Sexual hookups are most comprehensively understood in an interdisciplinary framework that combines multiple levels of analyses. In this review, we consider how aspects of sexual popular culture reflect both the biological reproductive motive, social—sexual scripts, and how individuals adaptively, facultatively, respond to their environment. The evolutionary biological and sociocultural paradigms produce parallel, sometimes interacting, and sometimes contradictory, patterns of explanation.
The emergence of sexual hookup culture provides a case of human social behavior through which to explore the relationship and possible interaction between evolved mating psychology and cultural context. Hookup culture has emerged from more general social shifts taking place during the last century. As early as the s, with the rise of automobile use and novel entertainment venues throughout North America, traditional models of courting under parental supervision began to fade Bailey, ; Stinson, With the invention of visual media, images of erotic sex began finding their way into popular culture Black, ; Doherty, Again in opposition, many health care providers in the s denied oral contraceptives to single, unmarried, women Coontz, Throughout American history, young adults were told, and at least publicly endorsed, that sexual behavior should only occur in the context of a marital union.
Contemporary popular culture is now ripe with examples that depict and often encourage sexual behavior, including premarital and uncommitted sex.
Popular media, including television, has become a source of sex education, filled with inaccurate portrayals of sexuality Kunkel et al. The film Hooking Up , released in , details the chaotic romantic and sexual lives of adolescent characters. The film No Strings Attached , released in and staring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, features the uncommitted element of uncommitted sex, as two friends attempt to negotiate a sexual, yet nonromantic, component of their relationship.
Popular television shows often portray hooking up as acceptable, entertaining, and perfectly sensible. The hit British series Skins , which began in , and was remade in North America in , often highlights the uncommitted sexual exploits of adolescents.
The popular reality show Jersey Shore , which started its run in , glorifies hookups among strangers, acquaintances, friends, and former partners. Popular pro-hookup same-sex representations have also emerged in television series like Queer as Folk and The L-Word.
Several popular books on hookups have hit the shelves, with unscientific yet racy claims. These include, The Happy Hook-Up: Hookups may include any sexual behavior in a seemingly uncommitted context. Other behaviors are less ubiquitous.
Research has found minimal gender differences in terms of hookup behaviors. Operational definitions of hookups differ among researchers. Glenn and Marquardt used an explicitly heteronormative definition for participants: Yet, popular culture representations e.
FWB relationships represent a unique variation of hooking up worthy of more research attention, which it is beginning to generate. Of those who had engaged in a FWB experience, Much like in the movie of the same name, a common concern of participants describing their FWB relationships was the potential formation of unanticipated romantic feelings.
At the time of the survey, Because these situations represent a greater entanglement of friendship, trust, and emotional comfort, FWBs are distinct from notions of hooking up in some aspects. Namely, hookup scenarios do not implicitly include a friendship relationship component as a condition. However, some sexual subcultures with open relationships actually allow extrarelationship casual sex without considering it to be a betrayal. Attention to causal sexual encounters among men who have sex with men also emerged as an area of study during the AIDS epidemic in the s until today.
These complementary literatures and approaches should be integrated into the future study of hookup behavior, because the study of human sexuality must consider the vast range of variation and potential in human sexual behaviors. A case in point, findings from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior identified a much higher rate of American men and women who had ever engaged in same-sex sexual behavior compared to those who identify with a homosexual orientation see Herbenick et al.
This raises an important, but as of yet unanswered, question: If a proportion of heterosexual Americans have at some point engaged in at least one same-sex sexual encounter, is the context of such a scenario a hookup?
Although speculative, it seems most probable that many such encounters are sexual experiments and uncommitted, but investigations of how this relates to the larger hookup culture are sorely lacking. This is consistent with the view of emerging adulthood typical college age as a period of developmental transition Arnett, , exploring and internalizing sexuality and romantic intimacy, now including hookups Stinson, Among college students, hookups have been reported in a variety of college settings.
