Netflix And ... Let's Be Friends? Report Says Millennials Overestimate 'Hookup Culture'

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Holding hands. (Unsplash)
Holding hands. (Unsplash)

A new report out of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Making Caring Common says young adults would prefer to spend time with friends or commit to a serious relationship, rather than have casual sex.

The report, titled "The Talk: How Adults Can Promote Young People’s Healthy Relationships and Prevent Misogyny and Sexual Harassment," is based on interviews with 2,000 18- to 25-year-olds from across the country.

The report also says parents, educators and other adults are providing little to no guidance about building romantic relationships. To be clear, this isn't just the dreaded "sex talk," but rather advice about healthy relationships, dealing with breakups and finding love.

The silver lining is, the majority of young adults asked say they want the advice. So where do we go from here?


Richard Weissbourd, professor at Harvard's Graduate School of Education.

Interview Highlights

On the definition of 'hooking up'

"Everything from making out to intercourse, so it's a wide range of things."

On what they found regarding young adults and hookup culture

"Only about 4 percent said they were interested in hooking up. About 8 or 9 percent said they were interested in having casual sex with a friend. It's very consistent with other data too ... About 8 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds are dating casually, the rest are in a serious relationship or not dating at all. We have big misconceptions about this."

On who's to blame for the misconceptions

"There are many factors here, one is the media and the hyper-sexualization of folks in the media. Another is, adults throughout history have always told stories about sex-crazed teenagers, that's not a new story. I think the hookup culture on college campuses is very high profile too ... [but] college students we talked to were just as far off as the older adults about the size of the hookup culture."

On what surprised him most in the data

" ... One of the things that I am still trying to get my mind around is 40 percent of people don't think that women are sexualized on television. That seems shocking to me ... Almost 70 percent either agreed or were neutral about the statement that 'There's too much attention to sexual assault.' So that was a really sobering and surprising finding. We also find large majorities of adults who are not talking to kids about basic things around consent — it's not okay to pressure somebody to have sex after they've said no, it's not okay to have sex with somebody who's severely impaired with alcohol."

On the findings of young adult desensitization to misogyny

" ... First of all in our interviews with young women, almost all of them say that they have been sexually harassed and most of them say they've been sexually harassed recently ... But what was discouraging is that we talked to a lot of young people and also a lot of educators, parents, who really didn't know what to do about it. And they said things like, 'It's just boys being boys,' or 'If I intervene, it won't be effective,' or 'I'll just be written off.'"

On why we need to teach young adults about healthy relationship

"A lot of young people in their 20s especially, are trying to figure out, 'Can I have a healthy, mature, caring, lasting, love relationship with somebody else?' And Freud says there are two things that are most important in life: one is work and the other is love. We do a lot to prepare young people for work. We have schools and many other institutions to prepare them for work. We do virtually nothing to prepare them for love, which maybe is the most important thing they do in their lives."

This segment aired on May 17, 2017.


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