Study explains why college women abandon courtship for hook-ups

This study is from the Institute for American Values. It was done by Elizabeth Marquardt.

The PDF of study is here.

If you download the 88 page PDF, the first few pages are an executive summary.

I’d been exposed to this research before when I read Dr. Miriam Grossmann’s book “Unprotected”. (Boundless review here) I just got Dr. Miriam Grossmann’s new book “You’re Teaching My Child What?” and I also got Elizabeth Marquardt’s new book “Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce”. I don’t think either of them is conservative, but I like their research anyway.

There are a couple of things that really struck me about this IAV study on hooking-up.

First, this one from p. 15:

A notable feature of hook ups is that they almost always occur when both participants are drinking or drunk.

A Rutgers University student observed, “You always hear people say, oh my gosh, I was so drunk, I hooked up with so and so…” Perhaps not surprisingly, many noted that being drunk helped to loosen one’s inhibitions and make it easier to hook up. A number of students noted that being drunk could later serve as your excuse for the hook up. A Yale University student said, “Some people like hook up because they’re drunk or use being drunk as an excuse to hook up.” A New York University student observed, “[Alcohol is] just part of an excuse, so that you can say, oh, well, I was drinking.”

A Rutgers University student commented, “If you’re drinking a lot it’s easier to hook up with someone… [and] drugs, it’s kind of like a bonding thing… and then if you hook up with them and you don’t want to speak to them again, you can always blame it on the drinking or the drugs.”

Other women observed that being drunk gives a woman license to act sexually interested in public in ways that would not be tolerated if she were sober. For instance, a University of Michigan student said, “Girls are actually allowed to be a lot more sexual when they are drunk…”

A University of Chicago junior observed, “One of my best friends… sometimes that’s her goal when we go out. Like she wants to get drunk so I guess she doesn’t have to feel guilty about [hooking up].”

Some reported that drinking had led them to do things they later regretted. A University of Virginia student said, “My last random hook up was last October and it was bad. I was drunk and I just regretted it very much.”

And this one from p. 30 on the effects of hooking-up on their future commitments:

A few women did see an unambiguous connection between present relationships and future marriage.

[…]Many women either saw little or no connection between present and future relationships, or their understanding of this connection was curiously flat. A student at New York University said, “[The present and the future are] connected because I will still have the same values and principles that I have now, but I just won’t be single anymore.”A number of women said that the present and the future are connected because whatever heartache or confusion they experience now gives them lessons for the future.

A University of Michigan student said, “Early relationships prepare you for marriage because it’s like, oh, what type of person do I want to be with? Oh, I’ve had these bad experiences. Or, I’ve learned from this relationship that I should do this and I shouldn’t do this.”

A sophomore at Howard University said that “I am kind of learning from a lot of the mistakes that I have made.” At a further extreme, some women saw their future marriage as the reason to experiment widely in the present. A Rutgers University student said,“I think hooking up with different people and seeing what you like and don’t like is a good idea. Because eventually you’re going to have to… marry someone and I’d just like to know that I experienced everything.”

Although it is admirable to take risks and learn from one’s mistakes, these women would probably find it difficult to explain how having your heart broken a few or even many times in your early years — or trying to separate sex from feeling, as in hooking up — is good preparation for a trusting and happy marriage later on.

And on p. 42, we learn what women think marriage is and isn’t for:

For instance, in the on-campus interviews one student complained, “[With] marriage…you have to debate everything… Why do you need a piece of paper to bond a person to you? …But I know if I don’t get married I’ll probably feel like… [a] lonely old woman… If anything, I’d get married [because of] that.”

This student went on to say that she would be satisfied to live with a man, but added that, if the man was committed to her, he would offer to marry her, and that this was the kind of commitment that she wanted. A student at the University of Washington said,“I don’t want to get married right after I graduate from college. I just think that would stunt my growth in every way that there is. I would like to be in a very steady, committed relationship with a guy.”