Such settings may help facilitate a preexisting desire for hookups i. More generally, in a sample of sexually experienced men and women, participants indicated a variety of settings where they met someone with whom they had casual sex: In addition to sharing common social venues with heterosexuals, gay men and other men who have sex with men have an expanded array of venues in which hookups may occur.
Although uncommitted sex among gay men occurs in a variety of locations, antigay prejudice and structural heterosexism can limit the availability of supportive and safe options for connecting with other men Harper, Consequently, more anonymous, sometimes public, spaces have been an alternative for some gay men. In a sample of gay and bisexual men in college all under the age of 30 , nearly one third admitted to meeting partners in anonymous places i.
Public cruising areas, Internet cruising networks, and bathhouses are somewhat popular venues although by no means archetypal for explicitly initiating uncommitted sex among men who have sex with men Binson et al. These are not findings that seem to be prevalent among lesbians and women who have sex with women or among heterosexual hookups. An interdisciplinary biopsychosocial model can synthesize traditionally disconnected theoretical perspectives and provide a more holistic understanding of hookup culture.
Which of these factors prove to be most important depends on culture, personality, gender, and social context. Using two midlevel theories, Fisher et al. They argued that evolution may be most helpful in exploring the reproductive motive, and sexual scripts may be useful in exploring the cultural discourse agenda.
That is, evolutionary biology influences why emerging adults engage in uncommitted sex and the way young men and women react to these encounters ultimate level explanations. At the same time, social roles and sexual scripts influence how emerging adults navigate their desires in a particular socio-cultural context proximate level explanations. It is important to point out that many sociocultural theorists disagree with the idea that culture offers only a proximate level explanation for human sexual behavior.
However, it is not the goal of this review to resolve this debate. Instead, we attempt to articulate better the multitude of factors that shape the rich variety of human sexuality to enhance understanding of uncommitted sex among emerging adults. In the next two sections, we will introduce both evolutionary and social script views of uncommitted sex, to simultaneously consider the influence of each on hookup culture. Human evolutionary behavioral studies attempts to explain sexual behavior by understanding our evolutionary history and how this may influence behavioral patterns in a given environment.
There are several different midlevel evolutionary or biological theories about the nature of human sexual behavior. These theories seek to understand the way evolutionary pressures influence human sexual propensities, variation, and, in some cases, sex differences. This logic is based on the premise that, compared to asexual reproduction, sexual reproduction is quite costly. Sexually reproducing organisms pay many costs, including the time, energy, and resources spent in finding and attracting mates—tasks that are unnecessary for asexual reproducers Daly, Offsetting the costs of sexual reproduction in large-bodied organisms is the benefit sexual reproduction provides against easy colonization by parasites and pathogens Van Valen, Sexual reproduction scrambles up genes, creating genotypes that are novel environments and forcing the parasites and pathogens to begin anew in their quest to exploit the host.
Thus, large-bodied organisms with long lifespans generally benefit evolutionarily from sexual reproduction despite its substantial costs. In humans, producing a viable offspring, from gestation through lactation, takes females longer than it takes males. The sex with the faster potential reproductive rate— generally males— can benefit by attempting to co-opt the reproductive effort of multiple members of the opposite sex.
However, the sex with the slower potential reproductive rate— generally females—will be operationally in short supply relative to the sex with the faster potential reproductive rate, simply because it takes them longer to complete a reproductive venture.
Males are predicted to compete for access to the reproductive potential of the slower sex; this generates expectations of psychological and physical adaptations in males that enhance their chances of success, including aggression and an array of physical features e. Females are predicted to be choosy concerning their mates because they invest more in each offspring, and they stand to lose more if they make a poor reproductive choice.
Relative parental investment costs are thought to be the arbiters of mating behaviors Trivers, Thus in sex role reversed species where males provide a majority of parental support, it is females that are then expected to compete more for mates and be more indiscriminate in their mating Alcock, Because females choose males on the basis of critical features and resources, males are expected to compete with other males to acquire and display these features and resources.
