December 12, 2012

Data on what Millennials actually mean by "hooking up"

I first remember that term going viral in the early 2000s when groups of promoters hit the busy areas of our college to advertise for an internet dating site, campushookups.com -- surprisingly no longer online. It sounded like a code word for a one-night-stand, like "wanna get laid this weekend" dot com.

Ever since then it's evolved into a vague term more like "fooling around" or "making out" that involves some minimal amount of activity, but leaves how far it went unspecified, partly for privacy and partly for making it sound like you got further than you actually did.

To put their fingers on what young people actually mean by the phrase, the authors of this article asked a group of college freshman girls about their most recent "hookup," using that term explicitly. These girls were born around 1991-'92.

What went on? No shock that 98% involved kissing, but touching the breasts? -- only 67%. And scarcely half involved genital touching outside or underneath clothing. Merely 27% got as far as intercourse, and ditto for oral. Of course, oral and intercourse aren't mutually exclusive, but they do co-occur pretty highly today among young people who are sexually active, so maybe 1/3 involved either-or.

Well, there you have it: "hooking up" means you certainly kissed, probably did not go all the way or get a blowjob, and had a 50-50 shot at reaching third base, with somewhat better chances of at least making it to second. So the next time you hear or read some college kids casually talking about how Chase and Becca hooked up over the weekend, don't be so scandalized. It's just another case of the dork squad trying to embellish their experience-free experiences.

The article makes some other interesting observations. Girls hooking up had an average of three drinks beforehand, with 64% having at least one. That echoes a point I made using data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey -- that kids these days are drinking less, except before having sex. Part of that is because Millennials are so afraid of taking risks and so afraid of real human interactions that they need to get pretty pissed just to get kissy-kissy with each other. But it also means the physical act itself (drunk sex) won't be that spectacular, which is crucial to making sure that it be forgettable, not something magical that might attach them emotionally to another person. They just want to scratch their itch (evidently not even that deeply), and get right back to their busy schedules of playing video games and refreshing Facebook to find new comments to like.

As for who their hookup partners were, only 14% were strangers, while 47% were friends, 23% acquaintances, and 12% ex-boyfriends (lol). Not only were their partners already well known to them, they tend to stick with the same known individual -- 44% said it wasn't the first hookup with them. So it's not as though they're confining themselves to their social circle while still playing round-robin. It's another sign of the Millennials' cautiousness, low trust, and monogamousness.

A review article on dating and mating among Millennials came to the same conclusion about how uncomfortable it feels to young people to lock eyes with a stranger and get into the mood of ships that pass in the night:

To meet eyes with a stranger: weird

As for how Millennials find people to date, Rhoades and her colleagues found there is a lot of online dating after college. But while in college, people meet mostly through friends or at clubs or parties. But even in those places, they meet through a group of friends and acquaintances. Millennials are far less likely than those of previous generations to go where singles hang out or date someone they meet simply by chance.

"This generation is so socially connected to each other and the world because of technology that the idea of dating someone you meet on the bus while commuting to work seems pretty far afield. They want to be connected to the person they date in some social way," says Rhoades. . . .

Bogle teaches a class called Love, Marriage, and Parenting and says her students don't see the romance in having their eyes meet a stranger's across a crowded room. In fact, they think it's weird. "They felt it was far more normal to meet someone on the computer, rather than to meet a stranger that just happens to be in the same public space as you are," she says.

The verdict is in -- spontaneity is creepy. You know, then, that the girls aren't feeling butterflies in the stomach, falling head over heels, and so on. It's a pure quid pro quo -- I'll handle your junk if you handle mine -- with a partner chosen to maximize the convenience of the transaction.

Drained of all possible passion, it's no wonder that the girls hooking up in the first study don't feel blown away by the experience, giving it an average rating of 5 out of 7, compared to the 6 out of 7 that they gave to their romantic interactions with a long-term partner. Physical activity within a relationship also went farther, with 56% of events going all the way, and involved almost no alcohol to dull the sensation (average of 0.5 drinks beforehand, and only 16% having at least one).

