One out of every 500 college students today is infected with HIV according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Twenty-five percent of college students have a sexually transmitted disease. The chances of contracting an STD or becoming pregnant are increasing each year, so why is “hooking up” in college more popular today than it has ever been?
If the average college student were to ask his parents what the term “hooking up” meant, he would most likely receive an answer having to do with cable television. To younger generations, the phrase is slang for spontaneous, brief sexual encounters with strangers, acquaintances and friends that range from kissing to intercourse. A majority of these usually meaningless encounters center around functions where alcohol or other intoxicants are consumed.
The CDC found that as many as 70 percent of college students admit to having engaged in sexual activity primarily as a result of being under the influence of alcohol or to having sex they would not have had if they had been sober.
The study conducted by the CDC found that 86 percent of college students had already had sexual intercourse before or during their college years, and one-fourth of them contracted a sexually transmitted disease. More than one-third of college students surveyed had sex with six or more partners. Thirty-five percent of students have been or have gotten someone pregnant.
The Institute for American Values recently released a report called “Hooking Up, Hanging Out, and Hoping for Mr. Right: College Women on Dating and Mating Today.” The Institute surveyed 1,000 college women and conducted in-depth interviews with 62 women on 11 campuses to discover their attitudes regarding sex, dating and marriage.
Ninety-one percent of the women surveyed defined “hookups” as “when a girl and a guy get together for a sexual encounter and do not necessarily expect anything further,” and said they occurred “very often.” Forty percent claimed to have experienced a hookup, and 10 percent said they had done so more than six times.
These statistics represent the typical college student. However, Pepperdine University does not seem to be a typical college. To the students, Pepperdine is known for being a stagnant participant in the dating game. According to a survey of 115 undergraduate male and female students at Seaver College, this statement may be a popular fallacy.
In this survey, 97 percent of students in the unscientific poll said they had “hooked up” at Pepperdine, though many were defining it as anything from kissing to intercourse. Seventy-one percent of this group had hooked up in their campus dorm room. Eighty percent of surveyed students thought that there exists more hooking up than dating at Pepperdine, but 93 percent believe that there is less hooking up here than on other college campuses in the country.
“It seems that there is less hooking up here at Pepperdine because there aren’t as many parties,” senior Jaime Breninger said. “Students specifically go to parties looking to hook up, and alcohol usually aids in that endeavor.”
Hooking up can be harmless if left at kissing. However, it can reach far beyond this stage into dangerous territory. Unwelcome sexual advances potentially lead to uncomfortable situations, violence or rape. Seven percent of Pepperdine students said they felt “unsafe in a hookup situation.”
Pepperdine attempts to protect students from sexual assault by outlining rules about the crime in a policy statement that states: “Sexual assault, including both stranger and acquaintance rape, is a violation of the University’s standard of conduct for students, as well as a violation of state law.”
As part of its commitment to promote awareness of rape, acquaintance rape, and other forcible and non-forcible sexual offences, the University provides a special lecture series and individualized counseling and participates in National Sexual Awareness Week.”
On-campus crime awareness and crime prevention programs that are offered include an escort program, Wave Watch, Operation Identification, weekly Life Safety/Security Inspection Reports, Crime Prevention Notices and a Designated Driver Program.
Although Pepperdine is a dry campus, students are not strangers to hooking up at parties and other events at which alcohol is served. Eighty-nine percent of students surveyed admitted to hooking up as a result of being under the influence of alcohol. After the inebriated experience, 64 percent of students felt “regretful” and 25 percent were “confused” about the relationship with the other person.
It is apparent that “hooking up” occurs at Pepperdine, but what kinds of sexual acts are taking place on campus?
The university’s rules regarding visitation hours are strictly enforced by residential and student advisers, but what about those few students who slip through the cracks? Of the surveyed Pepperdine undergraduate students, 16.5 percent admitted to engaging in sexual intercourse in their dorm room or on-campus apartment. One male student disclosed that he had intercourse with a female student in his dorm room while his roommate was sleeping a mere 10 feet away.
While the anti-dating theme that is associated with Pepperdine may still exist, these statistics show that there is not a lack of sexual activity. This may seem surprising at a private, Christian university that promotes a dry campus atmosphere. Some speculation arrives at the conclusion that Pepperdine students’ home lives are the cause of this trend in sexual exploration.
“When students are sheltered so much before college, they are dying to experiment when given that little bit of freedom,” said Saunder Browers, a 2000 Pepperdine graduate.
The sheltered environment could also account the high number of students who are “hooking up” on campus. It is a commonly heard notion that many Pepperdine students date in college and end up getting married.
“There is an incredible amount of pressure put on incoming freshmen to hurry up and find the one person on the planet that you are supposed to be with for life,” Browers said. “These poor kids run around as fast as they can looking for a potential mate.”
The Institute for American Values study indicated that an unusually high number of college women are “hooking up,” but it also revealed that 83 percent of the undergraduate women surveyed indicated that “being married is a very important goal” for them. Of the Pepperdine undergraduate males and females surveyed, 81 percent felt that the university environment places a heightened emphasis on being engaged or married by graduation.
In the rush to find a suitable match for marriage, hooking up appears to be the fastest way of determining a person’s potential as a partner. These practices are slowly dissolving the art of dating, the most common way to find a compatible mate. Our society, it seems, has abandoned the courtship ritual, the practice of getting to know a person and gaining mutual respect and love before engaging in sexual activities.
And while the Pepperdine image doesn’t reflect it, students say that this phenomenon is ever-present on campus.
“I definitely think students at Pepperdine have sex on campus,” Breninger said. “I just don’t think anyone knows about it.”
February 14, 2002