These days, promiscuity in college has become so normalized that it’s almost an expected part of the higher education experience, so much so that many have begun to fear that Generation Y may be spurring romantic attachment in favor of casual encounters. But according to a new study, it turns out that the classic stereotype of uninhibited, anonymous sex among college students may not be  as true as some may think after finding that over half of the students surveyed preferred sex with a romantic partner rather than a stranger or a “friend-with-benefits.”

“Hooking up is one way that young adults explore intimate relationships, but it’s not the most common way, and it is often exploratory,” said Robyn L. Fielder, one of the authors of the study. “So while hooking up gets more attention in the media, college students continue to develop romantic relationships, which are actually the most common context for sexual behavior.”

The new study, called Are Hookups Replacing Romantic Relationships?, focused primarily on oral or vaginal sex due to the high risk of STD transmission and surveyed 483 first-year female college students every month for their first year of college. The study showed that while roughly 40% of participants had hookup sex at some point during their first year, while 56% of women surveyed said they had sex within the context of a relationship over the same time period. More surprisingly, fewer than 1 in 5 participants, which translates to 7%-18%, reported a sexual hookup every month, while 25%-38% had sex while in a relationship each month. The actual number of these hookups per month ranged from 1 to 3, which the study’s authors suggest may be the result of women viewing hookups as an infrequent form of experimentation rather than a preferred form of sexual activity.

“These findings support what we know about the first year of college: That it is a time when we see increases in sexual behavior and substance use, as young people explore who they want to be and how they want to interact with others — especially romantic partners,” said Fielder. “It’s important that we gain a better understanding of students’ sexual behavior, since it can potentially affect both their physical and mental health as well as their academic success.”

The study may be viewed online at the Journal of Adolescent Health.