“Hookup” has become a buzzword, a misleading concept for students, parents and educators alike–one that confuses more than explains the nuances of this complex...

“Hookup” has become a buzzword, a misleading concept for students, parents and educators alike–one that confuses more than explains the nuances of this complex and pervasive trend. In American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus (W. W. Norton, 2017), Lisa Wade analyzes its cultural roots: the evolution of courtship, our unrealized feminist revolution, America’s new business model of higher education, and the increasingly tenuous economic futures faced by young people. The hookup came to dominate college campuses in this context, but the trouble extends beyond hooking up to the culture itself. It rewards students who endorse and embrace meaningless sex, while ostracizing those who don’t. And there is no escaping it. It permeates not just dorm rooms and frat houses, but dining halls, quads, Facebook and Instagram feeds, and even classrooms. It is now part of the quintessential college experience, necessary for forming and maintaining friendships, and it often determines social status, whether students opt in or out.

By including students’ own perspectives and experiences through their college years and beyond, Wade presents a personal and compelling portrait of hookup culture, exploring how it affects a diverse range of students and what it says about the changing face of dating and sex in Tinder-era America. By the end of their senior year, even the most enthusiastic supporters of hookup culture wanted to feel more in hookups and to hurt or be hurt less, to abide by their own standards of attraction, and to opt out of a culture of sexual competition that leaves very few winners and too many losers. Wade challenges readers to envision new sexual cultures, ones that are more equal, more pleasurable, more respectful, kinder, and safer. Wade’s takeaway is for educators, parents, and students alike, asking not “How can we go back?” but “Where do we go from here?” College campuses have always been and should be a place of cultural revolution, and there’s no better place to re-imagine hookup culture and transform American culture in the process.

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