And on p. 44, we learn that they like co-habitation, which increases the risk of divorce by about 50% (but they don’t know that):

In the national survey, 58 percent of the respondents agreed that “It is a good idea to live with someone before deciding to marry him.” This belief often coexists with a strong desire to marry, because it was embraced by 49 percent of the respondents who strongly agreed that marriage was a very important goal for them.

[…]Women we interviewed on campus reflected a similar range of attitudes about cohabitation. Some women thought that cohabitation was a good way to test whether one could spend a lifetime with a potential partner. In such cases, women often cited fears of divorce as the reason for trying cohabitation first. A senior at the University of Washington said, “I kind of don’t really see marriages work ever, so I want to make sure that everything’s all right before [we get married]. I don’t see how people can get married without living together because I know like I have a best friend and I live with her and we want to kill each other, like, every few months.”

Other women felt that, in an age of divorce, cohabitation was a preferable alternative to marriage. A student at New York University said, “You see so [many] people getting divorces… I just don’t see the necessity [of marriage].” She went on to say, “I think that I don’t have to be married to [the] person that I’m with…. You know like… Goldie Hawn [and Kurt Russell]? They’re not married.”

But let’s get back to the drinking and the hook-up sex…

Once a woman abandons femininity for feminism, then sex is all that she can use to get noticed by a man. Men are like hiring managers, and courting is like a job interview for the job of marriage and mothering. If a woman tries to get the job by having sex with the interviewer, he isn’t going to hire her since sex has nothing to do with the job. There are children involved, you know – he has to think of them when he makes the hiring decision. But women have been taught to think bad things about men (they’re rapists) and marriage (it’s slavery) by feminists – so they don’t even try to understand men, or to respect men, or prepare their character for being a wife and mother. Feminists just don’t understand that hard work is needed to understand men and prepare for marriage.

In a previous post, I explained how feminists wanted to get women to drink like men, have sex like men, and to abolish courtship and marriage. Under the influence of feminism and Hollywood celebrities, women began to choose men to have sex with without any consideration of morality, religion, marriage, etc. They thought that sex was an easy way to trick a man into committing to them without having to treat him like a real person, or to take the demands of marriage and parenting seriously. (They have been taught to value education and careers over husbands and children, you understand). This results in a cycle of binge-drinking, one-night-stands, cheating, co-habitating, breaking-up, stalking, aborting, etc., until the woman’s ability to trust and love anyone but herself is completely destroyed. And yet these college women somehow believe this is “adventurous”, that it makes them feel “sexy”, and that the experience of being selfish and seeing the worst kind of men acting in the worst possible ways, point blank, somehow prepares them for marriage and motherhood.

Often, a young unmarried woman’s biological father was NOT selected by her mother based on his ability to make commitments and moral judgments. Many feminists prefer men who do not judge women morally, nor impose his religion on her. But those very things that young unmarried  women today seem to dislike most about men, because they fear rejection on moral and religious grounds, are exactly the things that make men good husbands and fathers. They don’t want to be judged or led spiritually, so they choose immoral, non-religious men. Men who are not firm on morality and religion cannot be counted on to act morally and self-sacrificially. And when they fail, and the marriages break up, the children grow up fatherless and may develop negative views of men.

Every young unmarried woman who chooses a bad man, and then has a bad experience with him is pushing away marriage with both hands. The more she destroys her ability to trust, love and care for others, the less she is able to be happy and effective in a marriage.

12 thoughts on “Study explains why college women abandon courtship for hook-ups”

    1. The data shows that many young women are from being victims, and are making choices to postpone manage and play the field while they can. I think one group of men who draws the majority of this attention will be happy with this, and another larger group of men who are passed by will withdraw from marriage, rather than marry later to women who wouldn’t come near them when they were younger and needed the support of a woman more.


