Sexuality in Dating Relationships
Sexual practices have been changing on college campuses today. “Hooking up” or having a “friend with benefits” or a “sex buddy” have become more common. Although both men and women report these behaviors are often engaged in purely for the physical pleasures they provide, the research isn’t so clear cut (Lambert et al., 2003).
I once had two students in my class who I thought didn’t know each other because they never talked or sat next to each other. However, in reading papers they had handed in, I learned they had been “hooking up” almost every weekend for over 8 months. What was interesting to me, however, was how they each described their relationship. Blye wrote that she was sure Laizon was looking for a commitment because he had sex with her every weekend, whereas Laizon wrote that he was relieved that Blye understood their relationship was only sexual because he never talked to her during the week. Both Blye
and Laizon were evaluating the same behavior differently. It might be easy to assume that it’s always the female who is looking for more commitment in these “hookups,” but that wouldn’t be entirely true. There are many men who hope for more out of a “hookup” but settle for what they can get (see the Sex Talk Question on page 260).
There are some couples who decide to abstain from sex. These couples tend to hold more conservative attitudes about sex and have less prior sexual experience. Today more and more adults are standing up for their virginity instead of being embarrassed by it. Even some famous athletes have spoken out about their virginity in their youth (see the accompanying Personal Voices, “Sports and Virginity”). When both partners have been sexually active in the past, they are very likely to continue to be sexually active in their present relationship (Peplau et al., 1977).
For couples in which one partner has been sexually active in the past and the other is a virgin, the woman’s past experience is a stronger predictor of the sexual behavior of the couple. Virginal men often do not resist the opportunity to have sexual intercourse with an experienced woman. Peplau and colleagues (1977) found in a study of college students that every male virgin who dated a sexually experienced female engaged in sexual intercourse. However, when a virginal female dated a sexually experienced man, only one-third of couples had sexual intercourse.
Question: I have a "sex buddy" that I hook up with at least once a week, sometimes more. We don’t ever talk about us or what is going on, but the sex is great. I’d like to take this to the next level and become a "couple," but I just don’t know how. I guess we’ve become very accustomed to the way things are. I’m scared to death that maybe she doesn’t want anything more than we already have. I’d be devastated.
Moving from a hookup into a more serious dating situation can be difficult primarily because there is often a significant lack of communication between the partners. Although it is possible for a serious relationship to develop out of a hookup, many do not make it past the hookup stage. Your best bet would be to find a time when the two of you can talk about your feelings and hope for a more committed relationship. Students have different motivations for hooking up and engaging in casual sex, and you won’t know your partner’s motivations unless you ask.