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The original conceptualization of a stress response revolves around the concept of “fight or flight,” but work led by Shelley Taylor illuminated a unique response to danger called “tend and befriend.” Taylor’s theory posits that some people, especially women, exhibit behaviors related to the protection of offspring (“tending”) the seeking out of social support and affiliation for the purpose of mutual protection and comfort (“befriending”). While this theory has been applied primarily to life-threatening dangers, it can also be applied to sexual situations, including hook-ups, which have the potential to turn violent or forceful, triggering a stress response. Through this lens, differences in the nature of responses to stressful hook-up situations were analyzed to evaluate their relationship with the content of one’s worries related to hook-ups. A large sample of young adults completed a survey on hookup behavior that included questions about how worried they were during hookups and questions about the nature of stress responses. Results indicated that there is a range of responses that includes fight or flight responses, tend and befriend responses and freezing responses. Results are discussed in relation to Taylor’s theory and gender roles.



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Be Still My Racing Heart: An Analysis of Worry Content and Stress Responses in Hookups