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.That analysis is superficial, as the poster notes in her conclusion.
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.Put another way, contemporary mating practices and admissions policies might not be evolutionarily stable. That doesn't stop commenters from drawing all sorts of Deeper Implications.
The general problem is that with two girls for every boy, the incentives for the boys to be gentlemen goes away. In economics, that's Bertrand competition, something that Tim Harford thought was likely, although I was skeptical.
A mating market in which there are 19 identical men and 20 identical women leads to a Bertrand dissipation of all the gains from trade available to the women. Does that model generalize? Mr Harford doesn't tell us.I had reason to explore the same vein subsequently.
There's something missing in a mating model in which the sole criterion for a match is the willingness of the providers in excess supply to put out, to put it bluntly. Shouldn't an excess supply of women at colleges be an incentive for intellectually active women, or women of high integrity, to signal those characteristics as well?Laura McKenna's "too bad they were all geeks" suggests at least some women are willing to maintain their standards.
Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution clarifies and extends the analysis.
The key simplification of the marriage supermarket is that the next best option to marriage (pairing) is worth $0--thus there is a long way to fall from the equal sex ratio equilibrium of $50. If the outside option is worth more then changes in the sex ratio will have smaller effects. Nevertheless, the logic of the marriage supermarket explains why a relatively small change in the sex ratio can lead to a large change in sexual and other mores affecting the marriage equilibrium.That observation is a reaction to more from the New York Times about university admistrators fretful over a sex imbalance on campus. The money quote appears to support the Bertrand equilibrium.
Jayne Dallas, a senior studying advertising who was seated across the table, grumbled that the population of male undergraduates was even smaller when you looked at it as a dating pool. “Out of that 40 percent, there are maybe 20 percent that we would consider, and out of those 20, 10 have girlfriends, so all the girls are fighting over that other 10 percent,” she said.Thus, there still is selectivity, incentives to Bertrand competition notwithstanding, and the nature of the selectivity requires more research.
The phenomenon has also been an area of academic inquiry, formally and informally. “On college campuses where there are far more women than men, men have all the power to control the intensity of sexual and romantic relationships,” Kathleen A. Bogle, a sociologist at La Salle University in Philadelphia, wrote in an e-mail message. Her book, “Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus,” was published in 2008.Perhaps so, but younger people have different time horizons, and different rates of time preferences, as the Times itself suggests.
“Women do not want to get left out in the cold, so they are competing for men on men’s terms,” she wrote. “This results in more casual hook-up encounters that do not end up leading to more serious romantic relationships. Since college women say they generally want ‘something more’ than just a casual hook-up, women end up losing out.”
W. Keith Campbell, a psychology professor at the University of Georgia, which is 57 percent female, put it this way: “When men have the social power, they create a man’s ideal of relationships,” he said. Translation: more partners, more sex. Commitment? A good first step would be his returning a woman’s Facebook message.
Women on gender-imbalanced campuses are paying a social price for success and, to a degree, are being victimized by men precisely because they have outperformed them, Professor Campbell said. In this way, some colleges mirror retirement communities, where women often find that the reward for outliving their husbands is competing with other widows for the attentions of the few surviving bachelors.
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.”
And perhaps still elusive. Many women eagerly hit the library on Saturday night. And most would prefer to go out with friends, rather than date a campus brute.Thus there might be more than one type of person participating in the mating market, such as it is. There is also more than one type of commentator. What the commentariat sees in that fretfulness often depends on the commentator's prior beliefs. Here's a passage from a Wendy Shalit review of several academic studies of campus rabbit culture.
For their part, the men explained that “You can’t go psycho over girls, there are just too many of them out there.” (“Psycho” in this context means caring.) The female students don’t care for this attitude, but they can’t do much about it when the hookup is “the only game in town.”It's precisely that lack of caring that drives the Bertrand equilibrium in dating competition, and it's presumably with a wish to avoid that equilibrium that university administrators fret about their sex ratios.