This comparison is important to deflate another lame attempt by Millennials to glam up their boring lives -- i.e., that they're too busy having fun and playing around to settle down into a long-term relationship. In fact, those hooking up are not rounding as many bases and are not getting as much enjoyment out of their encounters as those in a real relationship. Far from being an extraverted, wild-child form of behavior, hooking up is more the choice of numbed-out cocooners.

29 comments:

  1. Has going all the way with strangers ever been the norm, though? The Millenials might be less socially open than other generations when it comes to sex but I would guess even the Baby Boomers tended to find their partners through friends or friends of friends.

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  2. Anonymous8:26 AM

    Interesting article and not what I have found with regard to Millenials at all. Now, I'm speaking with regard to women - being older I have found they are more open to one-night stands without more than a hello - if the mood it right.

    Of course, they also tend to be just as quick to lie about what they do as women of the past. So I suspect that the study shows that in spades - you know what they say, divide the number of sex partners a man says by 3, and multiply the number of sex partners a women gives by 3 to be close to the facts...

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  3. Anonymous9:10 AM

    At present women are more educated, careerist women and they are less interested in a man’s money or career status. This dovetails perfectly with the contention that female economic empowerment has led to a sexual market where soft polygamy — the clustering of financially independent women at the peak of their fertility (and beauty) around a the most atractive males — is the new norm. If money and occupational status mean less to millenials girls, then guess what means more to them?. And who loses in this arrangement? poor provider unattractive men. economically empowered and ├╝bereducated Millenias women put more emphasis on male looks than will economically insecure, less educated women. Millenials girls are more likely to want to ride the cock carousel (i.e., “engage in short-term sexual relationships”). Millenials women are more likely to eschew “traditional gender roles” in romantic relationships. So it is the modern girls, not the women from other generations, who say screw it to marriage, dating, fidelity and lifelong monogamy while they are in their primes, and who are more open to fucking around, casual hook ups, cheating and, ahem, serial monogamy. Modern current girls do eventually get married at higher rates than in old times, but the relevant factor to the typical urban average/unattractive male is how many girls in his milieu are ready for marriage and/or long term relationships *during their 20s*, when women are at their most desirable. If the rising age of first marriage is any indication, not many.

    Women have always been this way. What changed was the pill, condom, economic parity and feminist devolution. Women’s pussy keeps men in check, but dick doesn’t keep women in check, save for organically emergent cultural controls that put the brakes on female sexuality through the consequences of shaming, accidental pregnancy and potential out-of-wedlock destitution. If men in the trenches are reporting that women are more dishonest, shallow and sluttier than ever, then the blame rests with giving women more freedom, not less. It’s understandable that a feminist would shirk from this conclusion.

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  4. Anonymous9:14 AM

    Economically independent women, freed from shame and the restrictions of their biology by the pill and abortion, following their sexual instincts straight into soft polygamy, state-supported single motherhood, and grossly unjust payday divorce settlements. A great narcissism has flourished, leading women to overvalue themselves so much that they price themselves out of the mating market. Modern women are being choosier and they are increasing their mate standards. Before women entered into the workforce, so main reason that women married wealthy men was for financial support. If money is no longer a necessity, they can look for high phenotypical quality men. In the Western world, gender equality, the sexual revolution, and in particular the advent of the contraceptive pill has given women more freedom when choosing a partner. The contraceptive pill brought about a distinction between childbearing and sexuality, enabling women to choose to be with a partner who suited them but who was not necessarily the most suitable partner to bear children with (usually an older man with a relatively good income). The pill also gave women the option of delaying childbirth or rejecting the notion of having children altogether. And cougar women are the significantly becoming more common in society. There are also several indicators as to why women are choosing this type of relationship; they are attracted to younger men simply because of their youth and the physical features that accompany youth. In the Western world, women are increasingly of similar education and income levels to men, are taking on senior roles in the workplace, and are gaining more status.

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  5. Anonymous9:31 AM

    Hard to say.

    It seems that from 2002-2005 girls were more open to meeting strangers.

