sex a positive experience.”

Chen believes that whatever sexual ventures students choose to involve themselves in, those experiences should be safe and consensual.

“I tell my students in my sexuality courses that I only want them to have good sex and that includes sex that is consensual, pleasurable, safe, comfortable and often while sober,” Chen said.