Experimenting is an important part of a lot of people’s development, she adds.
Walker believes that such rejection of labels is likely to increase, especially as Generation Z—less than half of whom say they identify as completely heterosexual—comes of age.
“There was a big disconnect between what people said their sexual orientation was and what their actions were.”College is the time when sexual evolutions and experiments are likely to take place because students have often reached their sexual maturity, but not their emotional and economic maturity (as evidenced by the fact that many college students are in debt and making plenty of foolish decisions).
“Hooking up is one way some young people try to get through the long period between their sexual coming of age and their achievement of educational, professional, and relationship success,” says Stephanie Coontz, head of the Council on Contemporary Families, which has published Kuperberg’s previous research on hookups.
Sam Nitz knew he was gay in 6th grade, and even though he only dated and hooked up with men during his time at University of Wisconsin-Madison, he waited until his senior year to come out publicly.
“I was involved in Boy Scouts at the national level, and back then in Boy Scouts you couldn’t be gay,” he explains. C., had been an Eagle Scout and a Section Chief in the Order of the Arrow, but felt that he lost election to be National Chief of the Order of the Arrow (the top youth position in the Boy Scouts) due to a whisper campaign about his sexuality.
Through a survey of more than 24,000 university students, researchers found that many people engaging in same-sex hookups identify as heterosexual.
One in 4 women and 1 in 8.5 men in college whose most recent hookup was with a partner of the same sex consider themselves straight.
D., director of Undergraduate Studies in Sociology at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, who has written extensively on student relationships.
Today, people looking to experiment with same-sex relationships have more options than he did, says Nitz, and more acceptance too.
And of course, the Boy Scouts have since reversed their position too.
But chatter about hookups can increase acceptance of the encounters, said study researcher Amanda Holman, a doctoral student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
That's troubling, Holman said, because hookups are often spontaneous and involve alcohol, making it less likely that students will protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and pregnancy."The more that [students] talked to their peers about it, the more likely that they're going to be accepting of the risky behavior," Holman told Live Science.But for the curious college student, it’s important to realize that sexual identities can be fluid, rather than fixed.For a number of young adults, labels around sexuality don’t always correlate with their actions.Sex outside of relationships is not new, Holman said, but people are increasingly willing to talk about it over the last few decades.