    -Curtis

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  6. Anonymous10:00 AM

    I also wonder if this is related to the idea of falling-crime times being more "provider" friendly.

    the social milieu is sexually repressive. You have to establish yourself in the power structure - by getting a job, or joining the right frat, or whatever - to get laid, because the girls are so averse to having sex with some guy off the street.

    This is why so much of Millenial culture is geared towards intimidating or impressing rivals, rather than directly attracting the opposite sex.

    -Curtis

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  7. macgyver10:22 AM

    I just worry that your theories do not fit with the reality. You must consider the differences in sociosexual orientation of current women with women before sexual revolution. Current mating market is leading to a scene where there is a greater tendency and an increasing number unrestricted women (girls who are open to short-term relationships and casual sex). It is known sociosexual orientation and sex drive it is attributable to cultural environment and also determined by genes, so was this evolution cultural or genetic? How does one distinguish cultural from genetic inheritance? And is it possible for genetic evolution to work that fast?

    More masculine women have more sex partners and have a less restricted sociosexual orientation than did feminine women.
    Women inclined toward greater promiscuity and most of promiscuous women tend to have higher testosterone levels (Cashdan, 1995; van Anders, Hamilton, & Watson, 2007) and a more masculine physical appearance than controls (Mikach & Bailey, 1999; Ostovich & Sabini, 2004).
    Therefore, most masculine women are more willing to engage in sex at an earlier point in their relationships, be involved in sexual relationships characterized by less investment, commitment, love, and dependency and participate with their partners in acts as fellatio, anal sex or facial eyaculation.


    Even if we assume that you could find a beautiful feminine woman with a high sex drive, testosterone or other hormone levels are not the only factors affecting sex drive. There are many other factors. If libido increases with higher levels of testosterone, factor 1, factor 2, …, factor n, then you can have high libido with low testosterone levels if other factors are present at high levels

    Also women's sex drive, sociosexuality, and lifetime number of sex partners is related to self-control.

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  8. "but I would guess even the Baby Boomers tended to find their partners through friends or friends of friends."

    It's hard to know without data back that far, but I think the appeal of strangers in the night was greater back then.

    "He walked up to me
    And he asked me if I wanted to dance
    He looked kind of nice
    And so I said I might take a chance
    ...
    And then he kissed me"

    "We might be lovers if the rhythm's right
    I hope this feeling never ends tonight"

    I'm sure that the Boomers and X-ers chose friends or acquaintances for their flings too, but they were more out-and-about, and more spontaneous. So I'd say that they were more likely to hook up with someone who caught their eye and it felt like magic.

    I don't think I've ever heard Millennials talk about "love at first sight".

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  9. Anonymous4:24 PM

    Isn't the drink before sex level flat?

    You found a trend in the binge:pre-sex ratio, not a trend in the pre-sex level.

    That doesn't suggest they're having worse sex due to being more drunken. Just that they drink before sex at about the same rate, but have stopped binge drinking.

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  10. "I also wonder if this is related to the idea of falling-crime times being more "provider" friendly."

    It fits with the fact that the girls tend not to go very far during a hookup. If it were about getting the guy's good genes, they'd want sex and would probably not want to get drunk, since that interferes with orgasm. (And orgasm helps retain the guy's load.)

    But if it's about having a bunch of guys in her orbit providing for her in one way or another, then she feels like she has to give them a little something in return, but not enough to risk getting pregnant by them all.

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  11. "Current mating market is leading to a scene where there is a greater tendency and an increasing number unrestricted women (girls who are open to short-term relationships and casual sex)."

    Girls are not more open to casual sex than before -- just the opposite. At least among young girls, like high school or college.

    The Youth Risk Behavior asks several questions about sexuality, including sociosexuality. The percent of high schoolers who've had 4+ partners has been falling for 20 years, and ditto for those who lost their virginity before age 13.

    These data on what the drunken hookup culture among college-aged girls suggests something similar -- getting a little bit of satisfaction for themselves, but by and large blue-balling the guy.

