Casual sex and the single college girl

Young single women are more educated and successful than the men they “hook up” with, writes Hanna Rosin in Boys on the Side, an Atlantic teaser for her new book, The End of Men: And the Rise of Women. “Sexual freedom—the ability to delay marriage and have temporary relationships that don’t derail education or career” makes it all possible, writes Rosin.

For college girls these days, an overly serious suitor fills the same role an accidental pregnancy did in the 19th century: a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future.

About three-quarters of college women “visit” the hookup culture, often during freshman year, Rosin admits. They experiment — without shame — and move on.

In 2004, sociologists Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton began studying the “sexual careers” of women living in a “party dorm” at a state university in the Midwest. For middle- and upper-middle-class students, hookups delayed a serious relationship that might interfere with their career plans.

“The ambitious women calculate that having a relationship would be like a four-credit class, and they don’t always have time for it, so instead they opt for a lighter hookup,” Armstrong told (Rosin).

. . . Almost all of the college women Armstrong and Hamilton interviewed assumed they would get married, and were looking forward to it. 

Of course, they may have to marry a less-educated man. Some of the women quoted in the book assume that they’ll be high flyers while their husbands stay home with the kids. 

While the women-love-hookups thing is mostly hype, the diminishing percentage of college-educated men is troubling. Women are outpacing men in higher education around the world: Iranian women are doing so well, the mullahs have created 77 all-male majors.

My daughter, a literary agent, gave me an advance copy of The End of Men. I said, “But I like men!” I’d hate to see women turn into cold-hearted careerists and men into beer-chugging babysitters.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Katie Jones says:

    Wow. I never heard of that book but I guess it makes sense especially now that women seem to be marrying later and having children later.

  2. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Part of the problem is that, for a college-educated woman, college really IS the best place to find an intelligent man who wants to stick around and have a family.

    And there’s a shortage of those men, so, if you avoid them in college, when they’re looking for a wife, you’ve lost your chance. Not that women CAN’T find decent guys after college, but it’s harder. And if you go to a selective school, it’s probably the last time in your life you’ll have that many educated men in a small area.

    On the other hand, my ‘career’ is SAHM, homeschooler, and freelance writer —because you can’t easily have an 80-hour-a -week job AND be pregnant or nursing for several years at a time.

    People still have to make choices. What the current generation seems to miss is that, in the words of Clementine, when you choose one thing, you’re also UN-choosing all the other things.

    • Deirdre Mundy says:

      And men can’t have it all either. Sure, a man can have kids and an 80 hour work week, BUT he’s not going to have much of a relationship with those kids. Which is why a lot of serious “Dad” types choose lower pay and shorter hours in exchange for the chance to be that little league/ cub scout/ home for dinner every night type of guy…..

      • Stacy in NJ says:

        Just my impression, but many young college men, whether college educated or not, don’t seem to want serious relationships either. Why would they?

        If they do eventually want marriage and children, they can afford to wait until their 30′s before committing. Their dating pool of potential mates will still be quite large (women 20-35 or so).

        Living near NYC, it’s very obvious that men of all educational backgrounds seem significantly less interested in marriage. I feel for young women who do want a traditional marriage and home life. Men seem more interested in serial monogamy – several long term girlfriends who get dumped when they become demanding or tiresome.

    • Crimson Wife says:

      I agree! My college friends who avoided the hookup culture tended to marry in their early-to-mid 20′s (often their college or grad school sweethearts) while my friends who partied their way through their 20′s are mostly still single in their mid-30′s and unhappy about it. It’s rather hard for me to have sympathy for them because they are in a mess of their own making, but I bite my tongue when I hear them complaining ad nauseum about the lack of decent marriage prospects.

  3. D's Squirrel Food says:

    Joanne imagines that fathers who choose to forgo careers in order to stay at home with the kids are “beer-chugging babysitters.” Talk about the devaluation of fatherhood. The working mother as a “cold-hearted careerist is of course and old sexist trope. Thankfully, my partner doesn’t listen to any of that nonsense. I found my mother plenty warm-hearted as well. The reality is that men are going to need to become more willing to shoulder a greater share, and often the lion’s share, of domestic duties. In the increasingly common case where the woman has greater career potential, it’s what is best for the family. Deriding men who do so doesn’t benefit anyone.

