Cultural observers have lately seen an irony in current male-female relations: though young adult women are in many ways empowered as never before and have an increasing presence in higher education and in the professions, men still control relations between the sexes.
Mark Regnerus, a sociologist, argues that a numerical imbalance between the genders has enhanced the social power of men. Women now significantly outnumber men on college campuses and in other venues where young adults meet. Since men are relatively scarce, they have the upper hand—hence the creation of a campus culture that caters to male desires. “What many young men wish for—access to sex without too many complications or commitments—carries the day,” says Regnerus
The magazine went to people on several campuses for their view. One was Eric Van Meter of the Wesley Foundation at Arkansas State University. He said he’d thought — despite the fact that he was aware of social functions in which women dressed only in T-shirts and high heels — stories about modern women participating in their own objectification were overblown. Then he talked to some ASU women.
But when I opened up the topic with a few of the women, I found that they identified strongly with the type of culture that authors such as Lisa Belkin describe. They pointed specifically to Greek organizations, but acknowledged that those were extreme examples of a widespread problem. “Guys call the shots socially,” said Hannah, a senior. “Women let them get away with it. There’s a tremendous amount of pressure to conform to their expectations.”
When asked why women participated in such an unhealthy sexual culture, students talked about the hurt that many females endure from their families and peers. They cited the lack of deep relationships with parents as a major source of pain, one which many women try to address by looking for acceptance from men—even if the price of that acceptance is their dignity or their bodies.