PROVIDENCE – A new study by The Miriam Hospital researcher Robyn L. Fielder published online by the Journal of Adolescent Health has found that romantic encounters are the most common sexual behavior among women in their first year of college.
The study’s findings contradict the belief that “hooking up” – casual, no-strings-attached sexual encounters – may be replacing traditional romantic relationships on campus.
“Hooking up is one way that young adults explore intimate relationships, but it’s not the most common way, and it is often exploratory,” said Fielder, a research intern at The Miriam Hospital’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine. “So while hooking up gets more attention in the media, college students continue to develop romantic relationships, which are actually the most common context for sexual behavior.”
Researchers surveyed 483 first-year female college students about their sexual behavior with hook-up and romantic-relationship partners during their freshmen year, as well as the summer after. They focused specifically on sexual behaviors, specifically oral or vaginal sex, that are most likely to have health consequences, such as sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy.
Before starting college, one-third of incoming freshmen women reported having at least one hook up, while nearly 60 percent said they had sex at least once in the context of a romantic relationship. Forty percent reported sexual hook ups during the first year of college. However, more than half – 56 percent – engaged in oral and/or vaginal sex with a boyfriend or romantic partner during the year. •