Millennials: How Do We Love?

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Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez


The sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s set the stage for the evolution of sexual liberation, new ideas surrounding romance and intimacy, and a more relaxed attitude towards casual sexual encounters. Despite the increased attention being paid by social scientists to the new “hook up” culture amongst America’s youth, there is very little ethnographic research on how the Millennial generation, those born between 1982 and 2002 (Doster 2013), engages with this new sexual landscape. Studies have shown that a staggering 61-70% of teens are engaging in sexual activity outside of committed relationship (Grello et al. 2003; Manning et al. 2006), also known as “hooking up.” Furthermore, researchers have also shown a significant gender gap, both in terms of perceptions about hookup culture and its negative effects (Allison and Risman 2013; Fahs and Munger 2015; Rhoads 2012; Reiber and Garcia 2010; Stark et al. 2012; Wentland and Reissing 2014). Despite the proliferation of research done on hookup culture, we still lack firsthand accounts of how Millennials themselves are experiencing and navigating this new sexual reality. By exploring modern “hookup culture” through a series of in-depth interviews with five male and five female college-aged students, this preliminary study aims to clarify and elaborate upon college-aged Millennials’ changing views on casual sexual relationships and hook-up culture’s effect on their views towards more permanent or serious relationships labels. A snowball sample of ten of the researcher’s own friends and acquaintances were interviewed via phone and FaceTime/Skype; all interviews were recorded using a voice recording application on the researcher’s cell phone and subsequently transcribed. Respondents showed very little regard towards the adherence to sexual/intimacy norms of the past. Surprisingly, however, many interviewees made it clear they believe there is sometimes something “wrong” with a person if they are not keen to the idea of monogamy or do not want to commit, pointing to a desire for a deeper and more long-term connection with an intimate partner. Given the small and narrowly defined sample size, further study is required to be able to fully engage and understand the public perception of Millennials as incapable of forming lasting relationships and empirically show, as this study suggests, that the yearning still exists, although its attainment is complicated by modern technologies such as social media and online dating.


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