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Justin Garcia

Evolutionary biologist stresses importance of
   sexuality communication

By Eric Coker

For evolutionary biologist and Harpur College alumnus Justin Garcia '07, MS '09, PhD '12, it is essential that the young people and college students of America hear talks about healthy sexuality.

Speaking to the Binghamton University Forum on Feb. 20 at Traditions at the Glen, Garcia used the recent book, "Hookups and Hangovers: A Journal," as an example of what a lack of communication can lead to. The book, which Garcia called "disturbing," allows readers to rate and fill out information about what happened after the previous night's party.

"The message we're allowing to be sent out is: If you get drunk and have uncommitted sex, you can laugh about it. It's a big joke," Garcia said. "This is allowed to happen when we don't have a serious conversation promoting positive, healthy sexuality in relationships. This is what is happening on college campuses because of our failure to talk about healthy sexuality. We have to talk about it—it is at the core of the human condition. People are here because of sex. I hate to think about it, but we all are here because our parents had sex!"

Garcia, who holds an NIH postdoctoral fellowship at Indiana University, will be an assistant professor of gender studies and research scientist at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University. Four days after returning to the Binghamton area for his Forum talk, Garcia was featured at TEDxBinghamtonUniversity and discussed "The Fall and Rise of Dating in America."

Dating is dead on college campuses, Garcia told the Forum audience. Instead, a "hook-up culture" of "uncommitted sexual activity" has emerged among people ages 18–25. Data shows that college students have two "hook-ups" for every first date, Garcia said.

"From colleges on the East Coast to the West Coast and from community colleges to Ivy Leagues, students are engaging in a hook-up culture," he said. "We have to face the facts."

But Garcia said that he and his fellow researchers determined that 50 percent of men and women said they "hook up" because they are looking for love.

"This boggled our minds," he said. "We looked at each other and thought: 'Really? Why not go out on a date?' But there is not a vibrant dating culture among this age group. The idea of how to start a date isn't among the scripts of young people today."

Garcia's data also shows that one-third of "hook-ups" turn into relationships for people in the 18–25 age group: "I wouldn't suggest this as a dating strategy, but it is happening," he said.

Most students say they want to be in a romantic relationship and find it more rewarding than the "hook-up."

"That makes sense because species that engage in monogamy throughout the animal kingdom prefer forms of affiliation and bonding," Garcia said. "This is part of our legacy as a social species and thinking about the ways that love and sex and relationships are part of a dynamic process. It's all happening at once."

Since 2010, Garcia has served as a scientific advisor for the online dating site Match.com and has conducted research on its Singles in America study. Among the findings that Garcia shared at the Forum were:

"That's such a high number," he said. "Six of 10 Americans are saying: 'Despite what's happening in our economy, the pursuit of love is not something I am allowing to change. I'm still going to find ways to find love."

"People from all over the world still have these desires for love," Garcia said. "But they are not as concerned with the political construct of marriage. It is interesting that there is one group that still wants to get married in America. If Americans want to preserve the sanctity and tradition of marriage, I think we have to get behind the only group that wants to marry: gays and lesbians."

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Last Updated: 3/8/13