Study: College Kids Overestimate their Peers’ Interest in Casual Sex

Kids on college campusNo doubt by now you’ve heard stories in the news about the “hookup culture” prevalent on many college campuses these days.

A hookup is defined as a sexual encounter where no committed relationship exists or is expected to exist. Essentially, on many campuses, tried and true dating rules and morés have been eschewed and students will engage in sexual behavior with a friend, acquaintance or even a stranger with no strings attached.

The shocking thing to many outside observers is that everyone seems to be OK with this detachment of sex from relationships. Certainly there has always been “casual sex” among young people, but the brazen and unapologetic attitude today’s college students seem to have about it is unique enough to have developed a name.

Are students today really that different than previous generations? Has the social landscape really changed so drastically in the last few years? And if everyone seems OK with hookup sex being so common and removed from its usual context of commitment, what’s the big deal?

Study Puts the Lie to the Hookup Mythos

A study [PDF] recently posted on FindArticles.com reveals that things might not be exactly as they appear, and it is most definitely a big deal. The study, entitled “Hooking Up: Gender Differences, Evolution, and Pluralistic Ignorance” looks at how students feel about specific sexual behaviors in a hookup situation and what they think their peers think about the same.

The results are shockingly consistent. Across the board students thought that their peers were more comfortable with hooking up than is actually the case. They also found that students assumed that others were more comfortable with hooking up than they themselves were. Men overestimated women’s interest in hooking up and women made the same assumption about men.

What we have here is a concept mentioned in the title: pluralistic ignorance.

Pluralistic ignorance occurs when individuals in a group assume that everyone else in the group is more comfortable with a practice than they are, which creates a silent and unintentional form of peer pressure and leads the whole group to engage in behavior that they are not truly comfortable with.

So, since everyone around a college student is hooking up, she assumes that her peers are doing this because they are comfortable with it. She herself may not be comfortable with it, but she does it anyway because it’s what she believes is expected of her and it’s what she believes everybody else is comfortable with.

Further, most students are not being exactly honest with themselves about their desire for relationships and how that desire relates to the hookup. The study says:

Although the vast majority of these participants reported having no actual expectation that hook-ups would develop into traditional romantic relationships, 51% (of both men and women) indicated the desire to initiate a traditional romantic relationship when asked to identify the factors that motivate them to hook up . . . In fact, “[No Strings Attached] sex” may be an oxymoron. This conflict between behavior, desires and perceptions regularly puts young adults at risk of negative consequences from the pluralistic ignorance effect.

Media and Abortion Industry Contribute to the Problem

These silent assumptions that everyone is OK with no strings attached sex when really most are not is creating a horrible environment for students with any drive to maintain a virtuous life or just stand up for their own human dignity.

The pressure to hook up and to act like you don’t care about a relationship is further piled on by nearly every product of mainstream media. Movies and TV—especially that bastion of all things evil and degraded, MTV—make it seem like everybody’s doing it and everybody’s comfortable with it, but this study reveals that that’s simply not the case.

And, of course, Planned Parenthood isn’t helping anything either. They talk a good game about only doing what you’re comfortable with, but then they make it out like everybody is engaged in the panoply of sexual activity which they describe in great detail in websites aimed at teens. Not only does this draw children and young adults into behavior they wouldn’t have known existed if it weren’t for Planned Parenthood, it also creates new customers for Planned Parenthood’s services.

Kids who don’t have these misperceptions are much less likely to make bad sexual choices, so they won’t be buying contraception, they won’t be getting tested for STDs, they won’t be getting pregnant and they won’t be getting abortions. What’s left for Planned Parenthood to sell them?

Chilling Consequences for Women

But it gets worse—especially for girls. The study notes that many women reported having a negative hookup experience because they felt pressured to engage in certain acts or their male partner wouldn’t stop when she wanted him to. The study’s authors reveal a startling consequence of the misconceptions students have about their peers’ comfort with the hookup culture:

The pressure to act in accordance with these false perceived norms may be leading individuals to engage in behavior with which they are uncomfortable, and that poses potential risks in terms of sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, and psychological trauma. These three factors—men’s higher comfort, men’s overestimation of women’s comfort, and women’s overestimation of other women’s comfort—may dovetail and inadvertently result in sexual assault.

That’s right, these false assumptions—perpetuated by the media and the abortion industry—may be resulting in girls getting raped but thinking they shouldn’t be uncomfortable with it because everyone else is OK with it. Again, from the study:

Indeed, at the university where the current study took place, our university counseling center’s internal reports show rapidly rising numbers of women clients presenting with symptoms generally considered sequelae of sexual assault. Yet, it is increasingly common for these same women to outwardly deny having been sexually assaulted. In other words, clients are presenting to the counseling center following traumatic and regretful sexual hook-up experiences, but are seemingly not self-identifying as victims or registering their discomfort as legitimate. It appears that women are behaving in accordance with their false beliefs in spite of their own discomfort with particular sexual behaviors, and are facing negative psychological and emotional consequences as a result.

Planned Parenthood and their cronies in the radical feminist movement are forever insisting that disconnecting sex from relationships empowers women. We see from the study that the opposite is true. Hookup culture not only victimizes women, it takes away their status as victims who deserve love and support and justice.

As with birth control and abortion, these supposed advances for women actually enslave them and rid men of the need to be responsible for their sexual actions.

And the study doesn’t even address the dangers and problems associated with any kind of sex outside marriage, which are legion. A hookup with a stranger or acquaintance puts you at risk of disease, pregnancy and all of the emotional dangers that go with the sexual territory and place women in a particularly vulnerable place.

Young People Need to Know

Reading the entire study, which contains some extremely helpful graphs and charts, is recommended to everyone but especially anyone who works with young people. They need to know that the pressure being put on them to participate in hookup behavior is significantly manufactured and that they do not have to take part in it.

They need to know that disconnecting sex and relationships is neither normal, healthy or safe. They need to know their peers don’t even want to behave this way as much as it seems they do. But above all, they need to know that they are unique human beings created in the image of God who deserve to be loved and treated with respect and dignity, not used and discarded as someone else’s hookup.

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