When Hookup Culture Was Just a Toddler 

19th century college men.

American Hookup by Occidental sociology professor Lisa Wade explains a lot. Like hookup culture’s early beginnings.

I’ll hit a few highlights. For more check out her book or an excerpt in Time.


College students in America’s colonies were typically middle class men (and only men) who wanted to enter the ministry.

By the end of the 18th-century things had shifted. By then, most college students were wealthy young men seeking a diploma to validate their family wealth. They were very different from the humble and obedient ministry students who were their predecessors.

This new breed were all about bucking authority and bolstering the social hierarchy that privileged them. As Prof. Wade put it,

The men who started frats lauded the skills they believed would be useful for winning in this life (not the next). Instead of humility, equality, and morality, fraternities promoted status, exclusion, and indulgence… and hierarchy.

Fraternities isolated them from “blue skins” — their slur for the middle-class they looked down on. As one nineteenth-century frat boy put it, “I am an aristocrat. I love liberty; I hate equality.”

Since these wealthy men didn’t need to make a living they flaunted their wealth by insulting their hard-working middle class peers as “grinds.” The “elite” men were all about having fun — which eventually included sexual conquest.

Before the 1900s, when women were still not admitted to universities in large numbers, frat brothers mostly had sex with poor women, prostitutes, and women whom they had even enslaved (!) Since these women were not their social equals, having sex with them was no great achievement.

But once colleges became coeducational, getting women to have sex with you — when the double standard punished them — was seen as a great accomplishment.

And there you have it. Hookup culture’s early beginnings.

No wonder so many see it as unpleasant and even dehumanizing today.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on April 19, 2017, in sex and sexuality and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I hope I’m not too far afield here, but it appears to me that there is an element of aristocrat thought still alive, and not just in Trump’s boasting of his power and dominance over women, but also in the wealthy conservative families as shown by their political domination and entanglement in conservative politics.

    Economy wise, I think the arrogance of aristocracy is best seen in supply-side economics (a redistribution of the collective wealth of the working class upward to the already wealthy–the new Gilded Age) and politicians completely detached from the working class.

    Perhaps the aristocratic mindset is a natural condition–the pinnacle of that superiority complex that masks our insecurities (i.e., “Everybody’s gotta have somebody to look down on”).

    I say this because it seems that among conservatives (even down conservative society’s privilege-scale) there continues to be a strong disdain for the notion of equality and even equity, especially between men and women. Even the conservative working class and poor have been taught for a century that equality means socialism, which equates with communism. I run across this ignorance several times a week as I respond on blogs.

    Perhaps I’ve wandered off the core intent in the article, but I think it is all linked. I would hope that such arguments as John Rawls’ mental exercise (the “Veil of Ignorance”) would be taught early in high schools or even middle schools. The young should be taught early what equality of rights and equity of income mean. But, alas, it appears that ethics and civics are never a priority.

    • Yes, what you are talking about and with this article is talking about both fit under a domination mentality. Those on top or just more deserving than everyone else. I think it’s strange that some wealthy people do everything they can to get more for themselves even if that means others can’t have a living wage, or even a job. Why do these wealthy people need so much money? From what I’ve read it’s a game and they are competing with other wealthy elites to win.

      And then they keep the masses quiet by distracting them from the real cause of their problems. “The real problem is women taking men’s jobs for people of color taking white men’s jobs,” they say. When they are the real problem. A huge redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the top. But they put a lot of money into messaging right wing media and then worn the working class away from “liberal media.” You are so much more powerful if people only hear one side. Much easier to manipulate.

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