Hookin’ Up

33149899 Harry has pressed me to follow up on the real point of Sunday’s Style article on the girl-dominated campuses. With fewer men on campus, it’s a lot harder to find a date.

One downside to having college campuses that skew female is it kills dating. If you take out the social misfits and the guys with girl friends, there are slim pickings indeed. And the slim pickings end up setting the rules. Even this guy with the zit on his neck.

Because there is a huge competition for the few datable men on campus, male dating rules win. The article describes a woman grabbing a strange guy in a bar and dragging him onto the dance floor to get his attention. Women sleep with guys right away, in order to get noticed. No guy needs to settle on one girl, when he has sororities of girls desperately throwing themselves at him with the hope of getting noticed.

My first job after college was working as an editor of computer books. I went to the COMDEX conference to showcase our books. The other editors and I were the only women among the sea of computer nerds. I liked that ratio. Too bad they were all geeks. 

There’s got to be some way to change the dating dynamic on college campuses. Maybe they need to bus in the contractors and engineers to even out the numbers.

33 thoughts on “Hookin’ Up

  1. “There’s got to be some way to change the dating dynamic on college campuses.”
    I’ll be a curmudgeon like Russell and say that these women have to get a grip and treat themselves with more respect. I’m not going to be the kind of curmudgeon who argues that women can’t have fun with casual sex, but if they’re not having fun, but are trading sex for something else, well, then, the respect thing comes in.
    These women have to broaden their pool. Geeks can be great (and you’re telling me that Steve, with his love on historical esoterica — what was that roman fish sauce business is not a geek?)
    (Oh, and around my geek household, the real discussion about this article was around the faulty math that calculated the “corrected” ratio).

  2. We have a campus skewed toward women, but there are still a lot of undergraduates who get married while in school or immediately afterward. A wedding makes an excellent senior project! They not infrequently have babies as undergraduates, too. The odds are obviously unfavorable for women, but I still hear the term “dating” used. Maybe it just takes more effort? I have become a student of fraternity and sorority t-shirts, and favorites are the fraternity “Date a Theta–if you can” and the sorority “Help your sister find a mister.”

  3. “Since that is not her style, Ms. Deray said, she has still not had a long-term relationship in college. As a fashion merchandising major, she said, she can only hope the odds improve when she graduates and moves to New York.”
    Hee hee.

  4. I was just doing some googling, and I think that, being Greek illiterate, I misinterpreted the t-shirt. “Date a Theta” seems to refer to a sorority. One of my pieces of evidences is some verses, the closing lines of which are:
    We want you to enjoy your college years and give
    all the sororities a spin.
    But never buy a ring unless KAPPA ALPHA THETA is on her pin.
    http://www.greekchat.com/gcforums/showthread.php?t=88896
    That is some aggressive merchandising, right there.

  5. I’m with Russell and bj, which will come as no surprise (I’ve even written a book chapter arguing for it).
    But what I’m really curious about is whether the surface appearance reflects an underlying reality. Viz, has the dating culture really changed in the way that this pop game-theoretical acount suggests it should and the anecdotes the reporter solicited suggests it has? I want to know if there’s any data out there.

  6. I’m with Harry, skeptical that the NYTimes Style section has uncovered anything revolutionary. From what the popular press has been telling me for a couple of years, hook up culture starts in high school these days, where the ratios are surely closer to equal.
    And there have always been, shall we say, a variety of approaches to social life in college. I went to a co-ed school that probably slanted slightly male, and the nearby women’s schools had reputations that lead to all kinds of sexist rhymes about their availability.

  7. Oh please. The presumptions of heterosexuality, the need women have to be dating exclusively, and that most college-aged women want entirely different things than men (and thus men are making all the rules) is plain silly. To consider them “victimized” if they opt for unsatisfying relationships rather than staying single or holding out for what they want is paternalistic, as is suggesting that they wouldn’t be such big ol’ sluts (negativity implied in the article) if they had more options. (A lot of women at my 55% male college, including myself, did plenty of “hooking up” for fun!)

  8. These problems are extending beyond the college campus to post-college dating. We have more well-educated women and fewer men with an equivalent education. More competition for the guys who do have degrees (and the corresponding college-grad income). There’s a particularly huge disparity for the black community.

  9. “These problems are extending beyond the college campus to post-college dating. We have more well-educated women and fewer men with an equivalent education.”
    However, some two year degrees and certificates outearn some BAs, so some BAs are rough equivalents to some community college credentials. Joanne Jacobs has a post up where she quotes a study that found that “The salaries earned by those with community college certificates in engineering and health care ($47,000 and $46,000 respectively), are close to what bachelors degree holders in the social or natural sciences earn, and are actually more than what someone holding a bachelors degree in education earns.”
    http://www.joannejacobs.com/2010/02/community-college-can-pay-off/

  10. “With fewer men on campus, it’s a lot harder to find a date. ”
    Um, yeah, for women it is…
    I went to Berkeley in the 70s, the campus was not quite 70% male, and the shoe was on the other foot. There is history! Paraguay after the Chaco war, USSR after WWII. And now in the polygamous countries, where 50-year-old prosperous guys take four wives and young guys go nuts and do jihad. China’s cruising towards trouble with sex-based abortions.
    I tend to think it’s better when both sexes are about equal in number, and they need to think how to charm each other.

