Help me remember an article I read long ago!
March 31, 2012 9:32 AM   Subscribe

Help me remember the NYTimes (?) article I read about the relationship between gender ratios and sexual dynamics on college campuses!

This is a long shot, but I've seen Ask Metafilter work miracles on this front before, so I'm going to try it. I'm desperately trying to remember an article I came across a while back - I don't remember how far back, but possibly several years. It probably was in the New York Times (given that that's the paper I usually read), but may well have been elsewhere.

Essentially, the article was an examination of the relationship between gender ratios and sexual dynamics on college campuses. I believe it was either looking at one college which used to be all-female but had recently gone coed, or maybe it was looking at the fact that the majority of college students are female now. In any case, it explored how this shifted the power dynamics, sexually, among students. Because they drastically outnumbered their male counterparts, female students felt obliged to compete with each other for male attention, by fitting themselves into a stereotypical male fantasy frame: this generally resulted in more casual sex and fewer relationships, and the relationships that formed often took on a quality that many of them would not ordinarily have consented to (e.g. open relationships). I may not be remembering it exactly, but those are my best recollections. Anyone have any help? Please? I'd be so grateful, as I'm really desperate to find it in order to reference it.
posted by UniversityNomad to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Response by poster: Just to clarify, the article I'm thinking of was a more qualitative and discursive news piece, with quotes/interviews. It wasn't some sort of academic sociological article, with data but no personal side (although that would be interesting too, if anyone knows of it!).
posted by UniversityNomad at 9:35 AM on March 31, 2012

There this: The New Math on Campus
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 9:50 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I recall a few articles related to this topic. The NY Times did a series called "The New Gender Divide" in 2006. Here's an article from that.

Vassar is good search term to narrow down your hits as it's the common example for women's colleges going co-ed. Example article on Vassar.
posted by girlhacker at 9:53 AM on March 31, 2012

I totally remember this article. I thought it might have been one printed in The Atlantic -- either The End of Men or All the Single Ladies. But I don't think either covers the sexual power dynamics/increase in casual sex that may be linked to the gender disparity. Anyway, I'll keep looking because I KNOW I read this.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 10:21 AM on March 31, 2012

Actually, I think it is "All the Single Ladies" in the section on "Hook-up Culture".
posted by Felicity Rilke at 10:22 AM on March 31, 2012

"According to Robert H. Frank, an economist at Cornell who has written on supply and demand in the marriage market, this shouldn’t be surprising. When the available women significantly outnumber men, which is the case on many campuses today, “courtship behavior changes in the direction of what men want,” he told me recently. If women greatly outnumber men, he says, social norms against casual sex will weaken. "
posted by Felicity Rilke at 10:22 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Jasper Friendly Bear linked to the NYT article that is mentioned in All the Single Ladies.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 10:25 AM on March 31, 2012

I wouldn't take the NYT article anywhere face value. I know several of the people quoted in it, some of whom were interviewed while at bars (i.e. when under the influence) and others of whom said they were misquoted. (There are two separate corrections, FWIW.)

It's also got some really weird gender role stuff -- "it is often the women who must assert themselves romantically or be left alone on Valentine’s Day, staring down a George Clooney movie over a half-empty pizza box" comes to mind.
posted by dekathelon at 10:45 AM on March 31, 2012

The link by Jasper Friendly Bear in the second comment seems to be what you're looking for. Notice that, according to the article (which is highly anecdotal), the situation is more complex than just lots of casual sex and low-commitment relationships, and it isn't uniformly satisfactory to men. Women in the dating world generally have a lot of advantages and leverage to begin with, so when things tilt toward men, the result isn't necessarily for relationships to be entirely driven by men's desires. What could happen instead is that dating/relationships are often qualitatively similar to a 50/50 situation, except with the average men being more likely to end up with an outstanding woman. From the NYT article:
But it’s not as if the imbalance leads to ceaseless bed-hopping, said Austin Ivey, who graduated from North Carolina last year but was hanging out in a bar near campus last week. “Guys tend to overshoot themselves and find a really beautiful girlfriend they couldn’t date otherwise, but can, thanks to the ratio,” he said.

Mr. Ivey himself said that his own college relationship lasted three years. “She didn’t think she would meet another guy, I didn’t think I would meet another girl as attractive as her,” he said.

Several male students from female-heavy schools took pains to note that they were not thrilled with the status quo.

“It’s awesome being a guy,” admitted Garret Jones, another North Carolina senior, but he also lamented a culture that fostered hook-ups over relationships. This year, he said, he finally found a serious girlfriend.

Indeed, there are a fair number of Mr. Lonelyhearts on campus. “Even though there’s this huge imbalance between the sexes, it still doesn’t change the fact of guys sitting around, bemoaning their single status,” said Patrick Hooper, a Georgia senior. “It’s the same as high school, but the women are even more enchanting and beautiful.”
posted by John Cohen at 10:49 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's a lot of resources in the bibliography of this old working paper.

You want to look up Adimora's work on concurrency at UNC-Chapel Hill, too, probably.
posted by scunning at 10:58 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

(That, btw, is only on the shortage of African-american males generally caused by high rates of incarceration -- but the bibliography will help find stuff on colleges too I think. Been a while since I wrote it though so I can't remember).
posted by scunning at 10:59 AM on March 31, 2012

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