Ploy Meets Girl by Nathaniel Peters

Ploy Meets Girl

Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships On Campus
by Kathleen A. Bogle
New York University Press, 2008
(240 pages, $17.95, paperback)

Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both
by Laura Sessions Stepp
Riverhead Books, 2008
(336 pages, $15.00, paperback)

Sex & the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America’s College Campuses
by Donna Freitas
Oxford University Press, 2008
(328 pages, $24.95, hardcover)

reviewed by Nathaniel Peters

For much of the twentieth century, a guy and a girl interested in each other went out on dates. They got to know each other over time, entered into a relationship (marital or not), and then had sex. These days, they’re more likely to start with sex and then move to intimacy, unless they skip intimacy altogether. In other words, students are more likely to “hook up.” Half the students in one survey said that they started their evenings planning to have some form of sex, but with no particular person in mind.

Hooked Up

But what exactly do students mean by “hooking up”? Laura Sessions Stepp, a journalist for the Washington Post and author of Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both, decided to ask.

One student summed it up as “any possible amalgam of sexual behavior,” but Stepp elaborates on that: “Hooking up can consist entirely of one kiss, or it can involve fondling, oral sex, anal sex, intercourse or any combination of those things. It can happen only once with a partner, several times during a week or over many months.” The partners

may know each other well, only slightly or not at all, even after they have hooked up regularly. A hookup often happens in a bedroom, although other places will do: dance floors, bars, bathrooms, auditoriums or any deserted room on campus. It is frequently unplanned, though it need not be. It can mean the start of something, the end of something or the whole something. Feelings are discouraged, and both partners share an understanding that either of them can walk away at any time.

Note the vagueness of the term: Hooking up can mean anything from kissing to sexual intercourse. That vagueness allows students to do whatever they want to do and not talk about it directly unless they want to.

This kind of promiscuity shows a clear divorce between sexuality and relational intimacy, but it wasn’t always this way. In Hooking Up, LaSalle University sociologist Kathleen Bogle traces the evolution of the courtship process from the early twentieth century to the early twenty-first.

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