This provides a basic framework with which to begin, and in humans we expect complex cognitive processes to be overlaid on it. In this view—sexual strategies theory—men prefer as many mates as possible, including short-term sexual encounters that can potentially maximize reproductive output. Men will attempt to mate with a maximum number of partners sexual variety , consent to sex more quickly than women, and provide minimal resources to any but long-term partners, only conceding to a long-term relationship for the purposes of enhancing offspring vitality Symons, ; Buss, Also in this view, women are expected to prefer long-term relationships to extract a maximum amount of resources from mates.
In measuring propensities for nonrelational sex, a variety of studies conducted within North America have demonstrated that men consistently have higher sociosexuality scores than women Schmitt, Several scholars have argued that the degree to which evolution shapes mating behaviors, including sociosexuality, will be contingent on particular environmental conditions Frayser, ; Low, ; Schmitt, To support the idea that sociosexuality is likely a combination of evolved sex-specific mating strategies and social structural factors, in a study of over , participants from 53 nations, Lippa demonstrated that although consistent sex differences emerged, gender equality and economic development tended to predict the magnitude of sex differences in sociosexuality more permissive.
Similarly, Wood and Eagly have endorsed a biosocial model for understanding sex differences cross-culturally that takes into account multiple levels of analyses, including biological constraints alongside social and economic constraints.
In support of evolved sexual strategies, in a cross-cultural study of 16, individuals across 52 nations, Schmitt et al. Using the short-term seeking measure asking participants on a 7-point scale whether they are actively seeking a short-term mate , they reported that, in North America, relatively more men Of note, using the cross-cultural responses of those who are single excluding those currently involved in a relationship , Evolutionary-inclined researchers have often used these findings to point to the adaptive nature of sex-specific mating strategies see Schmitt, These data demonstrate fairly modest relative sex differences in propensities toward sex beyond a committed relationship—which are indeed important to document.
Yet, a cross-cultural sex difference of This is especially true considering that, compared to males, the relative risks of sexual behavior are higher for females: Although there is a reasonable proportional difference between sexes, there are still nearly two thirds of unpartnered women interested in uncommitted sex and over one fifth of unpartnered men who are not interested in this activity.
In short, there is significant overlap between the sexes and significant variation within the sexes. All things considered, the simplest expectation is that evolutionary processes will result in both men and women desiring both sex and pair-bonding. Extrarelational sex is part of the human mating repertoire, as is pair-bonding. The popularity of hooking up among both men and women presents a problem for approaching human sexuality purely from the perspective of sexual strategies theory.
That both men and women are engaging in this behavior at such high rates is not consistent with the model. Homosexual relationships also presents a quandary for sexual strategies theory.
Although the proportion of gay men in open relationships seems to support the theory i. For instance, Li and Kenrick have pointed to the benefits of using an evolutionary economic model of tradeoffs to understand sex differences in willingness to engage in short-term sex, and sex similarities in prioritization of short-term partners.
Using biological and cross-cultural evidence, Fisher , has argued human possess a dual reproductive strategy of social monogamy serial or long-term and clandestine adultery. In their comparison of theoretical models, they found that attachment fertility theory. If humans possess a fairly flexible sexual repertoire, yet pair-bonding is essential, this sets the stage for a conflict between competing motivational drives that are fine tuned to particular environments.
In accordance with an evolutionary model, the simplest, most general prediction is that men will be relatively more competitive and sexually eager, and that women will be relatively choosier.
Further, in accordance with an evolutionary model emphasizing pair-bonding, both men and women will have competing motivational drives for sexual engagement and pair-bond formation. This might assume that penetrative sexual intercourse between fertile men and women entails a sizable risk of reproduction for females—an assumption that simply no longer applies to humans in the 21st century. In contemporary industrialized cultures, pleasurable sexual behaviors can be divorced from reproduction and used for other purposes, including social standing and simple enjoyment, among others.
