Scientists Study the Ubiquitous 'Booty Call'

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Andrea, a 20-year-old from California Polytechnic State University, casually hooked up with a guy she met at a party, but rather than making the humiliating morning-after call, she waited until 1 a.m. one Saturday night.

Remembering the good time she'd had with the green-eyed young man, Andrea picked up her cell phone and texted, "Let's meet up" -- for sex, that is.

"A lot of girls see the booty call as a no-pressure way to have fun with someone you may be interested in," said Andrea, a future horticulturist at the San Luis Obispo campus. "I guess it was my way of saying I had a good time and I'd like to see him again."

"The call comes late at night and it's usually on the weekend," she said. "Your booty call is usually someone you know."

Availability of cell phones, texting and instant messaging have all shaped the mating rituals of late teens and 20-somethings, but none more so than the ubiquitous "booty call."

And now, its dynamics are getting a scientific look.

Just this month, South Alabama psychologist Peter K. Jonason published a study in the peer-reviewed Journal of Sex Research: "Positioning the Booty-Call Relationship on the Spectrum of Relationships: Sexual but More Emotional Than One-Night Stands."

The booty call is a "compromise" relationship, according to Jonason. For men, there's a "low-cost sexual component," and for women there's the "possibility of further commitment."

The booty call allows the man ongoing access to sex, although he must invest in some relationship building with the woman, according to the study. Most relationships last about three months.

"Women have needs just as men do," said Andrea, whose booty call was readily accepted. "They do it for different reasons. For some it's about attention and for some it's about satisfying [sexual] needs. It's pretty common."

A notch up from the older notion of "friends with benefits," the booty call involves "an underlying friendship, has some investment and longevity and may be characterized by emotionally intimate acts such as kissing," according to the study.

Jonason used the online tool, "Survey Monkey," to interview a total of 136 college students in two studies -- 60 percent of them women --- who were enrolled in psychology courses at the universities of Texas and New Mexico. The mean age of the participants was 19 1/2.

A 32-year-old social psychologist, Jonason isn't surprised that his study got wide press. "Some topics are, for lack of a better word, just sexy," he said.

What differentiates the booty call from the hook up or one-night stand, is that it is "characterized by equal amounts of sexual and emotional contact, which is unique," he said. "It's a placeholder until something better comes along."

Conventional Dating 'Scares' Young People

In today's culture, many young men and women are intimidated by dating. "The pressure involved scares people," Jonason said.

New technologies like cell phones also make booty calls easy and available at all times.

"Back in the 50s, if you wanted to call on someone you had to go to the house or call them on the phone," he said. "Now you don't have to worry about interacting with the girl's father."

Men seem to be the winners in this "game," according to Jonason, but women are more than willing to engage.

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