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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 23, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Accent

Who’s on top?

Eric, an Ithaca College freshman, has something his friends don’t — his virginity. It’s not because he has bad luck with girls. Eric says he just has different ideas about hooking up. Though his friends might not get it — new data show that plenty of other college students do.

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Photo Illustration by Evan Falk

Rebecca Plante, associate professor of sociology, recently conducted a nationwide survey researching the hooking up behaviors of college students, who defined a “hookup” as an intimate physical interaction outside of a relationship — from kissing to having intercourse. Plante presented the results of her four-year-long study to the campus community on Feb. 25. in a lecture called “Hooking Up in the Little City.” She said a common misconception on college campuses is that males are searching for hookups but not relationships and that females are looking for serious commitments. But her local research found that students are reversing these assumed gender roles.

“I found that some guys at Ithaca College don’t want to have sex with every girl they see,” Plante said. “[And] some girls on this campus are strictly not looking for a relationship.”

Though Eric’s teammates on the football team laughed when he told them he has never hooked up with anyone, Plante’s research proves his passive approach to the opposite sex is not as uncommon as students might think.

Other students — who, along with Eric, asked to have their full names withheld — have also reversed the gender stereotypes.

Caitlin, a junior, said she’s not interested enough in anyone to dedicate time to a relationship. She said she takes a casual approach to hooking up. She said her hookups have mostly been with men she knows personally or through a friend, not people she chooses at random.

“I just let whatever happens happen,” Caitlin said. “If I don’t meet someone, I either go home or crash at a friend’s place.”

Plante’s nationwide data did not show a change in percentages of sexually active young adults, but her interviews with Ithaca College students revealed that those who are hooking up take a different approach than their parents did, during a time when men were typically the ones to initiate a date, hookup or relationship.

Justine, a sophomore, said when she goes to parties with her single girlfriends, she notices they often take on a traditionally masculine role by seeking out a hookup for the night.

“Girls want to feel important,” she said. “Some might use hooking up as a validation of that.”

But for many women, hooking up doesn’t always mean racking up notches on the bedpost. Plante’s research found that women often look for a steady partner in order to build a physical connection with a sexual rhythm. She said when having sex with a partner for the first time, heterosexual women only orgasm 32 percent as often as men do. The percentage increases each time the two partners have sex. Plante’s statistics show that women in a relationship experience an orgasm 79 percent as often as their boyfriends. She said moving from man to man does not usually leave a woman sexually satisfied.

“It’s obvious women need to have sex multiple times with the same partner to climax,” Plante said.

Erik, a sophomore, said he knows pleasing women takes time and attention, so he takes a backseat when it comes to hooking up.

“For me, the girl dictates the pace and determines whether or not a hookup takes place,” he said. “She also determines if there is more to the hookup or not. I’m just along for the ride; I want to follow her lead.”

Erik said letting one woman in particular assume the dominant role led him to what he said is the best relationship he has ever had — though he said it’s up to her to decide when they will make it official.

“I would ask her out right now, but I don’t want to rush anything,” he said. “Whenever she’s ready, I’m ready.”

Jessie, a junior, said though many of her girlfriends are looking for a serious commitment, she doesn’t plan on having a relationship in college.

“I don’t really have the time and energy to dedicate to another person,” she said. “It’s hard enough trying to get through all of the things I have to do on a day-to-day basis without worrying about someone else all the time.”

Jessie said not only is living the single life liberating, it also prevents possible disappointment.

“Most guys aren’t looking for a relationship, so if you go in without expectations, you’re less likely to get hurt,” she said.

Eric refrains from hooking up not because he doesn’t know how to woo a woman but because he chooses not to. He said opportunities are out there for him and others like him, but taking someone different home every night is just not his style.

“I’ve turned down hooking up a few times in high school and in college and not because I didn’t find the girls attractive,” he said. “Hooking up outside of a long-term relationship just isn’t for me, and I get ridiculed for it.”

Eric thinks he stands out among the traditional crowd of drunk, sex-driven college students at weekend parties, but he said he wakes up in the morning with no regrets.

“For those that do bother me about it, they look at it as me being inferior to them,” he said. “I look at it as not conforming to their pressures and expectation of me.”