  11. Awesome. Harry and BJ and I can form the enlightened leftist curmudgeon bloc!
    I’ve even written a book chapter arguing for it.
    What chapter is that, Harry? I want to read it.
    More broadly, I am also skeptical that, at bottom, the trend of hooking up is profoundly different from everything that came before. (But then, all NYT Style articles should be treated with skepticism, shouldn’t they?) Perhaps some real data would demonstrate otherwise, but from my limited observation, most accounts of random and frequent and misogynistic sexual exploits remain overblown, the stuff of male fantasy rather than male reality. If it turns out that the world of this article, or the typical issue of Maxim, really does describe the environment for young people today, then I’m simply not ever letting any of my daughters out of the house, ever, period.

  12. I take just about anything the NY Times Style section reports as a “new trend” with a large salt shaker. Remember the “opting out” story that turned out to be largely false?
    If this hookup culture does exist, I wonder how much of it has to do with “whoopee! No parents watching me! I’m FREE!” college stuff like drinking till you pass out, staying up all night, eating pizza for breakfast and piercing one’s belly-button sort of things – just another way for kids to go hog-wild when young and unsupervised.

  13. Heh. I went to Georgia Tech about ten years ago. If memory serves, the school was approximately 3:1 male to female. We women had a saying, “The odds are good, but the goods are odd.” (Joking of course, I met many many wonderful guys there, both to date and to be friends with.)
    So, you know, if you did want to go to college to get your MRS (ick), I would sugest an engineering school.
    In fact, I had a bit more trouble finding women to be friends with. I joined a sorority my freshman year, and I took me nearly the whole four years to realize that that whole greek thing was really not a good fit for me.
    (From a first-time commentor who has enjoyed this blog for several months now. Came here via Bitch PhD, I think.)

  14. With others, I’m pretty skeptical that there is something new going on. A reporter can always find examples to illustrate a purported trend, no matter how illusory. That is why true knowledge is obtained from peer-reviewed social science, not newspaper articles.
    The sexual imbalance in higher education seems to fade away when you look closely. It mostly exists at the low levels, where young women get associate’s degrees at community colleges before going to work as billing clerks, while their current sexual partners and future husbands (pace Sarah, we continue certain presumptions here) are completing training programs in welding or driving a truck. As the article notes, the imbalance at UNC probably reflects the lack of an engineering school.
    And as to hookup culture, I graduated from college some time ago (as you can tell from my name), and I recall plenty of drunken sexual encounters, slutty girls, and boorish boys. We may not have the signifiers “hookup” or “friends with benefits,” but we certainly had the signifieds.


  15. One downside to having college campuses that skew female is it kills dating. If you take out the social misfits and the guys with girl friends, there are slim pickings indeed. And the slim pickings end up setting the rules. Even this guy with the zit on his neck.

    The average guy considers himself more attractive than the average girl and visa versa. Outside of NYC, there are almost always more single men than women at a given age bracket until you get quite older. So maybe it’s not so bad to reverse the situation briefly. I don’t see a 60/40 ratio as being all that bad. There’s certainly nothing wrong with hooking up (be safe though!) and maybe the women in this environment can learn that there is more to life than trying to trap a guy in a relationship.

  16. Hey! Who are you calling a leftist?🙂.
    I think this is a trend, but i think it started in the 60’s or 70’s (or whenever the Pill was invented). Isn’t that what the women who were in the civil rights/counter culture trenches say? That an obligation of liberation was to be “free with one’s favors” (OK, remember, I’m a curmudgeon).

  17. Awesome. Harry and BJ and I can form the enlightened leftist curmudgeon bloc!
    None of you would make much of a curmudgeon. Leaving aside how much time you can spend on the internet and still qualify (as that is probably situationally determined), I don’t think you can be a real curmudgeon and a reformer at the same time. Also, a true curmudgeon would describe themselves as a “realist,” or “someone not afraid to say what everybody else only thinks,” or something like that.

  18. Ewww! I did not know that, MH.
    I went to grad school at Chapel Hill and I think I’ve been in that bar. But I suspect the trend is anecdotal and the claims that women are more promiscuous out of desperation are either after-the-fact rationalizations or the kind of mythical thing that happens to some other poor girl with no self-respect.
    That said, my grad school dating career was not stellar.

  19. but i think it started in the 60’s or 70’s
    Sex was invented in 1963
    (Between the end of the “Chatterley” ban
    And the Beatles’ first LP).
    – Philip Larkin

  20. Well, MH, that certainly puts paid to the widely expressed view that Sarah Palin was the worst recent vice presidential candidate.