Contraception and reproductive technologies allow women greater control over reproduction, but this should not be enough to completely overwrite millions of years of evolutionary pressure to shape certain aspects of mating psychology. Rather, in these contemporary conditions, those who use contraception to optimize their reproductive output may well be evolutionarily favored.
Women could, for example, use contraception to control the timing of pregnancies in ways that maximize the chance of success, or ensure parentage by favored males over lesser-quality mates. Thus, contraception is simply an additional feature of the environment of reproduction, and males and females are expected to attempt to manipulate it in their own favor.
However, the ability to divorce sex from reproduction should allow for less discrepancy between males and females in willingness to engage in uncommitted sex and negotiations of both sexual and romantic desires. Clearly, the evolved reproductive motive involves both sexes desiring sex and desiring pair-bonds, but having different ways of obtaining each and different prioritizations for each.
Scripts, particularly gender-normative ones, dictate behaviors, such as who does what and when in context e. The most widely produced and promoted cultural sexual scripts are heterosexual in nature and include those focused on male roles Kim et al. For men, sex is portrayed as central to male identity, men prefer nonrelational sex, and men are active sexual agents. Women are portrayed as sexual objects, sexually passive compared to men, and women act as sexual gatekeepers. Sexual script theory is generally vague when it comes to origins, focusing more on descriptions of scripts.
Wiederman , Phillips , and Jhally have argued that scripts are not only sexualized but also gendered, with underlying sexual messages being noticeably different for men and women. Many researchers Jhally, ; Kim et al.
But this does little to explain why the media industry produces these scripts in the first place. It is not by accident that consumer behavior can be well-explained by those products most salient to human survival and reproduction, and why messages of love and sex are among the most producible Saad, But, on their own, both the evolutionary perspective and the social scripts perspective have thus far been inadequate in fully unpacking the origin of sexual messages, their propagation, and their social retention.
Without identifying a primary, hierarchal, origin, it is likely that media is reflecting actual behavioral change in a circular way—media is a reflection of our evolutionary penchants, further exaggerated and supported by the presumption that it is popular. Images of a polymorphous sexuality that decenters the reproductive motive and focuses instead on sexual pleasure are consistently appearing in popular media.
It seems plausible that sexual scripts in popular entertainment media are exaggerated examples of behaviors that are taken to an extreme for the purposes of media sensationalism and activation of core guttural interests. Conflicting gendered scripts may contribute to mixed perceptions and expectations of hookups.
The first sexual experiences described by the 30 participants were almost all quite negative and, in some cases, horrific. Many women find the discrepant messages difficult to navigate: Messages often portray the sexually assertive woman as a woman who has extreme difficulty in being genuine and having a meaningful romantic relationship.
Psychoanalytic analysis views this conflict as the Madonna—whore dichotomy, where women face challenges in being viewed as both a sexually expressive being and a maternal committed being, and at the same time their romantic or sexual partners face challenges with categorizing women as one or the other Welldon, Presumably, these same conflicting discourse messages can make it difficult for individuals to psychologically navigate hookups, including sexual decision-making.
There seems to be inconsistency in the scripts pertaining to the casualness and emotional investment in causal sexual encounters. An example of this disconnect is presented by Backstrom, Armstrong, and Puentes , whose study examined the responses of 43 college women who described their difficulties in their negotiations of cunnilingus, such as desiring it in a hookup or not desiring it in a relationship. Yet, in interviews, participants also expressed distinct discomfort with these extrarelational scripts.
Men voiced alternative definitions that highlighted emotional connection and the potential for committed romantic relationships. While contrary to no-strings attached hookup discourse, these alternative romance and commitment-oriented scripts are not surprising.
Similar discourse messages are present in other aspects of popular media. It is curious that, although purporting to regale the audience with nonrelational sex, the previously mentioned films Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached also highlight this; in the end, couples in both movies actually end up in seemingly monogamous romantic relationships.