    On a more everyday level, when was the last time you heart anyone describe a girl as a "nymphomaniac"? The good old days are long gone.

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  12. (not gonna correct all these typos...)

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  13. Anonymous8:38 PM

    "But if it's about having a bunch of guys in her orbit providing for her in one way or another, then she feels like she has to give them a little something in return, but not enough to risk getting pregnant by them all."

    Well, I'm not sure this is the case. Girls don't kiss guys they don't like (:P) Unless they're older and totally broke. But we're talking about college girls here.

    I meant more like, guys have to be established in the social hierarchy in order to get laid. Whereas, in the New Wave, the culture was more open, less conformist, and women were more likely to take a chance on some guy who perhaps didn't have a good job, or maybe was a loner, or wasn't vetted by a bajillion of her friends.

    -Curtis

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  14. Anonymous8:43 PM

    That's weird that they will make out with a guy but not have sex. Actually I think even that's inaccurate, for some reason I can't think of now.

    I remember a few years back the researchers were theorizing that Millenial girls were really giving lots of oral sex, but not going all the way, hence the reduced reportings of sexual partners. But that was a stupid theory. Giving a blowjob is basically as intimate as sex, and a pain in the ass for the girl also.

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  15. There was some report last year or maybe this year... Something Something on the Family... or something. It showed that there was no oral sex "epidemic" among teenagers, that oral was not being substituted for intercourse. They're just less sexual no matter what the act.

    I also recall an article in the late 2000s in the NEJM or something, showing that oral herpes had all but disappeared among teenagers. And here they were in the 1970s suggesting that they might as well put it in the water since everyone was gonna get it anyway.

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  16. Yeah this exactly right. Kids today are dull dull dull.

    In game circles, you'll hear the phenomenon that Agnostic talks about - of girls only "hooking up" with friends - as social circle game.

    Well, guess what? Girls *always* had friends and social circles. It was just that in the past they were more daring and adventurous. The idea of being picked up by a guy at the bar or club, or in an earlier era at a dance or diner was not creepy. It was normal.

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  17. And we know that those low herpes rates among today's teenagers are not because they followed the dorky advice from their sex ed class and used a condom during a blowjob. The study I linked to in the post shows that no one does that during a hookup.

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  18. Anonymous7:57 AM

    Agnostic,

    I am not convinced by your argument above. The current actual mating is multidimensional and involves tradeoffs. I am familiar with the study you cite, but, it is only one papper, and at least you should bring a few more researchs in number. And its conclusions and implications are too ambiguous, to overturn the current orthodoxy. should be better equipped with empirical material

    I find the evidence unconvincing, because there are so many factors (both in support of the hypothesis and opposed to it) that are unquantifiable.

    1- In the current decade teenagers and young girls in their early 20s are more eager to have sex than the generation of our mothers and grandmothers; that constitutes a selective force in behalf of a major contributor to proclivity to promiscuity. You point out that rightly millennials prefer young women into dating and mating guys into their same social circle. (It is mainly due to possible increased in the women´s social environment.) But how much more? We have absolutely no way to quantify this, just as we have no way to quantify if these girls are less willing to meet strange potencial partners in public places. This calculation is entirely speculative.

    2-Women must certainly have felt less restricted in their sexuality once they were meeting their own financial needs and could afford to risk happy dalliances with sexually desirable, but more non-committal, top ranked men. For women increased men’s sexual access by noting that it was likely contraception and cost-of-sex-reducing technology — the Pill, abortion, and penicillin — which opened the floodgates to “free” love. I put “free” in quotes because in reality, the sexual revolution did not benefit all men equally; attractive males got the lion’s share of premarital sex from economically self-sufficient women. The unattractive males is suffering more than usual, having to endure watching from the sidelines as alpha males cleaned up, while simultaneously being deprived of the best leverage they had in the sexual market: their promise of femenine resources.

