by James A. Bacon
I had sworn to myself to stop writing about the University of Virginia sexual-assault debate, but I have come across an angle that, I believe, has received insufficient attention. In comments to a previous post, Reed Fawell III referred readers to an article by Peter Augustine Lawler on the Weekly Standard discussing the sexual dynamics of college campuses. I agree with some commenters that Lawler’s prose was often dense and overly academic, but I think he made one exceedingly value contribution to the debate: He drew attention to the increasingly lopsided sex ratios on college campuses. Writes Lawler:
The increasing scarcity of men on the residential (and especially residential liberal arts) campus is a headache for administrators, who know that if the disparity grows too large it will discourage applications from young women who want a normal social life. The “enrollment management” news at my college has recently been quite good, with the exception that the gender disparity crept beyond the 60-40 mark that is thought to be a comfort zone.
The proposition that the skewing of sex ratios might affect the sexual culture of a college is not the fevered imaging of conservative pundits only. The New York Times drew attention to the phenomenon as far back as 2010, citing the American Council on Education statistic that 57% of enrollees in American colleges are female. The skewed sex ratio, while a promising sign of women’s ability to succeed in American society, bequeaths an advantage in the mating game to those males who do make it to campus. As the Times wrote:
This puts guys in a position to play the field, and tends to mean that even the ones willing to make a commitment come with storied romantic histories. Rachel Sasser, a senior history major … said that before she and her boyfriend started dating, he had “hooked up with a least five of my friends in my sorority — that I know of.”
In China, where the abortion of female fetuses has skewed the population heavily to males, females have used their relative scarcity to bargain more favorable terms in the mating game. Chinese men (or their families) are willing to pay the families of females as much as three times their annual salary in bride price, far more than in the past. A similar phenomenon is occurring in reverse on American college campuses. Men are getting more of what they want (sex) on more advantageous terms (less emotional entanglement) than in the past.
The sex ratio at the University of Virginia is almost as skewed as the national average — 56% female and 44% male, according to US News & World-Report. I would conjecture that this skewed sex ratio feeds a hook-up culture in which women are more likely to provide sex without strings, leading to more of emotionally disconnected sexual encounters than they would prefer. The casual sex of the hook-up culture, when combined with binge drinking, contributes to a range of encounters that the anti-rape movement now describes as “an epidemic of rape.”
Insofar as the skewed sex ratio results from a meritocratic system for identifying students likely to excel in college, there is little we can do about it. As a principled conservative, I do not support affirmative action for males. (I do marvel, though, that liberals seem willing to suspend their usual logic when women, a favored victim group, seem to be the systemic beneficiaries of institutional standards). I highlight the skewed sex ratio because it illuminates what’s happening on campus and it needs to be part of the discussion about sexual assault.There are currently no comments highlighted.