      1. Well that’s the million dollar question, I think.

        So far, that hasn’t been happening. The carousel isn’t that new (it also existed in its more elementary form when I was in college in the late 1980s), and generally speaking college grad women who are not physically unattractive who ride the carousel have not been having too many problems marrying at the appointed time (between 28 and 35) to men they were not riding on the carousel. There are a few women who don’t manage it, mostly because they either wait too long, or they are too picky, or both, but the stats on what percentage of women overall are married by age 40 are sky high, and even higher for college grads. The outliers are loud, but they are outliers. So, so far, men are not avoiding ex-carouselers. I expect that the reason is that most guys would prefer marrying a physically attractive ex-carouseler to being alone and celibate for the rest of their lives.

        The underlying issue is the strength of the male libido. for most guys, it is stronger than their desire to avoid ex-carouselers — at least it has been so far.

        It could be the case that this changes in the coming years because the youngest generation of men is much more cynical and jaded than even my generation, or the one right behind me, is/was, but only time will tell on that one.

        And, by the way, this is one of the reasons why the cycle perpetuates. The young girls also see that most women who are college grads and who actually want to get married are getting married in their late 20s to mid 30s timeframe, so they don’t feel any pressure to prioritize it before then — after all, they see it working out for the women who are 10-15 years ahead of them. Again, whether that cycle continues only time will tell.


        1. I think that’s a great analysis and it shows that men have a role in stopping the cycle by refusing to marry. Perhaps we just need to communicate the risks of marrying an ex-carousel-rider woman to men, as well as explaining the relevant laws (e.g. – no-fault divorce) and the costs of marriage. I try to explain to young men what they should be looking for in a woman on my blog, so that they will reject the women who are obviously unprepared for marriage. I think we need to do a better job of explaining to men why the old definition of marriage was appealing and why the new definition of marriage is not. You’re right in saying that the problem is that men can’t resist sex and that’s why they settle for a woman with baggage. However, what needs to happen is that men just need to be chaste, like me, or not marry at all. I would like to see cohabitation die off as well so that it becomes clear to young women that carouseling during the 20s and early 30s doesn’t work.

          I do have to say that I know several women who don’t like this situation at all and have opted out of the carousel, but it’s not the majority view. What’s troubling to me is that Christian pastors have nothing much to say about it, by and large. Their response to this propensity for promiscuity among young women is to turn to men and say “man up and marry that woman with baggage!”. In fact, Mark Driscoll even tweeted recently that young men should not pass up single mothers as prospective mates. I think that it is wrong to recommend to men that they marry non-virgins/carousellers without highlighting the dangers of this – both in the woman and in the current divorce laws.


          1. I very much agree.

            I think that the church is flummoxed, to be honest. If they enforce the rules, they think they are being judgmental, driving people away who would otherwise stay, and reducing marriage rates overall. If they don’t enforce the rules, they run the risk of de facto endorsing sin, even through the back door, and caving into the culture at large in order to remain relevant culturally and retain more people in the ark. It creates a kind of crossroads situation for the church.

            I honestly think that the church needs to decide that it needs to emphasize repentance (not rejection, but repentance), and accept the results if this makes it less “relevant”. Its raison d’etre is to save souls, and not to preserve its status as a cultural institution — although the latter may work in some contexts, in the context of a culture that is careening at full tilt away from Christ, it’s a bad strategy. It’s hard, however, because the church used to be the dominant cultura institution — so its hard to give up that degree of cultural relevance in the name of remaining faithful to what the Gospel actually says.

            Someone like Driscoll I think is compromised by his own past and probably should not be a pastor to begin with. When I see him screaming at men, all I see is an angry guy taking out his anger on the other guy who took his wife’s virginity on *all* other men. It’s a bad dynamic.


        2. I agree that some of things that aid in the problem of the sexual immorality that is really rampant in our culture is that the women who live that lifestyle know that there are plenty of men who will still accept them despite their relationship baggage (the same thing goes vice versa as well.) I also think a really huge thing is the general fogginess in knowing the difference between right and wrong. What is “right” for many people is what feels right to them or what makes them happy. It’s not based off of obedience to God’s order at all.

