Nothing like a few facts to sharpen the mind and facilitate better judgment.
Today's facts about hooking up come to us from Iowa professor Anthony Paik, via the New York Times. Link here. I regret, really I do, linking an article that is so thoroughly infused with snark, thus with sarcasm and contempt, but, strangely enough, the facts shine through the author's stylistic deficiencies.
Paik' study, notably, was compiled in the 1990s and concerns the behavior of post-university young adults. I do not believe that this invalidates his results, because human nature has not changed all that much over the last decade of so. But I also believe that since he was examining the behavior of twentysomethings one would expect more maturity, less insouciance, and more of a willingness to seek commitment.
The research concludes, almost axiomatically, that people who are sleep around without there even being the pretense of a commitment are more likely to have multiple sexual partners. Thus, they are more prone to communicate communicable diseases and to spread emotional discord.
This should not be news, but it is sometimes useful to review the obvious.
Among Paik's other observations, he discovered that jumping into bed during the first week of a relationship led to a higher risk of non-monogamy... meaning that if you move in too quickly you will likely not likely be staying for very long.
And this sentence also piqued my interest, not least because it confirmed a point I have made on this blog: "Women who got along with their companion's parents were less likely to have than men to have multiple sex partners."
Meaning that getting along with your lover's parents places you on the road to marriage. A woman who sees marriage in her future will show a higher level of commitment, to say nothing of loyalty and fidelity, than a woman who sees a man as hook up or a friend with benefits.
This suggests that marriage, when properly defined, involves families and communities; it is not simply about two people who feel affectionate or lustful towards each other.
Dr. Paik does offer several important caveats. First, people tend to under-report their hook ups. I would imagine that this applies especially to women. Second, it is not clear whether people who are prone to infidelity are more likely to get involved in hooking up or in friends with benefits situations, or whether a culture of hooking up and FWBs produces the kinds of behaviors that Dr. Paik has identified.
Obviously, if we are just talking about STDs, the point is moot. The STD is just looking for a nice place to propagate; it does not care about your motives.
As for the larger question, the best we can say, adapting a thought by Aristotle, is that some people do it because it's their nature and that others do it because it has become a habit. Perhaps you can separate out the two by measuring how much alcohol is involved.
Here the age of the participants in the study does matter. College students are more susceptible to peer pressure, and peer pressure on campuses today favors hooking up and disfavors dating.
But it is useful to distinguish what is natural to men and what is natural to women.
Most studies of human behavior suggest that hooking up is not natural to most young women. Thus, if large numbers of women are hooking up these days, the reason must be peer pressure turned into a habit.
I am not talking about the types of infidelity that involve extra-marital relationships. However much we can trust the studies, they suggest that it is more common among women than one would expect, but that in very large part it does not consist in random, anonymous sexual encounters, thus hook ups.