Professor spotlight: Lisa Wade researches COVID-19 hookup culture

Professor spotlight: Lisa Wade researches COVID-19 hookup culture

Caroline Latta, Staff Reporter

Lisa Wade, an associate professor of sociology and author of the book “American Culture: The New Culture of Sex on Campus” is currently studying hookup culture and how it has altered due to the pandemic.

“When the pandemic arrived, I was really curious to know what would happen to hookup culture,” Wade said. “I felt like in many ways, it had its infrastructure destroyed, like we had all the parties in the neighborhood, fraternity and sorority events, having total freedom in each other’s dorm rooms, and suddenly like this was taken away, at least formally. And I was really curious to know what would happen to hookup culture, how students would reconstitute it, if at all, and I was interested to know if it would follow when they went home last spring.” 

Students are still hooking up, but a lot more thought and consideration is going into the decision to hook up. 

“Part of what I have found, as far as hookup culture goes, is that people are still largely hooking up, but they are doing so in mostly ways intended to be responsible,” Wade said. They are trying hard to make sure the people they are hooking up with are reasonably COVID safe, and they are having conversations with roommates often times about whether they feel comfortable with them hooking up with people, and because of this, they are often talking more to their partners than they had previously … There is more communication, more intentionality. You have to work harder to find someone to hook up with. Hooking up seems to be more intentional.”

There are still the students who are finding ways to act similarly to how they were acting last year, but the majority of students have had to find ways to adapt to hookup culture because of the pandemic. 

“A phrase that has been repeated over and over again in my interviews has been ‘is this person worth it? I kind of want to hook up with this person, but it does bring risk into my life, and I am not sure about my community, my friends, so is this experience going to be positive enough that I am willing to take that risk?’ Students have been raising their standards on what they expect from their hookup partners,” Wade said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic ends, hookup culture may return to what it was like beforehand, but the effect the pandemic has had on students will change the ways in which they personally interact with hookup culture. 

“Students are reporting a lot of personal growth, especially over quarantine, so I think students are learning a lot more about themselves, having all this downtime, there are all kinds of ways in which students are having personal growth. I think those things are permanent. So I think this pandemic might change who people hookup with and what they expect of their partners … I do think that hookup culture will snap back into place. One reason is because hookup culture is the way it is, one because of American culture. Until Americans change, hookup culture will be the same,” Wade said.

Wade is currently conducting interviews to research hookup culture during COVID-19. 

“I am hoping to speak to people that represent every corner of the Tulane experience, including those who embrace hookup culture, those who don’t, and everyone in between.” At this stage in her recruitment, she’s especially eager to talk to first year students, men, BIPOC students and members of religious minorities. “If you’re a member of a group that’s underrepresented, minoritized, or simply statistically rare, then your voice has extra value,” Wade said. “I would be honored to have the opportunity to tell your story.” Wade can be contacted at [email protected].