Studies show negative effects of hookups

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Emily Bawden swipes through Tinder in her free time. She said she enjoys meeting new people on Tinder, but urges others to be safe about using it. (Kelsie Matheson)

Hookups are on the rise in America due to social networking apps like Tinder and modern media influences, according to an American Psychological Association study.

Tinder is still trending. The social networking app that launched in 2012 now boasts about 50 million users.

This free app has become popular among BYU students. Emily Bawden, a nursing major at BYU, said she thinks Tinder can be a convenient way to meet a variety of guys in a short amount of time.

“I have had a Tinder account off and on for a year so I could meet people,” Bawden said. “It’s like the fast food drive-thru of dating.”

BYU psychology student Maddie Wirthlin said she also hoped to meet new people by downloading the Tinder app, but has recently deleted it.

“I first got a Tinder because a lot of my friends had one, and it just seemed fun,” Wirthlin said. “But after awhile, I realized that most of the people on there don’t really want to date; more just want to hookup.”

These hookups are defined as a brief, uncommitted intimate encounter (anything from kissing to sex) between individuals who are not romantic partners or who are not dating each other.

These types of interactions have been on the rise since the 1920s with the invention of cars and movie theaters according to the American Psychological Association study. There was a spike in the 1960s due to the widespread availability of birth control and gender-integrated parties and events.

The study shows hookups have once again become socially acceptable.

Kristen Mark, a sex and relationship researcher at the University of Kentucky, said college-aged students tend to view casual hookups as a positive alternative to romantic relationships.

“When we discuss hookup culture with students, they talk about being too busy now to maintain a relationship or not wanting to make a relationship a priority at this stage in their life,” Mark said. “They discuss a long-term monogamous relationship as their end goal, but for now, casual hookups meet their needs.”

The American Psychological Association study cited a web-based study of 1,468 undergraduate students who reported a variety of negative consequences of hookups: 27.1 percent felt embarrassed, 24.7 percent reported emotional difficulties, 20.8 percent experienced loss of self-respect and 10 percent reported difficulties with a steady partner.

BYU is one of the most conservative colleges in terms of premarital sex according to College Magazine, but BYU finance student Phillip LeCheminant said the university is not outside the bounds of hookup culture.

“Hookups at BYU absolutely happen, but a hookup just means a noncommittal makeout,” LeCheminant said. “They happen so often, people even have an acronym for it here and refer to it as an NCMO.”

A Tinder sidebar showing fast facts, percentage of married and single students at BYU as well as Tinder's affect on BYU students. Tinder and other media influences have increased the amounts of hookups that occur at colleges around the country. (Jessica Olsen)
A Tinder sidebar showing fast facts, percentage of married and single students at BYU as well as Tinder’s affect on BYU students. Tinder and other media influences have increased the amounts of hookups that occur at colleges around the country. (Jessica Olsen)

All intimate encounters, including noncommittal make outs, have negative effects, according to the American Psychological Association study.

Local Tinder users have accounts for various reasons, but a lot of them join to hookup with other people according to Bawden.

“I have talked to people on Tinder that have said they are scared from a bad relationship or they are not ready for commitment or they just don’t want a relationship right now so they are just on there to get physical action,” she said.

BYU commitment therapist Ben Salazar said it is impossible for hookups to maintain a sense of casualty.

“There is no such thing as casual when it comes to a makeout,” Salazar said. “Kissing involves so much more than two people locking lips.”

He said kissing triggers all types of physical responses. According to Women’s Health magazine, salivary glands start producing more spit, blood flow increases to certain areas in the body and the brain releases more oxytocin.

Oxytocin shapes the neural circuitry of trust and trust adaptation in humans. Oxytocin is released into the body during intimacy and touching according to Oxytocin Central. The hormone increases feelings of trust and attachment between individuals.

Miriam Grossman a medical doctor and former member of UCLA’s Student Counseling Services, said the negative effects that accompany hookups are due to the battle between feelings of attachment and thoughts of casualty.

“All these things are wonderful if you’re with someone who you know is a good person and you want to be attached to them,” Grossman said. “But when it’s a one-time thing, that’s when you start getting into trouble.”

Oxytocin also causes people to minimize the other’s shortcomings and be less aware of things that might bother them otherwise, according to Grossman.

Grossman described how “countless times” young women have entered her office at UCLA telling her the “same sad story.”

“They tell me that they weren’t into the guy at first, but after one intimate encounter, they become ‘obsessed,’” Grossman said. “They are constantly waiting for the guy to text them or somehow acknowledge them, and they always feel hurt and bitter when he doesn’t.”

LeCheminant said he believes similar situations occur at BYU.

“Most hookups at BYU are asymmetrical,” LeCheminant said. “Meaning one of the parties involved is usually more emotionally invested and would probably be down to date if given the chance.”

Oxytocin is a primarily female hormone, oftentimes making women more affected than men by intimacy, according to Grossman. It is historically known as the hormone released during childbirth and nursing, which creates a bond of trust between mother and child.

“What is so necessary to create lasting human relationships has become misused and mistreated,” Grossman said. “You are messing with your mind and sending off neurotransmitters for false alarms, so there will be negative consequences.”

BYU’s student body is 97.5 percent Mormon, according to Y facts. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches conservative values. Casual sex before marriage is explicitly condemned.

Kissing, however, is acceptable when seriously dating but should not be “handed out like pretzels” as taught by the former president of the LDS Church, Spencer W. Kimball.

Wirthlin, a mormon, decided to delete her Tinder account after a few months of using it.

“There are definitely pros and cons to Tinder,” Wirthlin said. “I know some people have gotten married to their matches, but I am looking for someone more serious about dating and that is hard to tell from only a picture.”