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Giving the hook to college hookup culture

College students have less sex with fewer partners than a generation ago, a new study finds. This should free students of the pressure to conform to a popular narrative.

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Prospective students and their parents take a tour of Georgetown University's campus in Washington. A new study of young people finds less hookup sex at colleges and universities than commonly believed.

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This fall, American college students may feel a great imposition of sexual expectations lifted from their social life. A new study has busted the common notion of a pervasive “hookup culture” at colleges and universities.

Today’s students are not having sex more often or with more people compared with those of a generation ago, according to research presented last month at the American Sociological Association.

Relying on surveys of 18-to-25-year-olds who had completed at least one year of college, University of Portland professor Martin Monto and co-author Anna Carey found recent rates of sexual activity on campuses were actually lower than those during 1988-96.

The myth-smashing study might just help change the conversation on campuses about the kind of premarital sex that is seen as harmless, no-strings-attached, self-gratifying recreation. Most of all, it should give new freedom to students not to buy into the narrative of a promiscuous era in which sex comes with no emotional entanglements.

“The sheer amount of repression and suppression of emotion required for living in the context of a hookup culture teaches young adults (or tries to teach them) not to feel at all,” writes Boston University religion professor Donna Freitas in her book “The End of Sex.” She describes hookup sex as “quick, ostensibly meaningless sexual intimacy.”

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