Lopsided Gender Ratios and the "Epidemic of Rape"

gender_ratio2by James A. Bacon

Jon Birgir, author of “Date-onomics: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game,” advances a fascinating theory on how the ratio of the sexes in U.S. colleges affects dating behavior. In colleges with more men, “traditional” dating patterns  predominate, while colleges with more women tend to have more intense hookup cultures.

The irony is that the dating culture isn’t established by the majority gender but the minority. In male-dominated campuses, women are in greater demand, hence are in a better position to set the terms of the relationship. Conversely, in female-dominated campuses, men are in greater demand, and they set the terms of the relationships. Insofar as college-age men are more interested in engaging in sex rather than establishing long-term relationships, the campus culture tilts toward a hook-up culture.

Thus, according to Birgir’s theory, the decades-long trend in which male-dominated campuses have evolved into female-dominated campuses has tilted the dating supply-and-demand equation decisively in favor of men. The result: boorish, sophomoric, sex-obsessed college males have an outsized say on the college dating culture. Says Birgir in a Washington Post interview:

It’s not just the social science I cite in the book, you can really see it in how kids talk about dating life at those schools.

I use data in the book from Niche.com, which is a college review site. At the schools that are predominantly male, the kids talk about how students like to be in relationships. So for Georgia Tech, which is 66% male, the comment on Niche.com was, “Tech is a fairly monogamous campus.” But for the schools that are skewed female, the hookup culture becomes more intense. So James Madison, which is 63% female, one comment is, “The deficiency of guys creates a scene that tends to embrace random hookups. …

People should know generally that the average gender ratio on campus these days is 57 to 43, which is one-third more women than men, and that is going to lead to a more libertine, a looser sexual culture on campus.

Now, let’s close the loop on the “epidemic of rape” issue I’ve been dissecting on Bacon’s Rebellion. I would argue that rising incidence of rape on Virginia college campuses (and campuses nationally) does not reflect a growing number of the violent encounters, often at gunpoint or knifepoint, that we traditionally thought of as rape but an outgrowth of the alcohol-fueled hookup culture that tends to be — this is a generality, and all generalities have exceptions — more gratifying to men than to women. A result of the hookup culture is that there are many unhappy women on college campuses today. Too many engage in sex that they hope will lead to a lasting relationship only to have their hopes dashed, often cruelly; they come to regret their action, and under the prevailing doctrine emanating from the U.S. Department of Education and arising from campus anti-rape movements, such encounters are now interpreted as rape. It is also possible that a growing number of men feel entitled to sex and that, after bouts of drunken making out, some of them resort to coercion to get what they want.

The gender ratio is not the only factor influencing the campus dating/sex culture. Administrative policies have an influence. So does the cultural background of the student body. The gender ratio at Liberty University, for instance, is more lopsided than it is at the University of Virginia, but I would be very much surprised if the hookup culture at that evangelical university is anywhere near as intense, if it exists at all. Similarly, I would conjecture that commuting campuses, in which student bodies are geographically dispersed, have less intense hookup cultures than campuses in which young men and women are thrown together in dormitories and have easy access to one another.

Yet Birgir’s hypothesis makes a lot of sense to me. Now, to take his conjecture to the next step…. I don’t believe there is any reliably comparable data on the number of complaints about sexual assault on Virginia campuses, but if there were, I would predict a meaningful correlation between the incidence of such complaints and the gender ratio of the student body.

What conclusions can we draw? One tentative conclusion is that student bodies with more balanced gender ratios are less likely to have hookup cultures and complaints of sexual assault than student bodies dominated by females. Insofar as the “epidemic of rape” is tied to the rise of the hookup culture, anything that restores more traditional dating patterns would be beneficial. Unfortunately, it is all but impossible to achieve balanced gender ratios across the board when, for biological and cultural reasons, women are far more better prepared for college and are admitted in much higher numbers. There is little appetite in American culture, even one supposedly dominated by the male “patriarchy,” for undermining the meritocratic principle of college admissions.

