To Hook Up or Date: Which Gender Benefits?
Arnold S. Kahn
Bryan K. Saville
Published online: 13 March 2010
Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010
Abstract Hooking up on college campuses has become
more frequent than dating in heterosexual sexual interac-
tion. Analysis of the relative benefits and costs associated
with dating and hooking up suggest that women benefit
more from dating while men benefit more from hooking up.
U.S students (150 women, 71 men) at a midsized
southeastern university indicated preferences for dating
and hooking up across a number of situations and indicated
the perceived benefits and risks associated with each. As
hypothesized, in most situations women more than men
preferred dating and men more than women preferred
hooking up. Both genders perceived similar benefits and
risks to dating and hooking up; differences provided insight
into the sexual motives of college women and men.
Because hooking up has replaced dating as a means for
heterosexual sexual interaction on U.S. college campuses,
we sought to explore the perceived benefits and costs of
hooking up versus dating for U.S. college women and men.
We exposed college students to a variety of situations and
asked the extent to which they would prefer dating or
hooking up in each situation. Although past research has
examined gender roles in college students dating (Laner
and Ventrone 2000; Morr Serewicz and Gale 2008; Rose
and Frieze 1993), as well as hooking up (Lambert et al.
2003; Paul and Hayes 2002; Paul et al. 2000), research has
not explored college student preferences for the two forms
of heterosexual interaction.
Traditionally, among heterosexual college students,
courtship includes the practice of dating. Although dating
can take many forms, research suggests that when asked
what happens on a typical date, college students report a
predictable pattern that is consistent with traditional gender
roles, the man being active and the woman being reactive
(Laner and Ventrone 2000; Morr Serewicz and Gale 2008;
Rose and Frieze 1993): The man asks the woman to go out
with him and informs her where he would like to take her
and at what time. He then picks her up and takes her to the
location of the date, pays any bills, initiates sexual activity
(if any), and takes the woman home, ending the date. The
woman waits to be asked out on a date, takes extra effort to
groom, waits to be picked up, accompanies the man to the
place he has chosen, accepts or rejects the man’s sexual
overtures, and is taken home. Typically, drinking alcohol is
mentioned by both college women and men as occurring on
a date (Laner and Ventrone 2000; Morr Serewicz and Gale
2008). This dating pattern is the predominant one across
various date contexts and assessment methods (Bartoli and
Clark 2006; Morr Serewicz and Gale 2008) and seems to be
what college students think of when asked what happens on
a date. A date differs from “going out with a friend”;
whereas a date implies romantic or sexual interest, going
out with a friend does not.
On college campuses, in recent years, “hooking up”
appears to be as popular as, if not more popular than, the
traditional date (Gute and Eshbaugh 2008; Lambert et al.
A. S. Kahn (*)
B. K. Saville
Department of Psychology, James Madison University,
Harrisonburg, VA 22807, USA
B. K. Saville
Sex Roles (2010) 62:661–669