  21. I didn’t see desperate women at the last college I taught at. The gender ratio was about even in the classroom. I didn’t even see a lot of flirting. It could be because most of the students were local. They either commuted or went home over the weekend. They were dating and flirting at home, rather than school. The guys are still in the hometown, even if they’re not on the college campus. Nobody killed them off. Maybe it’s worse on those insulated college campuses where they are self-contained cities with no interaction with the real world.

  22. I was an undergraduate in the early 90s at the University of Southern California, and there was no dating in my milieu. People went out in groups and a very few lucky ones had girlfriends or boyfriends. I knew exactly one couple who got married immediately after college (she was Mormon and he converted). I seemed to know quite a few girls in the dorms who had long distance boyfriends, either from high school or a previous college. I remember unimpressed with those boyfriends, but I suppose that in the social environment of campus, throwing away a long distance boyfriend would be like tossing away a canteen in the desert.
    I suspect there are microcultures that are different. Over the past few years, I’ve had two male relatives (my younger brother and a cousin) get married in or right after college graduation to college girlfriends. They might be exceptions that prove the rule, though, because one was a Marine Reservist and the other an engineering student, so both would have spent a lot of time in girl-deficient environments.

  23. Wow, Amy P, when were you there? I was there in the second half of the 1980’s, completing my PhD in summer 1991. The undergrads I knew fit the profile you describe. There were also a lot of commuters, and then there was the greek system, and who knew what they did? (The one Mormon undergraduate I knew was a very shy girl who, wierdly, became famous for modelling her backside — but that’s what USC was like…)

  24. 1991-1995. True, who knows what the greeks do? During my time, there was a lot of “University of Spoiled Children” stuff, a Sophia Loren kid, a fake Magic Johnson nephew, but I didn’t know those people. (We also had the LA riots my freshman year.) I didn’t realize there were commuters. I lived mostly in residence halls and did Resident Honors and Thematic Option (AKA “traumatic option”).
    http://college.usc.edu/resident-honors-program/
    http://college.usc.edu/thematic-option/
    I don’t know what the programs are like now, but it’s worth looking into if you have kids heading to college anytime soon. Being in the smaller programs really cut an enormous campus down to a more manageable size. They’ve also got some sort of “Freshman Science Honors” thing now that looks interesting.
    http://college.usc.edu/freshman-science-honors/
    I also did Intervarsity, which was another lifechanging experience.
    http://www.ivtcf.net/spring-break—chicago-urban-project
    Looking at the USC photos, it looks like Intervarsity is even more Asian than it used to be.

  25. harry b,
    If you’ll indulge me, I have a (at least to me) funny USC story.
    My husband was interviewing at USC a number of years back and he told an interviewer that his wife was an alumna. “Well, the academic level has improved a lot since then,” said the interviewer.

  26. “Maybe it’s worse on those insulated college campuses where they are self-contained cities with no interaction with the real world. ”
    Yes, it is. That’s the purposes of the insulated college campuses. I know someone who went to an isolated Ivy, and found herself getting sick, at the isolation and “monastic” (not about sex, but about life) environment. She transferred to a school in the big city, and found herself much more comfortable, realizing that the microcosm of the university was only a very small part of the world.
    When I count the cities I’ve lived in, I don’t really count the city my undergraduate college was in, because I didn’t live in the city, I lived in the college.

  27. So I left when you arrived. My impression (not from teacing, but from being a political activist) was that in my years USC was trying to, and slowly succeeding in, shedding that image, and there was a non-trivial cohort of very intellectually oriented students who, nevertheless, did not feel that they belonged (I think three girls I knew all transferred to Smith in the same year). By your time it was already improving. It is now a very selective college, with all the upsides and downsides that go with that.
    Your story is great!
    Did you know tht Cynthia McKinney is a USC alum? I’d love to know that story.

  28. I’ve got to say that my “MRS degree,” icky as it may be, is a whole lot more valuable than my PhD in English literature. I met my husband in college, and we married right after I graduated. We did grad/med school together, with a couple of kids coming along the way, and now I’m at home with them, as per the plan, and he’s an oncologist. My degrees have personal and social value, of course, but in terms of financial security the quality of my husband is a lot more important than the quality of my degrees. Yes, there’s always a risk in marriage, but I’m quite confident that my chances of a successful marriage are greater than my chances of a satisfying career in academia.
    There’s actually some work on this, to satisfy y81’s thirst for peer-reviewed social science, see: Lefgren and McIntyre, “Marriage Quest: Examining the Relationship Between Women’s Education and Marriage Outcomes,” _Journal of Labor Economics_. Authors find that a woman’s education affects her lifetime income more through increasing the income of her spouse (either because she changes him or she marries differently) than through her own earnings (because she has lower labor force attachment than he does).

  29. “Yes, there’s always a risk in marriage, but I’m quite confident that my chances of a successful marriage are greater than my chances of a satisfying career in academia.”
    Now that you mention it, yes, I think that would be generally true.

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