Birgir suggests another solution, although it won’t have much impact on college campuses for another 15 years or so — holding boys back in pre-school. Giving boys an extra year to mature in school, he suggests, will make them more competitive in college applications. Says Birgir: “If we essentially red-shirted boys and had them begin kindergarten a year later than girls, it would go a long way to closing this gap.”

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  1. CrazyJD Avatar

    Though Jim’s analysis contains some admitted conjecture, it makes perfect sense to me. Now all we have to do is get the data to support it. I wonder what those engineers’ numbers are out at Vtech. On this score, I’m curious why Jim thinks there is no comparable data on sexual assaults on campus. I’m guessing there must be some data, but maybe each campus keeps different kinds of records or pre-emptively eliminates some reports?

    1. My sense is that each university collects data its own way. We can hope that one benefit (perhaps the only benefit) of the federal Title IX intrusion into administration of American universities would be a plan to report data the same way so we can compare apples to apples.

  2. CrazyJD Avatar

    I thought of that… but then it was just too hard to think that anything the federal government does has much merit. 😉 You are right, though. Uniform statistics would be an unintended benefit of the recent assault by the federal government At the very least, such statistics would put the lie to much of what the left and Claire McCaskill would have us believe.

  3. Amazing ratio at UVa.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    re” standards verses govt

    interesting concept.

    if institutions won’t standardize – is that a reason for govt to require?

    how about national standards for K-12 education?

    health care?





    pollution laws?

  5. A few years ago in a popular magazine, maybe Rolling Stone???, I read that college women were complaining that college men wanted the women to do “porn moves.” Having no idea what that means, I’ve often wondered why any woman, any person, would subject themselves voluntarily to something they obviously despised — whatever it was.

    A few years before that I was teaching at a Virginia HBCU and one of my female (the majority by far) students wrote an article for our newspaper about the loneliness of intelligent black women and how difficult it was for them to find good men. Her boyfriend at the time was behind bars and she herself was not only very smart but very attractive too. She found that many intelligent black women were dating white guys, and wondered in her attached commentary, whether this was a good “solution?”

    Those two anecdotal points support, I think, the research that Mr. Bacon has uncovered. So I’m inclined to believe the research is probably fair.

    The question is “what can society do to address” the overall issue. An Atlantic Monthly writer a few years ago, and she was female, wrote something about how girls have much greater early education benefits than boys — and she was all but burned at the stake.

    We seem to want simplistic solutions in every case when the problems are complex, or in the words of some thinkers, are “wicked.” A “wicked” problem is one that whenever one goes to solve it, one discovers first that one’s definition of the problem is skewed and will be further skewed by applying whatever proposed solution. We then have to redefine the problem and then our next “solution” requires another redefinition. If we say the problem is too many women compared to men on college campuses, well, we can easily some type of “affirmative action” as a solution. (We’ve had great experience with that concept). If we say that women are to be more trusted than men (as we appear to be under the recent sexual issues) about sexual matters, we get what appears to be violations of basic right. If we define the problem, as Mr. Bacon has implied, as the “hook up culture” we get government scrutinizing our bedrooms. If we define the problem of as “promiscuous women” or “class differences,” we get comments like the famed Clinton apologist and advisor James Carvelle (sp?) saying if “You drag a $100 bill through a trailer park, there’s no telling what you’ll turn up.”

    Yet we are very close to electing a person as president who allowed, and probably encouraged, those kinds of attacks on women and class…and if we do so, she will be elected with great female and great lower-class support.

    There is no “answer” for all of this. We must learn to deal with complexity. We must deeply develop the understanding that, as the nation’s best bumper sticker puts it, “That what we learn from history is tht we fail to learn from history.”

    We’ve got bring our brains when everything (seemingly) in our society, from politics to media to advertising to now education, nudges us towards the emotional, towards some type of “instant gratification.”

  6. CrazyJD Avatar

    Good post, Salz.

