Hooking-up: What does it mean to you?

Amy Thompson

Hooking-up isn’t the typical Valentine’s Day topic. In fact, the topic could be depressing, considering most people define hooking-up as something that’s not a commitment and usually involves large amounts of alcohol.

Whether directly involved or not, hooking-up is a part of every college student’s life. Veronica Rau-Mason, graduate student in the department of sociology, has always been fascinated by the sexual practices of college students. She has decided to write her thesis on “Understanding How and Why College Students use the Term ‘Hooking-Up’ to Describe their Sexual Encounters”.

“The hook-up culture is an interesting social phenomenon. I wonder what  implications these types of sexual encounters will have on future generations,” Mason said.

Mason’s research interest is intimate relationships and inequalities. She’s what’s considered a non-traditional student. She is married with a child, so the hook-up culture really intrigues her because it isn’t something she’s familiar with.

There has been plenty of research nationwide regarding hooking-up, but Mason and her professors decided the idea of how the term is used has not been addressed.

“By using in-depth interviews with college students at a large Midwestern University, this study explores links between the meanings students associate with the term hooking-up,” taken from the abstract.

The questions she is trying to answer are; what is the significance of the term hooking-up and how does it benefit/detriment the people who do or don’t use it.

“Answering those questions is my goal, but since research is an emergent process, I want to also let my participants tell me their stories. I love to do the interviews, they are my favorite part of researching,” Mason said.

Many students have received an e-mail asking for participation in Mason’s experiment. The e-mail requested help from students who have engaged in at least one hook-up. Mason cannot disclose her findings, but thus far she has finished 10 of her 20 interviews. The interviews will be equal, meaning 10 men and 10 women.

The interviews are pretty in-depth, and there are a few main questions that Mason asks. Beyond those questions, she lets the interview go wherever it may. Like she said before she wants to let the participants share their own stories. A few of the main questions she asks are;

• What does hooking-up mean to you?

• What are the benefits/consequences of using the term hooking-up?

• What are your experiences with hooking-up? (Most recent or memorable hook up)

• What piece of advice would you give to a new ISU student about hooking-up?

The latter is her favorite question because she gets a variety of responses. For a negative case analysis, Mason will conduct four interviews, two men and two women, which will be used to compare the meanings of those who do hook-up and who don’t hook-up.

“I haven’t found any studies that analyze the use of the term for those who engage in sexual practice. This is a major difference between my research and prior studies, so I am open to letting participants share their stories to better understand what’s going versus focusing on my interests,” Mason said.

If there are any questions regarding Mason’s research, contact her at [email protected]