Kathleen A. Bogle is the author of “Hooking Up: Sex, Dating and Relationships on Campus,” and assistant professor of Sociology and Criminal justice at LaSalle University in Philadelphia.
What sparked your interest in the topic of hooking up?
It was actually a conversation I was having with my mentor at University of Delaware talking about wanting to do a research study and I had researched violence against women and date rape and things like that, but I realized there was actually more information on the violence end of things than the general culture of how people get together. So I ended up talking to my mentor about his sons who are about to go through college and kind of how things are different in college verses after. And so I was explaining all this and why it’s different in the college environment than the after-college environment, then he said, “Ya know, you should do a research study on that.” So that’s what started this whole project.
How did you go about conducting your research?
It was actually kind of difficult because I needed to recruit students from a couple different campuses. I didn’t only want to have one type of school in the study. So I decided to do a really large state school and also a smaller Catholic school. One was secular, one was religious and one was really large, while one medium sized. So I felt like it’s completely different types of schools and I wanted to recruit college students and alumni. I recruited college students through classes, through colleagues not of my own, and alumni through an alumnus Web site and also through mailings to alumni that lived in the tri-state area.
Did you face many difficulties with getting sources?
I was really lucky with regard to students opening up about their personal life. The big thing is that you tell them upfront that everything is 100 percent confidential. I tell them it’s like talking to a psychologist or a priest, that I could never tell anyone, ya know, that you told me. I’d let them pick out their own pseudonym that would be used in the book. So they knew right away that they weren’t ever going to be quoted under their real name or anything. Also, the fact that I was not that much older than them when I started this project, that I could kind of relate to them. Probably the best feature of the book is that people open up and let it all hang out.
When do you think the change from dating to hooking up began?
It’s actually interesting because researchers were still talking about dating when hooking up was already going on. The way I was able to uncover when at least the term became popular was through a researcher who did a study on student slang throughout the country. From the early to mid ’80s she found that hooking up was a commonly used term on college campuses all over the country. People didn’t really start talking about the phenomenon of hooking up until after the year 2000.
I was like, “Ya know, it’s been going on for 20 years at least before people really started talking about it in the media or in scholarly circles. Even before the early to mid ’80s, when people started using the term, the traditional dating system began breaking down. So it was really through the late ’60s and all of the ’70s. Instead of “the date” being the centerpiece of social life for college students, they started to hang out in groups, go to parties and kind of pair off from there. Even if they didn’t call it hooking up yet, that’s basically what it was.
What about the college environment?
I absolutely think environment is the key to this whole issue. When I would interview alumni they would take me through their whole college experience and they would also talk about what happens after college and the very same person would talk about hooking up in college, but not doing that after. So as a sociologist, I said environment really has to be the key thing here. When you look at college environment, everyone feels like they’re a friend of a friend. You have a comfort zone with people. Obviously, there’s a lot of parties and alcohol-centered activities. Things are walking distance, [in a situation] where someone wouldn’t get in a car and go back with a stranger to hook up, where they would walk to a dorm room.
Facebook as dating Web site?
There’s something kind of undercover about the way hooking up happens. People are putting information out there. In one sense they’re putting it out there publicly but in another way someone is kind of secretly viewing it; which is very different from the dating era where you’re much more publically asking somebody one. You were presenting them as your date for the evening. They’re kind of literally on your arm walking into somewhere.