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Editorial | Let's talk about sex: Young adults not as promiscuous as you think

By Editorial Board
On February 14, 2014

The smartphone is an amazing thing. It can call, text, email and give directions. And when you download apps like Tinder and Lulu, it can also play matchmaker. The days of "I'll pick you up at six," are long gone. Terms like "friends with benefits" or "hit it and quit it" seem to be used more often than "going steady." Even though our generation has coined the term Facebook Official (FBO), it seems like young men and women are using technology to facilitate casual relationships rather than long-term relationships, or LTRs.

Sociologists are referring to us as the "hook up generation." About 38 percent of single Americans have used online dating at one point or another. And about 3 percent of adults have downloaded an online dating app on their cell phone. Tinder and Lulu, though sometimes thought of more as sources of entertainment than legitimate dating apps, are downloaded about 20,000 times a day. In fact, the founders of Tinder report they've made 20 million matches through the app since it was launched in September 2012.

To start, Lulu is the "first-ever app for girls." The app, created by Alexandra Chong and launched a year ago, allows users to find and review a friend, relative or crush. Users give scores for certain categories like appearance, humor, ambition, manners and commitment. They can then choose specific hashtags like "#CampusCreeper" or "#StillLovesHisEx" or "#HitItAndQuitIt" to describe the guy for others to see. This isn't necessarily a dating app but it does give girls a chance to screen potential dates, and with Valentine's Day coming up, maybe downloading this app wouldn't be such a bad idea.

Tinder, on the other hand, requires you to set your location, gender and sexual orientation and then connects your account to your Facebook and starts displaying other users in the area you may be interested in. From there, you'd swipe through profile pictures and tap either the green heart or the red "x." Any time two users hit the green heart for each other, they are set up in a private chat room. The idea is that the two users would eventually meet up in person.

To our surprise, that is most often not the case. Only one in five Tinder users report they actually meet up with their match in person.

So even though there are a lot of young people using this app daily, that doesn't seem to translate into any real, face-to-face interaction -- let alone actually hooking up or starting a relationship. This leads our Editorial Board to think that maybe we aren't "the hookup generation" after all.

And studies have been done to show this. For example, a study conducted by a sociology professor at the University of Portland found young adults today are actually having less sex than young adults from previous generations. The study reported 59 percent of young adults have sex once a week or more, compared to 65 percent of young people in 1988 to 1996.

A National Youth Risk Behavior Survey also reports that fewer than half of all high school students have had sex: 47 percent as of 2007, down from 54 percent in 1991.

While young adults may not be having sex as often or as early as previous generations, there has still been an undeniable shift in the way young people date and interact in social situations. Like when your mom says, "Why don't you go hook up with some girlfriends," that means something totally different to each of you. And even within our generation, there is a range of uses for the word, "hook up." The notion that young people are more promiscuous and are lacking in morals is simply not true. Tinder and Lulu may allow for people to flirt using their smartphone, but that does not necessarily mean they are engaging in anything more than that.

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