Wade, a professor of sociology at Occidental College, reframes the conversation about casual sex on college campuses today with a sharp, canny report on how hookup culture has become a new norm of American campus life (“It’s more than just a behavior; it’s the climate”), and why its sexual dynamics should be cause for concern. Wade includes firsthand accounts from her research subjects (her students from the two American liberal arts colleges where she’s taught), who report in fresh and candid language on their experiences. She groups them into “abstainers,” “dabblers,” “strivers,” and “enthusiasts.” Both the media and the students themselves overestimate how much sex is happening on campus, and this leaves those who aren’t having sex (intentionally or not) feeling left out. The price of the perception, Wade notes, is high: the entrenchment of gender stereotypes, insistent heterocentrism, punishing competition among women for male approval, and the prevalence of sexual violence. Wade writes engagingly, and the research is historically grounded (though the history is sketched swiftly and with broad strokes); her conclusions won’t surprise anyone, but the numerous student voices she includes set her book apart from others on the topic. (Jan.)
"[P]rovides an engaging, thought-provoking, and accessible examination of current social behaviors."
"Wade provides constructive strategies to address how campus sex practices can be humanized, and undertaken with greater respect and empathy. "
"Lisa Wade pulls back the curtain on campus culture and reveals the tableau of racial, class, and gender inequality on which the not-really-so-pervasive phenomenon of student hookups is playing out. If you want to understand what is happening on campus today, this book is not only excellent; it’s necessary."
"In this fascinating book, Wade shines the bright light of sociology and feminism onto American college sexual culture, exploring both its positive and its bleakest aspects. An intelligent, sympathetic, and unflinching analysis of hookup culture, interweaved with intimate narratives from those living in it."
"An urgently needed and well-researched front-line report on ‘hookup culture.’ … Are young women taking on a traditional ‘male’ view of sex? Is commercialism monopolizing their—and our—imaginations? Is hooking up a way of shutting down—and discrediting—genuine emotional connections? If so, why?… This book is a welcome wake-up call to the nation. Read it and pass the word."
Using case studies, informational interviews, articles from student newspapers, and publicly available data, Wade (sociology, Occidental Coll.; Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions) explores "hookup culture" on college and university campuses. Hookup culture is defined as the expectation that students will have an abundance of casual sex in college, and that this is part of the "whole college experience." First, Wade explores the history and sociology of sex and dating to provide context for the prevalence of promiscuity among college students. She then shows how hookups happen, including the strong influence of alcohol, and how they affect participants' social status. Subsequent chapters tell how race, socioeconomic status, religion, and sexual orientation impact students' experiences. LGBTQ relationships are mentioned briefly, as the majority of study subjects are heterosexual. Additionally, Wade considers students who opt out of the behavior and feel alienated from their peers. The examination ends with an investigation of student relationships after graduation. VERDICT A fascinating and heavy study into the social lives of college students. Recommended for anyone interested in college life or sexuality studies.—Rebekah Kati, Durham, NC
The transition from high school senior to college freshman signifies far more than academic accomplishment. Moving from the constraints of the teen years to the seemingly unbounded freedom of de facto adulthood can be a precipitous adjustment. This shift is perhaps most evident in the increased opportunities for sex or, more specifically, within the casual sexual encounter known as the hookup. As Wade describes, hookup culture permeates recreational activities at campuses across the country. Citing examples from doctoral dissertations, popular magazine articles, and the journals of her students, the author explores the rules and rituals of hookups as well as the emotional impact these encounters may carry for participants. For example, young people often attempt to hook up with someone considered "hot," or risk ridicule from friends, and pretend that the hookup never happened when seeing their sex partner the next time. Wade notes that participants are mostly white, heterosexual, and from money, although the predominance of hookup culture affects nearly all students. Teens will probably be less shocked than adults by the accounts of emotionless sex, since these activities frequently begin in high school. But the deeper, hidden aspects of the experience—the way it deliberately avoids committed relationships and focuses narrowly on sexual desirability—are important insights for adolescents as they embark on their own college adventures. VERDICT College-bound young adults will be better prepared to navigate hookup culture on their own terms after reading this informative, empathetic account.—Diane Colson, City College, Gainesville, FL
How and why American college students are engaging in nonintimate one-night stands.Although students on college campuses profess to be having a lot of sex, according to Wade’s (Sociology/Occidental Coll.; co-author: Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, 2014, etc.) research, “today’s students boast no more sexual partners than their parents did at their age.” The difference is the culture surrounding the intimacy, a topic the author thoroughly and perceptively explores. Using in-depth research and multiple surveys from hetero, bi, trans, and queer students of all ethnic and economic levels from colleges across the country, Wade delves into the new hookup culture, which allows students access to sex but can leave them feeling anxious, depressed, and overwhelmed. It comes as no surprise that drunkenness and sex often go hand in hand, that many students feel they would not be able to have sex with just anybody without the alcohol, and that the hookup often starts on the fraternity party dance floor. What is surprising is the intentional lack of emotions allowed after the sexual encounter has taken place, with students deliberately acting cold toward each other after sex. Since no one wants to be tied down or viewed as clingy, needy, or desperate, all partners act as if the other person doesn’t exist, which leads to doubts about why the hookup happened in the first place. Wade does a solid job explaining the pros and cons of this new culture and includes historical data that shows how it evolved from the shift in family dynamics following the Industrial Revolution. The most interesting perspectives come from the journal entries written by students, in which they admit to wanting an emotionally charged relationship with someone but don’t want the stigma of being “uncool” or of losing the opportunity to “live their sexual lives freely.” An eye-opening, conversation-starting examination of sex on the American college campus.
"Wade invites us to consider the nuances of hookup culture that have formerly been overlooked or oversimplified, and the result is powerful."
Guernica - Charlotte Lieberman
American Hookup] conveys exceptionally well the perverse callousness of hookup culture."
New York Times - Jennifer Senior
"Lisa Wade investigates the biggest misconceptions about casual sex on college campuses—and tries to reach an understanding that more accurately reflects realities about gender, race, and class."
"One of the more thoughtful books about the sexual lives of young people in the US today."
"Today's crucial book for your teen's library…as relevant for high schoolers as for college students."
"A myth-busting, eye-popping, and important work of social research. Lisa Wade spent years observing hookup culture on college campuses across the United States and analyzing all the good data available. The result is the best book about sex on campus, bar none."
"An extraordinary window into today’s hookup culture among young people. In its pages, you will find incredible insights tying together the history of college campuses, human brain development, and cultural shifts on gender norms to explain how young people conduct their sexual relationships. Working with young people myself, I see what Lisa Wade describes every day. This is an extraordinary and important book."