Biologists argue that personality is merely predisposed. Psychologists argue that genetic and environmental factors interact to determine a person’s personality. When discussing and analyzing different situations in sex and society, large emphasis is placed on how environmental factors shape the personality traits and identities of many individuals.
College is often seen as an exploratory stage or a time where people feel they are able to express themselves freely on a personal and sexual level. With the help of the American media, people often associate university with risky behaviors like compulsive drinking and random sexual encounters. This, in turn, may lead people to false expectations about what American university entails.
In the music video “I love college”, Asher Roth combines all the elements of this “false college hood.” He states, “I can’t tell you what I learned from school but I can tell you a story or two…yeah of course I learned some rules like don’t pass out with your shoes on and don’t leave the house if the boos gone and don’t have sex if she’s too gone, when it comes to condoms put two on.” In this aspect, Roth is advocating for the end of sexual assault but he also is only contributing to the fantasized college life that popular culture has molded. He paints college as a lifestyle filled with endless drinking and one that is a “sexual arena” for college student altogether. But does this place major pressure on students to conform to this lifestyle? How does this affect the overall personality of students?
Before answering this question, it’s best to acknowledge how environment contributes to identity formation not just on a college level but also on a global level.
When the Lebanese and Arabian immigrants travel to America, they are bombarded by expectations that nonetheless prevent them from living their life with pure individuality. The expectations for Lebanese personality is undeniably based off gender, where men are seen a terrorists and women are seen as docile. Lack of belonging to the American society is also coupled with a sense of alienation from the homeland that the immigrants left behind (NSS 547). This often leads to an identity crisis, in which immigrants struggle to find a common ground where both the people of their homeland and the people of their host country socially accept them. During a interview, Abeer, a Arabian man reveals his experience as an American immigrant “People thought that I’m very Americanized in my gestures, my values, the way I dress, the way I behaved myself and the way I started speaking…..When I’m here, they know I’m a foreigner, and when I go there, they know I’m a foreigner. So that’s a very silly state (NSS 549). While the Arabian immigrants realize that their experience of living in multiple places marks them as different, they all agreed that they struggled to find a sense of belonging in these places after their immigration. In order to shape a new Arabian identity, people decided that it would rather be best to stay “in the middle” when in pertains to cultural and social affairs. In this aspect, the people believed that they shouldn’t express their culture too much but also shouldn’t abandon their culture either, especially since they used getting close to their culture as a coping mechanism when Americans discriminated against them. The immigrants, in essence, had to forge some new identity onto themselves due to the environment around them. The immigrants would have most likely not been susceptible to needing change if they were born in America or stayed in their homeland.
In addition, we also see how environment shapes personality when we zoom in on the experiences of Filipina women in Lebanon. In Lebanon, the Filipina women have a reputation as being hypersexual “sharmutas,” which is merely a derogatory term for women who engaged in sexual activity with multiple partners. In this society, poor Filipina woman are often employed by wealthy families or companies based solely by this reputation. During one excerpt in NSS, Hayden Lee emphasizes how when company was given the choice between a Nepalese woman and a Filipina woman, they often chose the Filipina woman. While the Lebanon people often label the Filipina woman as promiscuous and naïve, they also associate the woman with beauty and attractiveness. Their white skin tone positively contributes to their high status in society, especially since white supremacy plagues the Lebanon community just as it does other communities. Furthermore, the Filipina women essentially suffer from an identity crisis since they are delving into a community that has expectations of their sexuality. This causes many of the women to embrace this identity all together, in order to reduce the personality dissonance that they face.
Despite relating to immigration, both of these cases relate to identity formation in the college setting. Students are pulled from their hometown and placed into a new environment, an environment that has been deeply shaped by the view of the popular media. As aforementioned, students are expected to partake in a college lifestyle that has been socially constructed. They are expected to drink and have multiple sexual encounters. They are expected to essentially embrace the “young and dumb” mentality. In a way, the media is only forging an identity onto helpless college freshman students. For a student who has left home for the first time in their life, only to be placed in a unfamiliar place where they are able to finally make their own decisions, this identity can seem appealing because that’s the norm and what is expected. This makes them extremely susceptible to embracing the identities that the media consistently places upon them. Hence, students eagerly delve into the world of drinking and sexual intercourse because it’s considered “so college”
Overall, do you think the change in conversation regarding what constitutes the “college life” would also change the way students behave in college? How do you think this would impact the hypersexual culture present at the University level? Do you even think the way the media spotlights college has any lasting effect on the way the student body behaves?