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The Origins of Hookup Culture

Last week, The Washington Post featured an article by John Birger discussing the prevailing culture of casual hook ups and its present-day mascot--Tinder. According to Birger, the sexualized dating culture is symptomatic of shifting demographics among college graduates.

This supply-and-demand explanation only paints a partial picture, however. A deeper dive into American demographic data renders this “dating crisis” increasingly unnerving...

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Last week, The Washington Post featured an article by John Birger discussing the prevailing culture of casual hook ups and its present-day mascot–Tinder. According to Birger, the sexualized dating culture is symptomatic of shifting demographics among college graduates. The most telling statistic referenced was that among straight, college-educated, American 22-29 year olds, there are four women to every three men today. Decades’ worth of social science research indicates that gender ratios drive heterosexual dating behavior: When men outnumber women in the dating pool, added male competition encourages men to earn favor through courtship. Reversing that gender imbalance results in increasingly sexualized dating habits like what we’re experiencing now.

This supply-and-demand explanation only paints a partial picture, however. A deeper dive into American demographic data renders this “dating crisis” increasingly unnerving. Birger’s notion that there is an oversupply of women at a 4:3 clip amongst young college grads assumes that having a college degree levels the dating market playing field. It doesn’t. Even though more women than men graduate from college today, men still earn higher salaries at all levels of educational attainment. And this has worked out over time immemorial–heavily in men’s favor in the dating realm, as well.

Exclusive Tawkify user data reveals that while only 10% of straight men consider income a factor in their dating lives, 50% of straight women see personal income as an important factor in mate consideration–abdicating more power to higher earners (still men) in the dating game.


Source: AAUW.org

Source: AAUW.org

To the extent that men’s advantageous socio-economic position is leveraged to their advantage in dating and courtship, little has changed over time, despite the professional strides of women. Tinder, social media, and mobile connectivity merely stand to facilitate these pre-conditioned habits, “for better or worse.”

On the other hand, education levels, earning potential and professional standing for women today vs. those of previous generations are on the rise, and encouraging signs toward shaking up tired gender-inequality traditions. Looking at our user data from more of a glass half-full perspective, we found that 50% of women in the Tawkify database do NOT believe their male partner’s income matters!

I’m speculating here, but I assume that asking this same question 25-years ago, long before Internet dating,  would have yielded significantly lower results. With growing female independence, the ability for men to continue dictating the pursuit of romance dwindles–especially as women grow increasingly weary of the dating app power differential per Birger’s piece, or the misogyny inherent to hook up culture detailed recently by Nancy Jo Sales’ in her Vanity Fair piece, “Tinder and the Dawn of the “Dating Apocalypse”.

The tides of economic opportunity may be turning, but the complexion of dating and courtship will be shaped by women’s ultimate determination to capitalize on these gains.

Eric
Author of the Love Crunch series

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