    3- I would expect genetic factors, associated with the current culture and society, to play a role in promiscuous women rates. Early puberty in girls is starting earlier and there are correlations among early puberty and strength of sex drive, and sexual attitudes and behaviors in women. The matter is women now have as close to a hypergamous utopia as has ever existed, where they can pursue alpha males because they do not need to extract subsidization and mating beta males. All the new freedoms available to women that freed them from their traditional responsibilities. In the past, extremely few women ever had more than one or two sexual partners in their lives, as being an unwed mother led to poverty and social ostracization. Contraception made it possible for females to conduct campaigns to act on their urges.


    4- Current younger people have wider social bonds and a lifestyle in which daily interaction with a lot of friends, classmates, coworkers (female entry into the workforce) and others friends of their age (in person, by computer or by smartphone), it is the trend. As recently as a few generations ago, dating was commonly viewed in the West as the first step toward a potential marriage. Dating and courtship involved a pattern where only can interact with only a few men in theirs small town or neighborhood. Now passes for dating may be the most tragic example of the shallowness of the modern age.

    5- Young females are raised co-educationally with males, so they are very tuned-up to status in their age and near-age cohort, and in high-growth periods. They’re socialized to mating at or near their age cohort and educational environment. It is the reason because school and university female students prefer be related and dating guys within their social circle.

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  19. Anonymous7:58 AM

    6- Things have turned out to be more complicated. Men in a new, global mating market (mobility became unprecedented, more of the population moved into cities, Internet age, excess of single males over single females at all reproductive ages) find themselves in great competition they would never have otherwise had to compete with, so men face the prospect of having to stand out as special and attractive amongst a much larger pool of singletons than they were used. Whereas before a man just needed to be one of the best looking guys at his rural village, in his town or in some nighclubs and bars to get a date with a girl, now he needed to be in the top high attractive 10% of all men to get a date with one of the women in huge cities and/or online dating websites.

    7- What's interesting is this new social order affects mating dynamics in the years of high school and college, but less in sexual dynamics. this sexual freedom affects always and mainly well beyond and outside of the college years, with the difference being that, in their 20s and 30s, a select number of fewer men (let's call them highly attractive men) are enjoying the ample premarital rewards of sexually available women.

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  20. macgyver9:05 AM

    “the social milieu is sexually repressive. You have to establish yourself in the power structure - by getting a job, or joining the right frat, or whatever - to get laid, because the girls are so averse to having sex with some guy off the street.”

    You are biased, you should read a little bit about modern sexual trends there are interesting articles and books (Henry Laasanen, Steve Moxon and Baumeister) on female sexual power and sexual market. You fail to predict the actual pervasiveness of female promiscuity and adultery using observable behavior. All we know what happens in most interactions ritual associated with men approaching women like in single bars or nightclubs; In bars you will likely see a number of men trying to meeting women and a much smaller number of women rejecting most of those men. This is repeated, bar after bar, city after city. The women tend to choose only very attractive male suitors in the establishment (even if the women are only of moderate attractiveness or uglies).

    If women rejecting 80% of men it is not due to restriction and women´s puritanism or chastity but their sexual selection. It is only on evaluations and dating preferences as a function of physical attractiveness. I can assure you that a modern woman is not restrictive with a man who she is attracted to. Women want to engage in social interactions with good-looking men, so these one are enjoying the ample premarital rewards of sexually available women. You fail to predict the actual pervasiveness of female promiscuity and adultery using observable behavior.

    If most of men can not get laid does not mean that women are sexually repressed. If you compare today's world with that of 30 or 40 years, you will see that nowadays women´s tendency is to have more casual and uncommitted sexual relationships, more permissiveness and promiscuity, but only with alfa men. Young women engage in sex at an earlier point in their relationships, and to be involved in relationships characterized by less investment, commitment, love, and dependency. The attitude of sex is becoming open. Premarital sex, extramarital sex is also increasing between women and top ranked men.