          I’m in the younger generation myself, college age, and while I was growing up the sources (peers, the media, church) that told me what to do in my decisions about relationships and marriage were mostly telling me very loudly that it is normal and good to date for fun and to “test out” what kind of a guy you’d like to marry. There was this really tiny voice from the church and more conservative people that said you should abstain from sex until marriage because of STDs and pregnancy. The argument was, “You can lessen your risks of getting STDs or pregnant by using protection, but the best protection of all is to abstain from sex altogether.” Those who are teaching us about marriage and why to be chaste need to improve their arguments, because the current argument that I just presented isn’t strong enough to stop a person from living that lifestyle. It’s the like telling a starving person in a desert not to eat the chocolate cake in front of them because it’s bad for them. The reason isn’t strong enough to hold the person back from simply satisfying their appetite. In this culture sexual things are shoved down our throats quite a lot, and it’s much easier to give in to that than to abstain, you need to arm yourself with strong reasons why to not take part in the sexual immorality. I would say that I agree with Wintery Knight that the evidence shows that sexual immorality is a dumb and harmful choice to make, yet personally realizing the eternal consequences of ignoring God in order to have fun are much more compelling and strong reasons to remain pure.


  1. Excellent article WK.
    It would appear the America is suffering from the corruption of hypersexualization and corruption of martial laws via no fault divorce.
    What option are there for finding “true Christian” marriage as well as partners ?
    It would appear the solution is to go outside the USA to live and raise a family.
    Btw, this shed light into the scripture referring to “The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again”


  2. “these women would probably find it difficult to explain how having your heart broken a few or even many times in your early years — or trying to separate sex from feeling, as in hooking up — is good preparation for a trusting and happy marriage later on.”

    People ask me why I’m not attracted to women my age. The answer is — damaged goods. Unfortunately, the children (er, women?) of today are starting younger and younger to build up a negative war chest of encounters with men, so that there are very few single women left who aren’t going to drag an unbearable amount of baggage from past “relationships” into any new relationship.


  3. I like the study because it shows that women are willing participants in behaviors that undermine their plans to marry. Everyone “conservative” seems to think that they are helpless victims and that men are falling down. But that is, of course, quite false. Nevertheless, the blame-men view is virtually unanimous in Christian churches, with many pastors and leaders going so far as telling women that they should be able to have sex with a non-Christian man and then expecting him to flex his muscles and man-up and marry her if she gets pregnant. Should a woman be told to have sex with a non-Christian man for recreation and then expect him to suddenly commit to 40 years of hard work and sexual fidelity? Of course not! But that is a widespread view among Christian leaders who cannot bear to put any burdens on Christian women to actually take the Bible seriously on moral issues.


    1. Boy, these pastors must not have a high opinion of women at all if they don’t expect or even hope they’ll adhere to Biblical morality. And that’s only half-snark (the other obvious answer is that some pastors are cowed by all of this).

      What baffles me is that there are plenty of young women (they are out there) and young men as well who want nothing to do with the carousel, who are not marrying, either, until their late 20s or early 30s, and it’s hardly for lack of trying to find a suitable spouse. Are they just not finding one another because they’re too busy buckling down and being serious instead of being…hm…”flashy” or “fun”? It’s curious.

      I’ve another theory about this but am waiting for the appropriate time to lob it into the wild and wooly interwebs. Possibly anonymously, as it has ticked off a few people, which I tend to think means I may be near the mark. Free markets affect more than just financial economies.


  4. Well, that’s really the issue, isn’t it? “Science” has been used to explain the behavior of the human animal, who no longer needs “morals” handed down by God. Except that science eventually tells us that adhering to the morals results in the best outcomes. That’s why I like these articles, too. Unfortunately, foolish hearts won’t believe even if Moses and the prophets appeared before them. Even when their own kind see the facts, they cannot come to the logical conclusion: God knows what he’s talking about.


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