When weighing options about where to go to college, most people consider factors such as location, academic or athletic opportunities, and size of the student body. However, with 28 percent of people meeting their spouse in their undergraduate years, those who dream of finding their soulmate in the school cafeteria should consider an additional factor in their school decision: the gender ratio.
The students who arrive at college with the unspoken expectation of meeting their future spouse during their college years may be in for a shock—hooking up is the new “going steady” on most college campuses. Even without the expectation of marriage, a particular college’s dating/hookup culture can strongly influence the course of a student’s undergraduate years, long acknowledged as a period of sexual awakening and exploration. Gender ratio plays a surprisingly important role in determining the specifics of a student body’s dating culture, as its direct effects on the way men and women view each other sets the tone for the relationships that develop between them.
Though it is obvious that the gender that comprises the minority of the population has a statistical advantage in dating, studies have shown that schools with more women than men suffer from a heightened tendency toward hookup culture. In contrast, schools with more men than women tend toward a more committed, monogamous dating culture.
The data implies that when men are presented with a higher “supply” (a dehumanizing and reductionist view of gender), they simply increase their “demand,” and lose interest in committing to a monogamous relationship in light of the distraction of a seemingly infinite supply of single women. This often results in low female self-esteem, forming a sort of feedback loop that only intensifies the pervasiveness of the hookup culture. It is possible that the rise of hookup culture is partly due to the growing majority of women in student bodies—the United States Department of Education estimates that by 2026, women will comprise 57 percent of all US college students. Therefore, the characteristics of a majority female student body become very relevant in conversation about college dating culture.
Another study concludes that women who are part of a female-dominated student body have more negative opinions about their male classmates, go on less traditional dates, are less likely to seriously date during their academic career, and are more likely to be sexually active. One gender cannot hold sole responsibility for proliferating the effects of hookup culture, but it is troubling that men respond so differently than women to finding themselves the powerful minority. The combination of less competition and the ability to be more selective in dating have the potential to provide a significant ego boost, and give life to the view of women as a renewable resource.
Hookup culture has the potential to be very harmful to both male and female participants—a refusal to participate can be socially isolating, while participation forces compliance with an unhealthy paradigm that reduces hookup partners to a means to an end, rather than a fellow human being. Gender ratio cannot be solely blamed for widespread hookup culture, but its influence over it provides a reminder of the necessity of men who respect their female peers, no matter in what quantity they are present.
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