College hookups are an emotional outlet for men, according to an author who interviewed dozens of students

  • For her new book "Boys & Sex," author Peggy Orenstein interviewed dozens of college-aged men and women about porn, love, and hookup culture.
  • She found today's hookup culture operates under the belief that physical closeness will lead to emotional closeness, even if that doesn't always remain true in practice.
  • Orenstein also found that men often engage in hookups to experience emotional closeness with others.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

The phrase "hookup culture" conjures up images of booze-filled college parties, drunken one-night stands, and sex-obsessed students, but the new book "Boys & Sex" by Peggy Orenstein suggests sex-centric youth culture has to do with much more than horniness.

For the book, Orenstein interviewed dozens of college men and women about topics like love, consent, porn, masculinity, and hookup culture. She found that underlying a culture of impersonal sexcapades was a desire from both men and women to feel wanted.

Even more surprisingly, Orenstein concluded that men often seek casual hookups as outlets for emotional connection with others.

She wrote that "although hookups are explicitly meant to be devoid of feeling, guys in college use them in part to experience emotional closeness, in however attenuated or fleeting a fashion."

This differed from college women, Orenstein said, who typically derive neither emotional closeness nor physical satisfaction from hookups. Often, it seemed that women felt obligated to participate in hookup culture simply because that's what college kids were supposed to do.

High school and college students believe physical closeness leads to emotional closeness

Orenstein also explained that the goal of emotional closeness in hookups is at odds with a common goal men have when they hook up: maintaining their masculine images.
Crystal Cox/Business Insider

According to Orenstein, a defining trait of today's hookup culture is the belief that being physically close (as in a hookup) will lead to emotional closeness in the form of a budding romantic relationship. In reality, this doesn't often happen.

"The sex can feel like two people having two very distinct experiences," a college freshman named Andrew who Orenstein interviewed said. "It's like you're acting vulnerable, but not actually being vulnerable with someone you don't know and don't care very much about."

Andrew added that in his experience, hookups are often characterized by lack of eye contact and little to no speaking. 

As a result, emotional closeness is typically never formed, Orenstein wrote, which explains why the majority of college-aged people say they dislike hookup culture.

Orenstein concluded that hookups allowed women to feel "wanted or desired for an evening, an adrenaline rush, a war story to share with friends," but wasn't likely to provide women with good sex or the tools to develop healthy emotional intimacy with romantic partners.

In reality, students are afraid to show their emotions during and after hookups

According to Orenstein, the goal of emotional closeness in hookups is at odds with a common goal men have when they hook up: maintaining their masculine images.

She wrote that for men, "hookup culture presumes that they, unlike girls, lack even a basic capacity for love, that they neither can nor should acknowledge emotional vulnerability — not in others, not in themselves." Instead, college men are pressured to prove they have sexual experience, which comes in the form of hookups.

That pressure to appear suave and sexually experienced, rather than vulnerable, factors into the often impersonal nature of a hookup.

Caleb, another college student Orenstein interviewed about post-hookup etiquette, agreed.

"You're trying to play it cool," said Caleb, another college student interviewed by Orenstein. "I mean, I don't know if she was into it or if she's trying to move on; she doesn't know if I'm into it or if I'm trying to move on, and because of that question mark, you don't want to make yourself vulnerable and get shut down for" being vulnerable.

 Orenstein's book doesn't have a solution to this lack of sexual and emotional fulfillment, but she did suggest parents should talk to their sons early on about sex and love in order to combat negative messaging surrounding the topics.

Source: Read Full Article