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The Role of Gender in Determining Sexual Motives in a Hookup Shannon Snapp, Brianna Cheney, Margaret Galiani, & Rene’ Lento Background Many adolescents and young adults in the U.S. today are faced with the decision of whether or not to hookup. A hookup is defined as a sexual encounter--which may or may not include sexual intercourse-that can happen only once or repeatedly, with a stranger or an acquaintance (Paul et al., 2000). Deciding whether to hookup depends on various factors, including sexual motives. For example, some may hook up in order to enhance their experience (i.e., because it feels good). Others may hook up in order to feel close or increase intimacy with another person (Cooper, Shapiro, & Powers, 1998). Past research has found that men are more motivated by enhancement than women (Cooper et al., 1998). However, others have found that the majority of young women are also motivated by pleasure (Impett & Tolman, 2006). While women reported greater intimacy motives than men (Cooper et al., 1998), and hooking up and wanting a relationship more so than men (Bradshaw, Kahn, & Saville, 2010), others have noted that men, too, hook up for intimacy (Epstein, Calzo, Smiler, & Ward, 2009). While research has explored sexual motives from both a riskprevention viewpoint (Cooper et al., 1998) and a positive viewpoint (Impett & Tolman, 2006), there is no research on sexual motives and hooking up. Further, sexual motives have been found to differ based on gender, but these findings are mixed. This research aims to determine if sexual motives differ by gender in the context of a hookup.



Conclusions and Implications

In this study, our primary goal was to determine whether hookup motives differed by gender. To test this question, we conducted a oneway analysis of variance for each of the hookup motives with gender as the independent variable. We excluded cases with missing data on any of the five hookup motives. As a result, N = 324 was included in the analysis. Table 1: Psychometric Properties of Hookup Motives (N = 324) M SD Correlation 1



1. Intimacy



2. Enhancement




3. Self affirmation





4. Coping






5. Peer pressure






* p<.05

Table 2: Hookup Motives By Gender

Participants were 364 undergraduates from a midsize university in the Northeast (52% female, age range 19-23 years, M = 19.55; SD = 1.14). Seventy-five percent of participants identified as Caucasian, 10% Asian/Pacific Islander, 4% Black or African American, 6% Bi-Racial, 4% Hispanic/Latino, .5% Other, and .5% did not identify their racial/ethnic background. Participants reported their sexual orientation: 96% heterosexual, 2% bisexual, 1% gay/lesbian, .5% other, and .5% of participants did not report their sexual orientation. Participants completed the Hookup Questionnaire (Paul, et al., 2000) and the Sexual Motives Scale (Cooper et al., 1998). This scale assessed the following sexual motives a) intimacy, b) enhancement, c) self-affirmation, d) coping, and e) peer pressure. “Hooking up” replaced “sex” in the Sexual Motives Scale.




In this sample, there were more gender similarities than differences. Men and women were similarly motivated by intimacy, self-affirmation, and coping. Men endorsed enhancement and peer pressure hookup motives slightly more than women. However, the effect sizes for enhancement (d = -.42) and peer pressure (d = -.45) were small to medium according to Cohen (1988). Women and men are similarly motivated to hookup than previously thought, and this gender similarity allows for a more positive approach to sexual behaviors among college students. Additionally, highlighting the gender similarities between men and women allows us to bring men into the discussion of hooking up as opposed to simply targeting women with advice and suggestions on how to ‘play it safe’ in a hookup (Kalish & Kimmel, 2011). Continuing to view males as “winners” and women as the “losers” in a hookup simply perpetuates gender inequalities (Kalish & Kimmel, 2011), and traditional gender (Epstein et al., 2009), and (hetero) sexual scripts (Allen, 2003). Furthermore, if researchers continue to assess positive sexuality variables such as sexual motives, we may begin to understand the diverse reasons young adults hook up. Given that this is the first study that has empirically explored hookup motives in a college sample, further research is still needed to ensure these findings could be replicated in diverse samples. Hookups are clearly motivated by a variety of reasons, though these reasons are not necessarily dependent on gender. While some changes in women’s sexuality may account for the lack of gender differences, it appears we need to learn more about the hookup experience of males. It seems both male and female hookups have been portrayed in stereotypical ways, and gender differences may not be as pronounced as previously thought.

Acknowledgements The authors acknowledge financial support for this research from Boston College provided to Shannon Snapp. In addition, we thank the Crossroads Collaborative at the University of Arizona for feedback and assistance in preparing this manuscript. A PDF version of this academic poster is available at:

* p<.001