On the right, the Times article leads to extended meditations on the effects of second-wave feminism. An editorial in the Badger Herald of 21 April 1987 by Michael Warner and Dorothy Freiberg provides the essential arguments.
One has to wonder how different things would have been if feminism had demanded economic freedom for women and denounced the sexual revolution in the interest of preserving womens' traditional roles as the guardians of chastity. This would have gained for women the equal pay and opportunity they deserved while at the same time ensuring that women who wanted to raise families would find willing husbands-to-be.That line of thinking is still present. Charlotte Allen's "The New Dating Game: Back to the New Paleolithic Age" in The Weekly Standard goes pages and pages to reach the same conclusion.
Such a situation would also have spread the gains from feminism. Today the only victors in the sexual revolution are those men and women who are good-looking and clever enough to enjoy multiple partners with a minimum of emotional and financial commitment. The dowdy and the not-so-clever (or not-so-unscrupulous) are used by the well-endowed and find loneliness and frustration where, in a previous generation, they would probably have been able to start families.
The Herald editorial illustrates what the new dispensation involved in practice.
The demands of feminism required certain concessions on the part of men. Men had to be willing -- or forced -- to open their career ladders to the likes of women. They also had to cease to understand fidelity and commitment as prerequisites to sexual relationships. Needless to say, the second "concession" made the first much easier to swallow. It quickly dawned on men that there was now no reason to put women on the proverbial pedestal.Several commentators at Phi Beta Cons reacted to different bits of the Times article. Robert VerBruggen addresses the evolutionary stability of social norms.
While the trends we see in young people’s college years (and beyond) are troubling, the center holds — both in college and in the adult marriage market. I would guess this is due to two factors: One, lots of women will choose monogamy over high-status mates; two, social norms against promiscuous behavior and in favor of marriage still have some sway.
While the hookup culture exists on college campuses, it’s not ubiquitous. Virtually any woman who wants to hook up can do so, but an Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) survey of college girls found that only 40 percent had. Only 10 percent had done so more than six times.
Also, this situation doesn’t persist much beyond college; eventually, monogamy takes hold again, forcing former participants in the hookup culture to pair up. IWF found that 83 percent of college girls considered marriage an important goal, and 63 percent of them wanted to meet their future husbands in college.The exceptions make for better copy, and perhaps they sell more newspapers. (Or, perhaps, as a close reading of the Times article suggests, the point of the piece is to reassure The Establishment that all is well in the Official Region, never mind what those party animals do at the basketball schools.) A second post is an instructive corrective to beyond-parody constructivists or believers in an immutable human nature.
Also, I don’t understand why it’s important how evolutionary psychology arrived at the place it is today. My concern is: What actual evidence is there that its current arguments about human nature are wrong?
Finally, regarding whether monogamy is “natural”: Human societies have had plenty of different mating systems, and even in monogamous societies, many people stray, so I have a hard time believing it is. But so what? Capitalism isn’t “natural,” either; nor is democracy. It doesn’t much matter whether an institution is part of human nature; what matters is whether it channels human nature in a useful way. Monogamy minimizes sexual jealousy by forbidding adultery, and it makes sure that low-status men have access to partners by restricting high-status men to one partner apiece. Those are two very valuable features, and that’s why monogamous cultures have dominated non-monogamous cultures for centuries now, “unnatural” as either may be.The construction of a keeper, however, appears to be robust.
A second line of discussion at Phi Beta Cons attempts to discern the role of feminism in creating, or reacting to, the hookup culture. Carol Iannone probably overanalyzes.
