The bass was throbbing and the alcohol was flowing.Every room in the house was dark and crowded; every flat surface taken with people talking, laughing and drinking. As she accepted the first of many red plastic cups and wandered through the party, she spotted him.
He watched her walk over and cracked some joke as she approached about the class they shared. Two hours, a few laughs and several drinks later, they disappeared into an upstairs bedroom.
What happened next? College students today call it hooking up, a growing practice on college campuses generally described as a one-time sexual encounter, ranging from kissing to intercourse, between two acquaintances who have no plans to date or even talk afterward.
A growing body of research shows hooking up to be a widespread phenomenon.
According to an October 2004 article in “Newsweek,” a survey of 555 undergraduates by Elizabeth Paul, an associate professor of psychology at the College of New Jersey, found that 78 percent of students had hooked up and that they usually did so after consuming alcohol.
An earlier study released in 2001, “Hooking Up, Hanging Out, and Hoping for Mr. Right,” by the Institute for American Values, had reported that 40 percent of college-age women said they had experienced a hookup, and one in 10 reported having done so more than six times.
Laura Crawley, the assistant dean of campus life for health promotion at TCU, said she thinks the conditions that often contribute to the “hookup culture” do exist at TCU.
“I think the circumstances for hooking up are prevalent,” Crawley said, “but thankfully, many students help one another out when they get into those circumstances.”
Some students at TCU say the hookup culture is prevalent over the traditional, one-on-one dating scene.
Aron Low, a senior athletic training major, said even from his first year at TCU, hooking up was discussed among his friends.
“In Moncrief (Hall) there was no intention of dating,” he said. “It was: Get as many girls as you could and pass them on to your friends.”
George Ferguson, a senior economics and international relations major, said hooking up seems to prevail over more conventional dating habits at TCU.
“There aren’t a lot of serious relationships that develop (at TCU), it seems like,” he said.
Low also said that, for him, the meaning of hooking up changed when he made the transition from high school to college.
“Previously, hooking up was just getting something, even kissing, from a girl,” he said. “Now, it’s more considered a hookup if a girl stays the night.”
Crawley said she has heard TCU students use the term in different ways.
“When I’ve heard it referred to at TCU, a hookup has usually involved unplanned sex where both parties have been drinking (and) a condom or other protection may or may not have been used effectively,” she said. “That’s the stereotype.”
Though sophomore studio art and art education major Addison Hayes said she defines hooking up as kissing or “making out” rather than sex, she also said hookups are a major factor at TCU.
“There’s less pressure for guys when they come to a party and they have that alcohol in their system,” she said. “If they hook up with a girl and it’s awkward later, they can blame it on the alcohol.”
Hayes also said that, while there is the presence of a one-on-one dating scene, it takes a back seat to hooking up.
“The confident guys tend to ask girls out on dates more,” she said. “It’s just not as common as I think a lot of people would like it to be.”
Junior communication studies major Amanda Tarr said she would define a hookup as everything but intercourse, and said she thinks a greater portion of TCU students hook up than date.
“I’d say 60 percent hook up, and 40 percent date traditionally,” she said.
While parties, alcohol and a large Greek presence have all been cited as major factors involved in making hooking up a common practice at TCU, Crawley said the decision to hook up can sometimes be more of an individual one rather than being influenced by a group.
“Hooking up is going to be more likely if you don’t know your own mind about what you do and don’t want to participate in sexually,” Crawley said. “(Also), if you’re not feeling like you fit in, if you’re lonely for companionship or if something’s going on at home or with a close friend.”
Low said he thinks moving away from home, and thus the loss of an adult influence, contributes to an increase in student partying.
“I think there’s too much emphasis here being put on being seen, who you’re with, that kind of thing,” Low said. “Here, if you go to just one party, you’re not cool. I don’t think anyone’s ever satisfied here.”
The Institute for American Values study, conducted on 11 college campuses over 18 months and followed up by a national telephone survey, reports that “hooking up commonly takes place when both participants are drinking or drunk.”
Hayes said at TCU, meeting people on the party scene is easier than trying to date without such an extremely social environment.
“I think since it is such a Greek-oriented school, I think it’s easier for guys to say, ‘Hey, come to this party,’ rather than ask girls out,” she said. “(On the other hand), when most girls go to parties they go to meet guys.”
For females, hooking up is often described as having a more profound effect on them than on males. According to the Institute for American Values study, women who hooked up reported “a range of feelings, positive and negative, about the practice.” For example, 61 percent of college women who said that a hookup made them feel “desirable” also reported that it made them feel “awkward,” the study reported.
Low said the majority of females are more likely to become attached to a guy after a hookup than the other way around.
“I would say 75 percent (of them) would become attached,” Low said, “and then there’s 25 percent that are just in it for fun.”
Hayes said she agrees.
“I think (that among) most people who hook up, the girls tend to want more, but I think the guys get pretty fickle,” she said. “Girls tend to get excited (about the possibility of a new romance), but guys tend to shy away afterward.”
While the majority of those questioned expressed the above opinion, Tarr said there are some girls who enjoy the hooking up experience and purposely repeat it.
“The girls that are into it, it’s just kind of a notch on the headboard,” she said. “It’s something that fills a void for them.”
Ferguson said he feels that the hooking-up experience affects each person differently.
“I think it’s all on an individual basis,” he said.
In an e-mail, Crawley said that there are emotional consequences for everyone when it comes to “high-risk” sexual behavior.
“Anytime one is objectifying another person or allowing him/herself to be objectified, it can be pretty painful,” she said. “No one deserves to feel used, devalued or laughed at.
“If a couple has an open relationship, where they’ve been honest with themselves and one another about what is really going on, it can minimize the emotional impact, but both still have to do their part to use condoms to reduce the possibility of (sexually transmitted infections) and pregnancy.”
While skeptics may ask whether hooking up is really any different from the one-night-stands college students have had for decades, according to “Newsweek,” the increasing amount of research being conducted on this behavior shows that the hookup culture is an increasing presence on college campuses. TCU is no different. Attitudes about hooking up may vary, but its presence is felt even by those not directly involved.