Why Do Millennials Love Hooking Up So Much?

Whether you’re surfing Tinder or hanging out at your local bar, one thing is clear: it’s way easier to find a quick hookup than it is to find an actual relationship (or even an actual date). Millennials just really seem to love no strings attached sex, and while that works for many people, it’s a trend that those who still prefer monogamous long-term relationships find somewhat perplexing. So what gives?

Researchers have been studying the phenomenon with some pretty interesting results. New data published in the Journal of American College Health hopes to shed light on why millennials—and college-aged students in particular—are so down to hook up. The study of 396 college students was performed at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine by psychology resident Jessica Blayney.

It all comes down to how we date. Blayney acknowledges that young people don’t date the same as they used to 20 or even 10 years ago. “Instead of dinner and a movie, dating has become a sexual hookup. In our earlier work, we found that hooking up means different things to different people. For some young adults, hooking up means kissing, and for others it means sex,” she revealed.

For the purposes of this study, researchers agree that “hooking up” is about sex rather than just making out. “Generally, researchers agree that hooking up is a casual sexual encounter (anything from kissing to sex) with someone who you are not in a relationship with and don’t expect to be in the future. Many young adults have hooked up and so my interest in this topic was to learn more about this shift in dating,” Blayney explained.

Those who engage in hookups do so for a pretty interesting reason. According to a survey taken by the participants, those who are motivated to have sex “for the thrill of it” rather than because they’re seeking deep emotional connections or any other reason were way more likely to be into hooking up. Same goes for people who had sex to work through negative emotions, particularly men. “We found one difference between men and women. Having sex to cope — whether that’s with stress or a bad mood — means having sex during a hook up more often. This was true for college men, but not college women,” Blayney said.

Of course, alcohol plays a major role. Blayney’s study also revealed a somewhat obvious explanation behind the large number of hookups in college: drinking. The more likely students were to get drunk, the more likely they were to engage in having NSA sex. No surprises there.

In the end, Blayney hopes this study will lead to more in the future. “The reasons for having sex when hooking up might help us understand other things that happen in the moment – like whether a dental dam or condom is used or not. By looking at motivation and behavior, we can then figure out ways that young adults can increase the good things about hooking up (i.e., sexual agency, sexual experience) and decrease the bad (i.e., regret, sexually transmitted infections, unwanted sexual experiences).” Sounds fascinating!

Hooking up isn’t all good or bad. There are both positive and negative consequences involved in hooking up. However, if both parties are engaging consensually with an understanding that it’s just sex, and if both parties are doing so safely in regards to condom usage, birth control, etc. then it’s probably not so bad.

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