For College Students, Hooking Up Is More Talk Than Action

Family, Sex

Also, no one has any idea what hooking up actually means.

To hook up. What does it mean? Turns out even though college students are the ones doing most of the hooking up, they don't quite know what it means. And a new study proves that there's a lot more talk about hooking up than people actually doing it. Surprised, anyone?

When I was in college (I graduated this year), quite a bit of hook-up talk went on. The resident "gossip girl" was always ready to reveal the latest news. But a drunken romp can follow you for four years... I found out that even at my huge state college, word spread fast about who was doing what with whom. It could get you a bad reputation pretty quickly (usually our talk covered the same repeat offenders). But what were we talking about? In retrospect, I hardly remember the salacious details because all I needed to hear was "x and y hooked up," and my imagination did the rest.

The truth is, no one (including the 54 percent of students doing it) knows exactly what goes on between the twin extra-long sheets. Can My Hook-Up Become My Boyfriend?

According to a recent study from the University of Montana, students couldn't agree on one firm definition of the word. The term "hook-up" is vague and could mean anything, from an innocent kiss to a summer-long sexcapade. Researchers finally decided on the following definition: "Hooking up is used to describe a sexual encounter (vaginal, anal or oral sex) between two people who are not in a dating or serious relationship and do not expect anything further." The findings are published in the journal Health Communication.

Essentially the hookup can be considered a close cousin of casual sex, but a little more risqué. The key ingredient to a hookup is alcohol. Red-cupped ragers are the breeding grounds of college sex lives. Unfortunately, that can lead to unsafe and/or nonconsensual interludes. When you're drinking the jungle juice, it's easy to get whisked into a bathroom without asking important questions like: "Do you have a condom?" or "What is your name?" This increases your likelihood of getting "burned" (an STD), getting caught (a Twitpic you don't want to see in the morning), or even being date-raped. Monday-morning regret is common affliction around campuses. Booty Calls Have HOTTER Sex, Says Casual Sex Study (Yes, Really)

"If you become part of this hookup subculture, and you go to parties and you drink a lot and you're not fully aware of it, you probably don't have protection, and then you are more likely to engage in risky behavior. There's more risk than having sex when it's planned," said researcher Amanda Holman.

But even though everyone is talking about who did whom in Monday-morning biology (84 percent of college students talk about hooking up with friends), no one actually knows the details. How far did it go? Did they use protection? Are they in a relationship now? Was it consensual? Though 94 percent of students use it to mean "sex," what truly happens is a mystery. Young Couples Today Prefer "Stayovers" To Cohabitation

But everyone is talking about it. And it's no surprise that more males (63 percent) are hooking up than females (45 percent). The guys are bragging about their conquests from last night and getting high-fives from their bros. Girls are whispering about the newly-anointed sluts from the weekend's frat parties. We claim to be a sexually liberated generation, but one hookup too many can send a girl from sexy to slutty—even if she didn't go all the way. And although college guys are quick to "tap that," even they have standards. College Guys Think 10 Or More Sex Partners Is "Slutty"

Regardless of the perception that "everyone is doing it," hooking up is still more talk than action. Ninety percent of students think two hookups per year is average, but only 37 percent reported two or more hookups in a year. So we are more wholesome than our parents and peers think. But what happened to the old-fashioned belief that college is the perfect place to find your husband or wife? When we are ready to marry, will our "number" be too inflated to find a match, like Anna Faris worries in new chick flick What's Your Number? 

The truth: Once college is over, no one cares who you accidentally had sex with. You can chuck it up to being young and make your sound decisions after college — but always be safe.

Are young people actually hooking up more than they used to, or is it all talk?