Hook-up activities may include a wide range of sexual behaviors, such as kissing, oral sex, and penetrative intercourse. However, these encounters often transpire without any promise of, or desire for, a more traditional romantic relationship. A review of the literature suggests that these encounters are becoming increasingly normative among adolescents and young adults in North America, representing a marked shift in openness and acceptance of uncommitted sex. We reviewed the current literature on sexual hookups and considered the multiple forces influencing hookup culture, using examples from popular culture to place hooking up in context.
We argue that contemporary hookup culture is best understood as the convergence of evolutionary and social forces during the developmental period of emerging adulthood. Popular media representations of sexuality demonstrate the pervasiveness of a sexual hookup culture among emerging adults. The themes of books, plots of movies and television shows, and lyrics of numerous songs all demonstrate a permissive sexuality among consumers.
As an example, the lyrics above, from the chart-topping pop song Last Friday Night T. Research on media portrayals of sexual behavior has documented this pattern as well. Popular culture is simultaneously representing aspects of actual contemporary sexual behavior and providing sexual scripts for emerging adults. In the current review, we examine and explore these patterns in sexual hookups. Hooking up— brief uncommitted sexual encounters among individuals who are not romantic partners or dating each other— has taken root within the sociocultural milieu of adolescents, emerging adults, and men and women throughout the Western world.
Among heterosexual emerging adults of both sexes, hookups have become culturally normative. Dating for courting purposes has decreased but certainly not disappeared and sexual behavior outside of traditional committed romantic pair-bonds has become increasingly typical and socially acceptable Bogle, , Most notably, individuals of both sexes are willing to openly discuss the topic and advertise their acceptance and experiences of hooking up.
Sexual hookups are most comprehensively understood in an interdisciplinary framework that combines multiple levels of analyses. In this review, we consider how aspects of sexual popular culture reflect both the biological reproductive motive, social—sexual scripts, and how individuals adaptively, facultatively, respond to their environment. The evolutionary biological and sociocultural paradigms produce parallel, sometimes interacting, and sometimes contradictory, patterns of explanation.
The emergence of sexual hookup culture provides a case of human social behavior through which to explore the relationship and possible interaction between evolved mating psychology and cultural context. Hookup culture has emerged from more general social shifts taking place during the last century. As early as the s, with the rise of automobile use and novel entertainment venues throughout North America, traditional models of courting under parental supervision began to fade Bailey, ; Stinson, With the invention of visual media, images of erotic sex began finding their way into popular culture Black, ; Doherty, Again in opposition, many health care providers in the s denied oral contraceptives to single, unmarried, women Coontz, Throughout American history, young adults were told, and at least publicly endorsed, that sexual behavior should only occur in the context of a marital union.
Contemporary popular culture is now ripe with examples that depict and often encourage sexual behavior, including premarital and uncommitted sex.
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