EUGENE, Ore. - Are college students "hooking up" for "no strings attached" sex with more people than ever before?
No, according to a recent study by a University of Portland sociology professor.
"Recent research and popular media reports have described intimate relationships among contemporary college students as characterized by a new and pervasive hookup college in which students regularly have sex with no strings attached," said Martin Monto, co-author of the study. "This implies that the college campus has become a more sexualized environment and that undergraduates are having more sex than in the past.
"We were surprised to find this is not the case."
Monto surveyed people ages 18 to 25 who had completed at least one year of college from 1988-1996 and 2002-2010.
"We found that college students from the contemporary or 'hookup era' did not report having more frequent sex or more sexual partners during the past year or more sexual partners since turning 18 than undergraduates from the earlier era," Monto said.
One change: Today's students were less likely to say one of their sexual partners was a spouse or regular sexual partner. That dropped 84 percent from the first data group to 77 percent for the second data group.
Today's students are more likely to say one of their partners is a friend or a casual date.
Monto said popular media has set up this idea of "hookup culture" that paints young people in college as more promiscuous than students in previous years.
He said the phrase "hooking up" is partially to blame.
Monto calls the term "provocative and ambiguous," and said that it has different meanings to different people. While some may use it to refer to sexual intercourse, to others, it merely means kissing.
Students near the University of Oregon agreed to try and define the term "hooking up."
"I think of everything less than actual sexual intercourse," said Liz Rubin, a 25-year-old graduate student. "But I have actually experienced having conversations before where that was not understood generally and so that kind of got lost in translation."
"I think it is anything more than making out and less than sex," said Annaleise Gilone, a 20-year-old University of Oregon students.
"I guess it's meeting someone in a bar to have casual sex," said Benedickt Springer, a 25-year-old graduate student.
"I guess it's making out, meeting up at a bar, going back to someone's place, kind of an open-ended term," said Jon Wadman, a 2012 University of Oregon graduate.