Hookup Culture at Universities: Everyone Plays a Part


College dating can be as fun as it sounds and just as scary for the dating scenario and the risks involved.

Current college classrooms are mostly occupied by those considered to be Gen Z (born between 1998 and 2012). They’re the ones who adapt to dating apps like Grindr, Tinder, and Bumble to meet potential partners for a one-night stand or find “the one.” The academic research comes from the book “The Current Collegiate Hookup Culture” by Dr. Paul Aditi, delves deeper into Gen Z and their “sexual connection” on dating apps, sexual behaviors, risks such as STDs or sexual assault, and LGBTQ+ students connection experience.

What is the “sex script”?

The sexual script is like reading a play, where each person performs a set of actions in a script according to social norms. For example, in the scenario of heterosexual relationships, it’s like a gift rule in society that usually the man has to ask the woman first. The sexual script details “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, and “how” actions occur in any specific context.

The book Current Collegiate Hookup Culture suggests that dating app users have grown, but face-to-face organic hookups are still the most popular.

Where do students meet potential connection partners?

Statistics on where students go to find potential dating partners. (Dayana Villanueva)

Overall, Gen-Z isn’t as sexually irresponsible as once thought, 69% of students use protection during sex, 62% have 1-5 hookup partners and hook up with the same person a once a month or once every 2-3 weeks according to Aditi’s studies. To dig deeper into the hookup script of an NMSU graduate student in psychology, Ashley Wu shared her thesis on Online Dating Sexual Script. Most students surveyed at NMSU seek a traditional relationship according to Wu’s research. She concludes that New Mexico State University’s conservative relationship culture can be very much influenced by Hispanic culture.

“The culture around this area (Las Cruces) has many Hispanic and Latin American cultures. So if we talk about relationships between Hispanics, it follows a very traditional gender norm of masculinity and machismo. There is an active role where men play one role and women play another role,” Wu said.

Breaking stereotypical gender norms at any university in the United States might be inappropriate for conservative students who see dating as a perversion of traditional courtship, but Dr. Paul responds to this belief:
“A look at the origins of dating reveals that dating and dating may have more in common than we’ve been conditioned to believe.”

Flirting, falling in love and dating is a spectrum that Gen-Z is revolutionizing, some call it fear of commitment and others say it’s about getting to know each other before commit to another individual. Aditi’s book explains that 60% of college students who met on dating apps were queer, gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

Ricardo Melendez, an NMSU student who identifies as a gay man, says meeting people from his community in person is difficult because less than 10% in the United States identify as gay or bisexual. Dating apps and websites are spaces for people to express their sexual identity and engage with potential partners in the LGBTQ+ community.

“At first I wanted a relationship, but I also had friends and dating opportunities. So I had the opportunity for everything,” Melendez said.

Each student has a particular challenge when dating or online, including being aware of their own safety when looking for a partner. Dr. Aditi’s academic research indicates that one in four men have reported sexual assault while dating. Wu’s research found that heterosexual women typically mentioned in their script that they were worried when they hooked up and took safety precautions for hookups, and the gay men’s script included being tested for STIs.

Generation Z in college has an ever-developing environment, they grow up with various options and they try to figure out their own rules. But also, Gen Z is better equipped to navigate the spectrum of dating apps by being more culturally aware and sexually responsible when dating.


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