Like others, Stepp, the author of Unhooked, suggests that restricting sex to relationships is the way to challenge gender inequality in youth sex…. However, research suggests two reasons why Stepp's strategy won't work: first, relationships are also plagued by inequality. Second, valorizing relationships as the ideal context for women's sexual activity reinforces the notion that women shouldn't want sex outside of relationships and stigmatizes women who do. A better approach would challenge gender inequality in both relationships and hookups. It is critical to attack the tenacious sexual double standard that leads men to disrespect their hookup partners. Ironically, this could improve relationships because women would be less likely to tolerate "greedy" or abusive relationships if they were treated better in hookups. Fostering relationships among young adults should go hand-in-hand with efforts to decrease intimate partner violence and to build egalitarian relationships that allow more space for other aspects of life such as school, work, and friendship.
Current work on hooking up — or casual sexual activity on college campuses — takes an individualistic, "battle of the sexes" approach and underestimates the importance of college as a classed location. The authors employ an interactional, intersectional approach using longitudinal ethnographic and interview data on a group of college women's sexual and romantic careers. They find that heterosexual college women contend with public gender beliefs about women's sexuality that reinforce male dominance across both hookups and committed relationships. The four-year university, however, also reflects a privileged path to adulthood. The authors show that it is characterized by a classed self-development imperative that discourages relationships but makes hooking up appealing. Experiences of this structural conflict vary. More privileged women struggle to meet gender and class guidelines for sexual behavior, placing them in double binds. Less privileged women find the class beliefs of the university foreign and hostile to their sexual and romantic logics.
This article explains why rates of sexual assault remain high on college campuses. Data are from a study of college life at a large midwestern university involving nine months of ethnographic observation of a women's floor in a "party dorm," in-depth interviews with 42 of the floor residents, and 16 group interviews with other students. We show that sexual assault is a predictable outcome of a synergistic intersection of processes operating at individual, organizational, and interactional levels. Some processes are explicitly gendered, while others appear to be gender neutral. We discuss student homogeneity, expectations that partiers drink heavily and trust their party-mates, and residential arrangements. We explain how these factors intersect with more obviously gendered processes such as gender differences in sexual agendas, fraternity control of parties, and expectations that women be nice and defer to men. We show that partying produces fun as well as sexual assault, generating student resistance to criticizing the party scene or menís behavior in it. We conclude with implications for policy.