Although the evolutionary reproductive motives produce contradictory motivations, for both short-term sex and long-term commitment, some media scripts apparently do the same.
Despite the high prevalence of uncommitted sexual behavior, emerging adults often have competing nonsexual interests. Although there is a proportional sex difference, note that a substantial majority of both sexes would prefer a romantic relationship, despite their particular developmental stage of emerging adulthood.
The gender differences observed are modest, and point to the convergence of gender roles in hookup culture; even though there are some gender differences, it should not be ignored that the curves overlap significantly. Just as the discourse of hooking up is often in conflict with itself, individuals often self-identify a variety of motivations for hooking up. That a substantial portion of individuals reported emotional and romantic motivations appears to be in apparent conflict with the sexual strategies framework discussed earlier, which predicts significant sex differences.
Indeed, some hookups turn into romantic relationships. Paik a found that individuals in relationships that start as hookups or FWBs report lower average relationship satisfaction.
However, this varied as a function of whether the participants initially wanted a relationship. If individuals were open to a serious committed relationship initially, relationship satisfaction was just as high as those who did not engage in initially uncommitted sexual activity prior to starting a relationship Paik, a.
The entanglement of more intimate and emotional aspects with sex is something the romantic comedy movies mentioned earlier highlight. Again in seeming contrast to the sex-specific mating strategies, contemporary hookup behavior involves a high degree of female sexual assertiveness for sexual desire and pleasure. Contrary to some media messages, individuals do not appear to be engaging in truly no-strings attached sex.
Competing interests at multiple levels result in young adults having to negotiate multiple desires, and multiple social pressures. Again, the most fruitful explanation is that both men and women have competing sexual and romantic interests, with tremendous individual differences in such desires. As such, the simultaneous motivations for sex and romance may appear different. The origins of these pro-sex scripts have been theorized to be due to a subculture focused on male sexuality Mealey, Because same-sex relationships are naturally removed from the reproductive motive, it may be possible that part of the larger hookup culture is borrowed from sexual subcultures involving greater emphasis on the positive erotic.
Most students reported not considering or realizing their own health risks during hookups, particularly those that occurred within their own community such as with someone else on their own college campus. Compounding disease risks, individuals involved in hookups are more likely to have concurrent sexual partners Paik, b. In a sample of 1, college students, among the students who had engaged in oral sex, anal sex, or vaginal intercourse in their most recent hookup, only Although, in Paul et al.
Health-based hookup research like this may lead to programs for correcting misperceptions of sexual risk and sexual norms to ultimately restore individual locus of control over sexual behavior, reproductive rights, and healthy personal decision-making. In addition to sexual risk-taking, in terms of low condom use, another issue of concern involving hookups is the high comorbidity with substance use.
Alcohol use has also been associated with type of hookup: In one study of men and women who had engaged in an uncommitted sexual encounter that included vaginal, anal, or oral sex, participants reported their intoxication levels: Alcohol may also serve as an excuse, purposely consumed as a strategy to protect the self from having to justify hookup behavior later Paul, This paints a picture very different from popular representations of alcohol and substance use in hookups, which are often handled with a detached air of humor.
A Journal Chronicle Books, is playfully described by the publisher: Although alcohol and drugs are likely a strong factor, it is still largely unclear what role individual differences play in shaping decisions to engage in hookups. Other factors may include media consumption, personality, and biological predispositions. Garcia, MacKillop, et al. This suggests that biological factors that contribute to motivating the different contexts of sexual behavior for both men and women may be fairly sexually monomorphic Garcia, Reiber, et al.
This may, in some cases, point to fairly stable individual differences. The discrepancy between behaviors and desires, particularly with respect to social—sexual relationships, has dramatic implications for physical and mental health. Despite widespread allure, uncommitted sexual behavior has been shown to elicit a pluralistic ignorance response promoting individuals to engage in behaviors regardless of privately feeling uncomfortable with doing so Lambert et al.
