cover image American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus

American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus

Lisa Wade. Norton, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-393-28509-3

Wade, a professor of sociology at Occidental College, reframes the conversation about casual sex on college campuses today with a sharp, canny report on how hookup culture has become a new norm of American campus life (“It’s more than just a behavior; it’s the climate”), and why its sexual dynamics should be cause for concern. Wade includes firsthand accounts from her research subjects (her students from the two American liberal arts colleges where she’s taught), who report in fresh and candid language on their experiences. She groups them into “abstainers,” “dabblers,” “strivers,” and “enthusiasts.” Both the media and the students themselves overestimate how much sex is happening on campus, and this leaves those who aren’t having sex (intentionally or not) feeling left out. The price of the perception, Wade notes, is high: the entrenchment of gender stereotypes, insistent heterocentrism, punishing competition among women for male approval, and the prevalence of sexual violence. Wade writes engagingly, and the research is historically grounded (though the history is sketched swiftly and with broad strokes); her conclusions won’t surprise anyone, but the numerous student voices she includes set her book apart from others on the topic. [em](Jan.) [/em]