The News Story – Would you ask a peer out for extra credit?  School offers dating classes
Recent research has shown that our current “hook-up” culture has proved unsatisfying, in particular for women.  Given this, some colleges have begun to reintroduce and reemphasize the possibility of dating and committed relationships.

A recent article in USA Today reports how Kerry Cronin, a philosophy professor at Boston College, gives an extra credit assignment to her freshman students, requiring that a student ask another on a date.  In order to insure that such a meeting is a healthy and legitimate date, some conditions apply: “You must ask someone you are legitimately interested in, alcohol cannot be involved and no physical interaction other than a hug is allowed.”

The article continues on to summarize the reasons the professor had for creating such an assignment: “[Cronin] says she found that most students no longer dated, or even knew how. On college campuses, where casual hookups are increasingly the norm, Cronin says that dating seems like a foreign concept to many.”  A student adds that dating has been neglected because “college students often engage in hookup culture as a “survival tactic” to keep up with established norms.”

In addition to Cronin, other universities, such as Duke University and University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign, have implemented related courses or programs.  Given that most college students prefer committed relationships over casual hookups, it is commendable that healthy relationships are being supported and encouraged on college campuses.

The New Research – Sex and commitment

When University of Chicago researchers published Sex in America in 1994, the landmark study revealed that married Americans have more sex, and more enjoyable sex, than do single Americans. The party scene may delude the younger set into thinking otherwise, but a study published in the American Sociological Reviewunintentionally confirms the bourgeois results of the Chicago study. By detailing how “hookups” represent a raw deal for coeds, the newer study indirectly indicates that marriage serves the interests of young women far better than does the promiscuous life that Hollywood glamorizes.

The team of three sociologists from the University of Michigan, New York University, and Stanford University actually set out to identify what might be called “best practices” when it comes to the sexual activities of unmarried college women. Their study, based upon data representing 13,500 undergraduate coeds who participated in the Online College Social Life Survey between 2005 and 2011, as well as in-depth personal interviews with 85 senior coeds at two large universities during the academic year 2007–08, delves into matters that Emily Post would deem unsuitable for dinner-table conversation.

Their findings make it clear that hookups (defined as liaisons that young women have with men with whom they were not in a “relationship”) are far less satisfying than encounters with men with whom coeds have been in a “relationship” for at least six months. Granted, while the coeds report that just 39 percent of their hookups progressed to sexual intercourse (compared to 80 percent of their dating relationships), they report significantly less satisfaction with “hookup intercourse” than what they call “relationship intercourse.”

Although a limited study, its redeeming factor is its identification of “commitment” and “long-term orientation” as key variables of the sexual well-being of women. Whether in hookups or dating relationships, coeds reported that their sexual satisfaction increased if they anticipated a deeper relationship. If they were interested in a relationship beforehand, coeds were twice as likely to enjoy a hookup encounter, leading the researchers to claim “romantic interests enhanced sexual enjoyment for women.” Satisfaction also increased when women in dating relationships indicated that they were “likely” or “very likely” to marry their boyfriends, who they reported were more attentive to them than the studs they typically hooked up with.  Their findings indicate that commitment to a long-term relationship offers the best context of sexual satisfaction for young women.

(Source: Bryce J. Christensen and Robert W. Patterson, “New Research” The Family in America Vol 26 Number 3, Fall 2012. Study: Elizabeth A. Armstrong, Paula England, and Alison C. K. Fogarty, “Accounting for Women’s Orgasm and Sexual Enjoyment in College Hookups and Relationships,” American Sociological Review 77.3 [June 2012]: 435-62.)

Nicole M. King is the Managing Editor of The Howard Center’s quarterly journal, The Family in America: A Journal of Public Policy, the United States’ leading journal of family-policy research....