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.