  4. Howard Moore says:

    I had basically this same discussion with my daughter earlier this summer. She said she barely had time for a simple date much less a relationship.
    Her schedule includes 17 credit hours, being in the school choir, working at the school library, doing an internship at her Temple and being in a band.
    Every time I see her, she looks like she needs a nap and this kind of schedule seems to be pretty common among college kids today.
    Her relationship days are on hold for at least a couple of years.
    Not sure about the “hooking up” part….neither of us brought that up!!

  5. “Part of the problem is that, for a college-educated woman, college really IS the best place to find an intelligent man who wants to stick around and have a family.

    And there’s a shortage of those men, so, if you avoid them in college, when they’re looking for a wife, you’ve lost your chance. Not that women CAN’T find decent guys after college, but it’s harder. And if you go to a selective school, it’s probably the last time in your life you’ll have that many educated men in a small area.”

    And including this thought:

    “Just my impression, but many young college men, whether college educated or not, don’t seem to want serious relationships either. Why would they?

    If they do eventually want marriage and children, they can afford to wait until their 30?s before committing. Their dating pool of potential mates will still be quite large (women 20-35 or so).”

    All my children are in their 20′s, college graduates and working. The guys have it pretty easy; if they want a long term relationship, usually they can have it and on their terms. (One does, one doesn’t.) Our daughter has no say in the matter, and very little luck getting into a long term relationship.

    For the men, many are scared not of marriage, but of divorce. Our oldest son, was saying that he only knows 4 guys from his high school class that are married. Considering his class size was over 160, that’s incredible.

    There are no simple reasons for this, but rather a series of actions, reactions that have happened.

    But it does appear that the old proverb about women being the gatekeepers of sex, and men the gatekeepers of commitment appear very true.

    Women decided to have sex, men decided not to commit.

    • Genevieve says:

      This is why I’m not sure that men will have to do more with child care or housework.
      If they don’t like cleaning, or being involved they can leave. Of course women can also choose to leave their spouse, but they usually end up with the children.

      I know that I am glad that my husband has stuck around, so many people I know have dads only partially involved in their children’s life. If I don’t like his level of involvement, there isn’t much I can do.

    • “All my children are in their 20?s, college graduates and working. The guys have it pretty easy; if they want a long term relationship, usually they can have it and on their terms. (One does, one doesn’t.) Our daughter has no say in the matter, and very little luck getting into a long term relationship.”

      Yeah, I think Rosin is engaging in happy talk about college women’s choice in this situation. Aren’t there studies that show that male-female ratios affect the amount of committing going on? The more women there are, the less commitment, as it’s a more desperately competitive market for the women. And men are scarcer than ever on campus.

      I was in college in the early 90s, and there wasn’t a lot of dating or pairing up either. At the time, I thought it was just me, but now I realize that almost everybody was in the same boat–on-campus couples were very rare. I knew a number of women who stuck with their so-so long-distance boyfriends, and the campus environment must have been part of the reason.

  6. I don’t really understand the need to calculate ‘relationship time’ in college…I met my husband my first week of college, although we were not a couple for almost a year. By then, I had clear priorities and activities, and we encouraged each other until we both had PhDs. We both understood the requirements of school, and he supported my musical activities. We both made decisions that we might not have made as single people, but some actually furthered the career of the other (when I considered a masters, he encouraged a PhD, when a dream job opened for him, I encouraged him to take it). Our current lifestyle reflects what we have both chosen to do with our degrees and how it fits our family goals, but I’m not sure that either of us would be where we are if we’d stayed single.

    • Yeah, not getting that either. Further down the road, relocation and being a trailing spouse can be an issue, but when you’re both in school, what does it matter?

  7. Roger Sweeny says:

    The United States is a patriarchy.

    In a patriarchy, men oppress women.

    Therefore, it is impossible in America for women to have better economic prospects than men.

    Therefore, Hanna Rosin must be a tool of the patriarchy making this stuff up.

  8. lightly seasoned says:

    In Iran, instead of upping their game, they oppress women. Interesting. That could never happen here.