Misperception of sexual norms is one potential driver for people to behave in ways they do not personally endorse. In a replication and extension of Lambert et al. Hookup scenarios may include feelings of pressure and performance anxiety. In Paul et al. Note that this study asked participants about typical hookups, and although this was informative for general patterns, it does not capture specific factors influencing specific individual scenarios. However, this same study found that feelings differed during compared to after hookups: An individual history of hookup behavior has been associated with a variety of mental health factors.
In a recent study of young adults followed across a university semester, those participants with more depressive symptoms and greater feelings of loneliness who engaged in penetrative sex hookups subsequently reported a reduction in both depressive symptoms and feelings of loneliness Owen et al. At the same time, those participants who reported less depressive symptoms and fewer feelings of loneliness who engaged in penetrative sex hookups subsequently reported an increase in both depressive symptoms and feelings of loneliness Owen et al.
In another study, among sexually experienced individuals, those who had the most regret after uncommitted sex also had more symptoms of depression than those who had no regret Welsh et al. In the first study to investigate the issue of self-esteem and hookups, both men and women who had ever engaged in an uncommitted sexual encounter had lower overall self-esteem scores compared to those without uncommitted sexual experiences Paul et al.
The potential causal direction of the relationship between self-esteem and uncommitted sex is yet unclear Paul et al. Hookups can result in guilt and negative feelings. The percentage of women expressing guilt was more than twice that of men.
This is consistent with a classic study by Clark and Hatfield , which demonstrated that men are much more likely than women to accept casual sex offers from attractive confederates. Conley replicated and extended this finding, demonstrating that, under certain conditions of perceived comfort, the gender differences in acceptance of casual sex is diminished. Possibly contributing to findings on gender differences in thoughts of worry, in a sample of undergraduate students, more women than men leaned toward a relationship outcome following a hookup.
It is possible that regret and negative consequences result from individuals attempting to negotiate multiple desires. It is likely that a substantial portion of emerging adults today are compelled to publicly engage in hookups while desiring both immediate sexual gratification and more stable romantic attachments.
Not all hookup encounters are necessarily wanted or consensual. In a sample of college students, participants noted that a majority of their unwanted sex occurred in the context of hookups: Even more worrisome, a proportion of hookups also involve nonconsensual sex.
In a study by Lewis et al. Unwanted and nonconsensual sexual encounters are more likely occurring alongside alcohol and substance use. A number of studies have included measures of regret with respect to hookups, and these studies have documented the negative feelings men and women may feel after hookups.
In a large web-based study of 1, undergraduate students, participants reported a variety of consequences: A vast majority of both sexes indicated having ever experienced regret. There were few sex differences in reasons for regret, and better quality sex reduced the degree of regret reported Fisher et al.
It appears the method of asking participants whether and when they had experienced regret i. On average, both men and women appear to have higher positive affect than negative affect following a hookup.
Those with positive attitudes toward hookups and approval of sexual activity show the greatest positive affect Lewis et al. However, there are also negative consequences experienced by both sexes. Two types of sexual encounters were particularly predictive of sexual regret: Among a sample of 1, individuals who had experienced a previous one-night stand, Campbell showed that most men and women have combinations of both positive and negative affective reactions following this event.
There are substantial individual differences in reactions to hookups not accounted for by gender alone. The gap between men and women is notable, and demonstrates an average sex difference in affective reactions. Yet, this finding also conflicts with a strict sexual strategies model because more than half of women were glad they engaged in a hookup and they were not in the context of commandeering extrapartner genes for offspring.
With respect to scripts, although presumably being sexually agentic e. Although the direction of the sex differences is in agreement with the evolutionary model, that nearly a quarter of women report primarily positive reactions is inconsistent with a truly sex-specific short-term mating psychology and with discourse messages of uncommitted sex being simply pleasurable. Also inconsistent with both of these theoretical models is that a quarter of men experience negative reactions.
