Looking for Love: College Students May Prefer Relationship Sex to Casual Hookups

A new study suggests that old-fangled romantic sex with is not dead—yet.

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Yes, they know each other.

Ah, to be young and in college in the 10s: all the sex you want and none of that gross relationship stuff. Or not.

A new study among female freshmen found that while plenty were getting fresh—as their great grandparents used to say—it was more likely to be with a boyfriend and not a dude they had made eye contact with in, say, Introduction to Aersospace Studies.

The study, Are Hookups Replacing Romantic Relationships?, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, surveyed almost 500 female first year college students at a single college over 12 months. Almost 58% of the 18-year-olds had had some form of sex (meaning both oral and vaginal) with a lover upon entering college and 34% had had sex with a casual acquaintance. By the end of  the year those percentages had grown: 68% of them had had some form of sex with a lover and 51% of them with a non-lover, suggesting female freshman are looking for much more than one night stands.

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In fact, in what is clearly a disappointing trend for future playboys, the women always proved to be much more likely to have vaginal sex with someone they were in a relationship with than with a newcomer. Over the course of the year, more than half them had intercourse with a boyfriend but fewer than a third of them had sex with a mere associate. Figures for oral sex were similar: 54% with a partner, 37% with an acquaintance.

Over all, about 40% of women engaged in hookup sex over the course of the year at this particular university. But the average number of hookups ranged from one to three a month, which suggests, writes the study’s chief author Robyn Fielder, “that these behaviors are experimental rather than a regular pattern.” This was borne out by the monthly reports the women made: October was the biggest month for hookups (freedom sex!) , August was the biggest month for partner-nooky (back-to-college farewell sex) and May was a big month for both—which we’re going to attribute to exam nerves sex. Let’s hope somebody looks into that phenomenon soon.