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Hooking Up

Being Human

What do you do if you're a young adult in the United States, physiologically ready for reproduction, but not ready for the social and psychological changes that come with settling down? You hook up, of course!

In his work, evolutionary biologist Justin Garcia has explored the increase in sexual hook-ups—casual, uncommitted sexual encounters—among young people, and the cultural changes that accompany this new landscape. Hook-up culture, says Garcia, marks a significant shift in the openness and acceptance of uncommitted sex. Now, between 60 and 80 percent of US college students report having been involved in a hook-up experience.

But how does hooking up affect those who participate in it? Garcia has noted that though both men and women display a higher positive affect than negative after a hook-up, the difference is marked between men and women, with more women reporting feeling regret or embarrassment afterward than men. Both men and women report feeling regret after casual sexual experiences, but women seem to feel more negative impact. Additionally, factors such as an individual's mating intelligence and mental health status affect how they interpret a hook-up situation.

Garcia concludes:

Uncommitted sex, now being explored across a variety of disciplines and theoretical perspectives, is best understood as a biopsychosocial phenomenon. Evidence suggests that both pleasure and reproductive motives may influence these sexual patterns, as seen in participants' reactions following uncommitted sex. Further, the findings that a majority of both men and women are motivated to engage in hookups, but often desire a more romantic relationship, are consistent with a nuanced perspective that takes into account changing social scripts, new patterns of development, and the cross-cultural and biological centrality of the pair-bond.

By definition, sexual hookups provide the allure of sex without strings attached. Despite their increasing social acceptability, however, developing research suggests that sexual hookups may leave more strings attached than many participants might first assume.

Read the full article about hooking up here.


photo by david domingo

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