Feminism is largely responsible for the cultivation of “beta males” by making men suppress their natural masculinity. The truth is, even the merest so-called beta has all the masculinity needed to attract women if only he would exercise it. The simplest masculine look or “male gaze” at certain moments can make females melt. Confidence shown in conversation and interest in a subject can attract female admiration. If men would dress to complement their masculine form rather than wearing baggy shorts, baseball caps turned backward, and oversized Hawaiian-type smock-shirts that used to be the reserve of retired overweight men on vacation, they would be very appealing to women.That depends on the setting. Perhaps Professor Iannone projects her own perspective on attractiveness. The young men she describes seem to have no trouble finding female company. The quality of the companionship might rise to the level of male-female interaction in a light beer commercial, but perhaps that's satisfactory for the parties involved. Not everybody has grasped the finer points of third-wave feminist theory. Further, those baggy shorts and backwards caps signify frat-boy athlete types, and a few of them might actually be able to win a bowl game or close a sale. (But then, the commentary on higher education, never mind the ideology or politics, too often is defined by the aesthetic standards of the coastal symbolic analysts.) Maybe she's read too much Camille Paglia, whose writings about wimpy academic men make Rush Limbaugh's new castrati schtick look tame. Who knows, maybe the life of a lacrosstitute has its attractions.
David French offers a different take, one that tangentially suggests a parallel between feminist consciousness and environmental consciousness.
On the college campus, one constantly hears students lament “where have all the nice guys gone?” Well, the ones who pay attention and have a modicum of self-confidence often react to market pressures and display the stereotypical “alpha” behavior that may not be “nice” but certainly is “attractive.” As for the ones who stay “nice?” They’re still there, but they’re just as (un)attractive as they’ve always been.
As we hear about the alleged inherent attractiveness of the “good guys,” I’m reminded of what happens when we forget what the market is really like and instead talk about the market we’d like to see. The “good guy” is the Toyota Prius of the dating world: He’s the person you (allegedly) should end up with. But the Ford F150 is where the moneys’ made. The feminist tries to force people to like the Prius — ultimately a fool’s errand. The conservative exhorts F150 owners to use their powers for good and not evil.No, the feminist project is simply the expansion of life choices for women, whether that involves pairing up or not. It has nothing to do with the quality of mate. The life choices rhetoric gets into the social mix, but it's probably the only part of the feminist project that does.
Cold Spring Shops is not an advice column, but gentlemen, if you ever hear "I'm not ready for a commitment," treat your situation as friends-with-benefits, no matter how desirable the benefits are. Matt Yglesias's reaction to the entire issue gets it.
That said, most of the hand-wringing about this seems silly. It would be bizarre to start admitting fewer women to college in order to make it easier for the remaining women to find steady boyfriends. Things like improved labor market opportunities for blue collar women and improved college preparation for low-income men would help resolve the imbalance, but those things would be goals with pursuing even absent the gender balance on campus issue. What’s more, there’s a large-scale shift toward people getting married later that’s rendering a lot of these ideas about meeting your future husband in school obsolete anyway.To some extent, the Times article suggests the same thing.
“If a guy is not getting what he wants, he can quickly and abruptly go to the next one, because there are so many of us,” said Katie Deray, a senior at the University of Georgia, who said that it is common to see six provocatively clad women hovering around one or two guys at a party or a bar.It's not just about the urban universities contrasted with the rural sports colleges, and it doesn't have to involve only the big cities. Rent in a well-off neighborhood (which doesn't have to be the tower blocks of the financial districts), take up an upscale sport or two: the supply curve of trophy wives has to get its elasticity somewhere.
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.
At colleges in big cities, women do have more options. “By my sophomore year, I just had the feeling that there is nobody in this school that I could date,” said Ashley Crisostomo, a senior at Fordham University in New York, which is 55 percent female. She has tended to date older professionals in the city.
But in a classic college town, the social life is usually limited to fraternity parties, local bars or coffeehouses. And college men — not usually known for their debonair ways — can be particularly unmannerly when the numbers are in their favor.
“A lot of guys know that they can go out and put minimal effort into their appearance and not treat girls to drinks or flatter them, and girls will still flirt with them,” said Felicite Fallon, a senior at Florida State University, which is 56 percent female.