    In an important sense, the sexual revolution of the 1970s was itself a market correction. Once women had been granted wide opportunities for education and wealth, they no longer had to hold sex hostage. That is, they no longer had to suffer the indignity of Beta provider courtship. Now that they had the resources, it was open season on alpha male cock hopping.

    the sexual revolution have backfired on beta males expecting a bigger slice of the snatch pie. What does all this mean for men? The social trends suggest the continuing influence of a stable fact, namely the strong desire of young men for sexual activity. As the environment has shifted, men have simply adjusted their behavior to find the best means to achieve this same goal. Back in 1960, it was difficult to get sex without getting married or at least engaged, and so men married early. To be sure, this required more than being willing to bend the knee, declare love, and offer a ring. To qualify as marriage material, a man had to have a job or at least a strong prospect of one (such as based on an imminent college degree). The man’s overarching goal of getting sex thus motivated him to become a respectable stakeholder contributing to society.

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  21. "Hookups involving oral, vaginal, or anal sex were reported by 51% prior to college, 36% during their first semester, and 60% by the end of their first semester."

    Does not sound like the rise of monogamy to me.

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  22. If it doesn't sound like rising monogamy to you, you have no frame of reference.

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  23. Anonymous9:32 PM

    Macguyver:

    ."You fail to predict the actual pervasiveness of female promiscuity and adultery using observable behavior."

    I'm not sure what you mean by observable behavior. All you people who say times are wild are basing your perceptions on television.

    Anyway, I agree with most of what you said. with a few exceptions. First, women aren't more promiscuous! They have less sexual partners. It may be that women are becoming more polygamous - meaning, as you said, only a small portion of men are getting laid. But this is not the same thing as promiscuity.

    Promiscuity = having many different sexual partners.

    Second, "beta" males - an ambiguous term, since attractive men can actually be monogamous and caring - never supported feminism thinking it would give them "a bigger piece of the pie". Feminism was forced on them.

    What caused feminism is debatable. In my opinion, teminism is the result of new weapons technology, which has led to the end of infantry warfare and the end of large land armies. Nations no longer need to maintain a large supply of men.

    -Curtis

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  24. Anonymous9:41 PM

    "If you compare today's world with that of 30 or 40 years, you will see that nowadays women´s tendency is to have more casual and uncommitted sexual relationships, more permissiveness and promiscuity, but only with alfa men."

    Women are reporting less sexual partners than they did 30 or 40 years ago.

    While it *may* be true that sexual relationships have become more casual, there are simply less of them going on. To use the word "promiscuous" is inaccurate, since promiscuous means having sex with lots of different people.

    Also, PUA is wrong about almost everything. Its just a mixture of wishful thinking and seething resentment. A bunch of bitter nerds who, having been rejected, want to believe that women are a bunch of sluts being exploited by "alphas". It makes the pain a little easier to live with, I guess.

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  25. School shootings. They really seemed to get more common in the 1990s, right?

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  26. Women are reporting less sexual partners than they did 30 or 40 years ago.

    They are also, however, reporting not being in a relationship with the people who have sex with them much more than they did thirty or forty years ago.

    Which is not monogamy, but hypergamy.

    Hypergamy is in some ways the reverse of sexual promiscuity. It is, however, sexual immorality

    These days, women are mating on the lek pattern, which involves less sex and fewer sexual partners, but still makes them bigger sluts and less monogamous.


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  27. I hope there's another Bernie Goetz.

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  28. Anonymous1:00 PM

    "These days, women are mating on the lek pattern, which involves less sex and fewer sexual partners, but still makes them bigger sluts and less monogamous."

    This is what I"ve been saying, but its actually debatable. Certainly, Millenials are more reluctant to call each other "boyfriend and girlfriend", and don't go on dates as much, but they still could have basically monogamous mating patterns.

    Agnostic made a previous post about how modern young people will sleep with someone exclusively but deny that person is a boyfriend or girlfriend.


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  29. Anonymous1:45 PM

    "They are also, however, reporting not being in a relationship with the people who have sex with them much more than they did thirty or forty years ago."

    That doesn't mean that they're having sex with several people at once. Kids these days are much less comfortable putting "a label" on anything. They may be sleeping with the same person for months, but they're too afraid to admit that it's a relationship.

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