What’s Sex Got To Do With…College?

We live in a society where people feel pressured to conform to gender stereotypes. Gender stereotypes are generalizations regarding how individuals should act in society based on their gender. Because we live in a heteronormative society, gender stereotypes are seen through a heterosexual lens. For this reason, this post will discuss college with a heterosexual approach that addresses how masculinity and femininity contribute to gender stereotypes and behavior. Broadly, women are supposed to be feminine while men are supposed to be masculine. These societal expectations are present throughout a person’s life. When boys are young, they are expected to like cars and play sports. Young girls are expected to like dolls and play dress up. As one gets older, these stereotypes continue to prevail. In this post I will address how gender stereotypes apply to college students.

A place free from parental supervision, college is where young adults can break the rules and express their sexual desires freely. Although this sense of liberation can be positive, it can also create an uncomfortable environment where people feel pressured to submit to gender stereotypes. Peer pressure, social media, and fraternity gatherings can put expectations on students to behave in a way that aligns with their gender.

One of the main ways that adolescent boys gain social acceptance and respect is through their sexual endeavors. The boys who get with the most girls and have the most sexual experience often have higher social statuses. It almost becomes a competition of who can hook up with the most girls. Oftentimes alcohol contributes to this objectifying game. At frat parties, boys sometimes encourage women to get drunk, for this makes it easier to take advantage of them and get a higher score. This numbers game is heightened in college because having sex is much more possible, as dorms are often coed and students don’t need to worry about getting in trouble with their parents. In college, boy gender stereotypes have a lot to do with having sex with many different girls. Sex is often thought to be the ultimate expression of a man’s masculinity.

Gender stereotypes may contribute to the high incidence of rape on college campuses. One in five women are sexually assaulted in college. This alarming statistic may have to do with the fact that there is social pressure to be the idealized masculine male that society expects teenage boys to be. A different dynamic is event in relation to female sex stereotypes. According to social constructs, men are supposed to have sexual interactions with a lot of girls, while college girls are supposed to be feminine and pure. When women engage in sexual activity they can be perceived as sluts because they aren’t socially expected to be promiscuous, while men are praised. This disconnect creates a dynamic where men are more eager for sex and women are often more hesitant. Sometimes this results in nonconsensual sex.

During my time in college thus far, I have noticed that gender stereotypes play a leading role in male-female interactions; there is a huge hookup culture on campus. However, I observed that although these gender stereotypes do exist, it is important to note that there are plenty of boys in college who do not have this aggressive male mentality. Furthermore, it seems that as students mature and the excitement of being away from parental supervision lessens, they are more inclined to have meaningful relationships.

Have you noticed these gender stereotypes in college? How do you think we can dissociate from social constructs? Can we? What can we do to lower the incidence of rape on college campuses?

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2 thoughts on “What’s Sex Got To Do With…College?

  1. Interesting article! I totally agree how college has changed people! But to your questions Ive been at college for over a year and have see so many gender stereotypes so far here at Vandy! I was wondering the same thing if we can dissociate from social constructs. I do not think it will change. Speaking about your last question, “What can we do to lower the incidence of rape on college campuses?” I believe we need to become more aware and not be dumb to put ourselves in that situation. Vanderbilt has gone through a lot in the last year rape cases and my best advice to if you go out make sure you always go with some trustworthy friends so they would not put you in that situation either. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.

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  2. I think the way gender roles play out on college is extremely interesting, and you highlighted much of the important issues. The hook-up culture on Vanderbilt is huge, and I love that you pointed out that this culture favors males who are encouraged to “get” with as many girls as possible and frowns upon females who are expected to remain pristine until marriage. The strict binary displayed readily lends itself to creating low feelings of self-worth amongst the female population, something I have seen in my short time here. Many friends of mine feel they need to look good for men but are too ashamed to acknowledge what they’ve done, even if they were acting on their desires. I think that in many ways the hook-up culture either keeps females from acting upon their desires or forces them to act in ways they wouldn’t otherwise, with very little healthy interaction in the middle ground.

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