    Larry G Why am I not surprised that you would take my comments re: standard reporting as a takeoff to suggesting national standards in the other subjects you mentioned (health care, etc.) Surely you know my answer from the tenor of my post. Assuming we can’t get rid of the present assault on men perpetrated by the federal government until Obama is gone, one must look for the silver lining, in this case, the gathering of good data to defeat the arguments of the left on this subject. But that’s all it is: a silver lining. Only the left can suggest national standards on everything as if the states don’t exist.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” We seem to want simplistic solutions in every case when the problems are complex”


    the “blame Obama” movement is in my view, largely driven by folks who are confronted with a world that has changed and is changing – the easy solutions are gone and we’re dealing with thorny, harder to solve problems.

    we’ve been moving to a “blame” mindset for a while now – but the most striking aspect of the blamers is that they often themselves have no alternative solution or they advocate just totally off the wall unrealistic, unworkable “ideas”. You see this with things like health care, immigration, and this issue… for three.

    I expect folks who don’t like the current to come back with ” we need to be doing it this way” as a prominent part of their complaint but more and more – we’re finding that they shirk that responsibility and “blame” “leaders” who don’t fix it. Thus the POTUS becomes the target. When this one is gone – many blamers are going to be confronted with the reality that “blame” – especially of those one disagrees with philosophically is a losing proposition.

    our leaders reflect us – if we are angry but we have so alternatives we like – collectively – we fail.

    on the next post, I’ll respond to standards, National vs State

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” Only the left can suggest national standards on everything as if the states don’t exist.”

    the world runs on standards. GPS is standard. Shipping containers are standard. All the OECD countries academic standards are nationally standardized and they out-compete us for global jobs.

    State standards are a joke in this country – we rank 24th academically in large part because we’re competing against countries that have national curriculum and testing standards and who are out-competing us for global jobs – while we face an ever increasing entitlement burden – in Va. second only to education in the budget.

    yet we insist with our foolish “leftist” blame games. Europe and Japan, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada have no such “blame leftists”, anti-govt idiocy.

    we’re transforming into a second tier, entitlement-laden country.. because of our insistence on being stupid about academic standards.

    every other OECD nation – on the planet, has them and they all outrank us – not just on education levels – but much more important – on the ability of their kids growing up and successfully competing for global jobs while way too many kids here who relied on State standards grow up to be unemployable.

    States “Rights” in a euphemism for idiocy when it comes to competing for global jobs.

  9. Well, they didn’t convict the “Prep School” boy of rape, as anyone following the trial could see easily, finding some kind of “misdemeanor sexual contact,” which must mean something to someone.

    Please note that nowhere in this, or any other article, is there a cost to taxpayers for this trial.


  10. LarrytheG Avatar

    well the govt did pay to prosecute him, right? And in any standard of having one’s life “ruined’ – I think being convicted of a felony and being on the sex offender database for life -probably fits that definition.

    If that were a college guy and an adult woman – he would have been relatively unscathed.

  11. Most likely, Larry, the felony of computer use will be overturned, I submit, and his name removed from the database. The boy’s attorneys are certain to appeal on that aspect as the law was intended for legal adults trolling for minors. Since the defense only put the boy on the stand, furthermore, no doubt attorneys didn’t consider the computer use issue even relevant (though I’m not sure if that implies lawyer misconduct or not???).

    I don’t remember if the Post story had this very bizarre point but the boy was admitted to Harvard’s Divinity School around the time of this incident.

    Making the trial/issue more bizarre is that the same type of people, like members of the National Organization of Women, who said about Clinton “everyone lies about sex” are seemingly amongst the ones most aggressively wanting this boy to be punished forever for lying that he committed sex in emails to other boys, the one thing that almost every male throughout time has lied about. How many of us males, as teenagers, honestly answered, “Did you get it on?” or “Are you a virgin?” (or the modern equivalents).

    This boy was seventeen at the time of the incident. The girl was 15. Bill Clinton was in his 50s when he asked a girl in her early 20s to kneel in the Oval Office bathroom. Clinton was in his late thirties and the Arkansas attorney general when, by everyone’s definition, he raped Juanita Broderick (sp?).

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