Taken alone, neither a biological nor social model is sufficient to explain these individual differences. Some research has considered the interactions of sex and individual differences in predicting hookup behavior. In this regard, there are sex differences in cognitive processes, but one cannot necessarily presume that the sexes vary fundamentally in their behavioral potentials; rather, they vary in their decision-making, consistent with other evolutionary models.
It is still unclear the degree to which hookups may result in positive reactions, and whether young men and young women are sexually satisfied in these encounters. Fine has argued that sex negativity is even more pronounced for women and the possibility of desire seems to be missing from the sexual education of young women. Armstrong, England, and Fogarty addressed sexual satisfaction in a large study of online survey responses from 12, undergraduates from 17 different colleges.
In this study, men reported receiving oral sex both in hookups and in relationships much more than women. In both contexts, men also reached orgasm more often than women.
A challenge to the contemporary sexual double standard would mean defending the position that young women and men are equally entitled to sexual activity, sexual pleasure, and sexual respect in hookups as well as relationships. To achieve this, the attitudes and practices of both men and women need to be confronted. Men should be challenged to treat even first hookup partners as generously as the women they hook up with treat them.
Taken together, this points to a need for further and more diverse attention to the impact of hookups on the physical and mental health of individuals, as recommended by Heldman and Wade Further, more attention is needed on potential positive aspects of hooking up, such as promoting sexual satisfaction and mutual comfort and enjoyment see Armstrong et al. Hookups are part of a popular cultural shift that has infiltrated the lives of emerging adults throughout the Westernized world. The past decade has witnessed an explosion in interest in the topic of hookups, both scientifically and in the popular media.
Research on hookups is not seated within a singular disciplinary sphere; it sits at the crossroads of theoretical and empirical ideas drawn from a diverse range of fields, including psychology, anthropology, sociology, biology, medicine, and public health. The growth of our understanding of the hookup phenomenon is likely predicated on our ability to integrate these theoretical and empirical ideas into a unified whole that is capable of explaining the tremendous variety in human sexual expression.
Both evolutionary and social forces are likely facilitating hookup behavior, and together may help explain the rates of hookups, motivations for hooking up, perceptions of hookup culture, and the conflicting presence and lack of sex differences observed in various studies. Several scholars have suggested that shifting life-history patterns may be influential in shaping hookup patterns.
Together, the research reviewed here can help us better understand the nature of uncommitted sex today. It is worth noting, however, that several shortcomings in our knowledge continue to impede the understanding of hookup behavior.
Much of the research asking participants about previous hookup relationships may therefore be biased due to recall. The literature reviewed here primarily focuses on heterosexual hookups among emerging adults, with some researchers not controlling for sexual orientation some purposefully and others restricting to exclusively heterosexual samples.
Future hookup research should venture into the MSM literature to explore patterns of casual sex among these populations to understand other sexual subcultures where uncommitted sexual behavior is prevalent.
Moreover, there exists little published literature on the hookup patterns among lesbians and women who have sex with women. Understanding hookups during the critical stage of late adolescent development and young adulthood is paramount for protecting and promoting healthy sexuality and healthy decision-making among emerging adults. Of the varied experiences and health risks young men and young women will experience, perhaps none are as pervasive and widely experienced as engagement in and desire for romantic attachments and experiences with sexual activity.
This review suggests that uncommitted sex, now being explored from a variety of disciplinary and theoretical perspectives, is best understood from a biopsychosocial perspective that incorporates recent research trends in human biology, reproductive and mental health, and sexuality studies.
Both popular scripts and predictions from evolutionary theory suggest that a reproductive motive may influence some sexual patterns, such as motivation and regret following uncommitted sex.
However, patterns of casual sex among gay men highlight inadequacies of the reproductive motive and suggest that further theorizing is necessary before a satisfactory evolutionarily informed theory can be established. We thank Melanie Hill for valuable discussion and feedback on an earlier draft of this review. We also thank Maryanne Fisher and Catherine Salmon for helpful editorial feedback. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Author manuscript; available in PMC Jun 1.
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