As of 2012, the University of St Andrews clocked in its gender ratio at 58 per cent female and 42 per cent male, and within the past 5 years of change, these numbers have hardly oscillated.
This institution has maintained a female-heavy student body for many years now, and these numbers do not come as a surprise to most. It’s evident whilst walking down Market Street or sitting through lectures that females are the predominant gender in terms of sheer numbers. After my first three weeks here, I’ve noticed the gender imbalance in both the social and educational scene. Colloquy referred to as the ‘gender gap’ for the remainder of the article, I’d like to illustrate the forthcomings of this statistic.
Coming from a high school in which the gender gap was marginally low, it’s jarring to encounter the stark proportions. My English lectures feel especially divided in gender, in which I can’t seem to find more than 15 male students at a time.
There are many positives to this situation, naturally. I personally find it very empowering at the sheer abundance of young women coming to university. In the 1970s, women started outpacing men in universities for the first time ever. The current gender gap can illustrate our outlook on education. In a world where it was once common for women to not attend university, we have placed a new priority on the accessibility of education for both men and women.
Additionally, having a majority-female student body can be uplifting and comforting. It builds a community in which I believe that women tend to come together and build a comradery. It can help normalize the complications women can come across during university years, specifically in creating an emphasis in establishing dialogues on crucial issues like sexual assault and feminism within the community.
On the other hand, the overwhelming number of female students creates a challenging dynamic within the social scene. According to a New York Times study conducted on American college campuses, when men are in oversupply, the dating culture emphasizes courtship and monogamy. But when women are in oversupply, men “play the field” and women are more likely to be treated as sex objects. It fuels a sense of entitlement within male students: something my friends and I have come to see in only a few weeks here. And, mostly, this sense of superiority is not overt. In a lot of students, it manifests as a sub conscious belief that because, for male students, the ratio of males and females works out as almost 3 women for every 2 men, they bear a certain type of belief in which they feel entitled to any woman.
Saying no to a guy is often tricky here. Especially in a climate in which students come from affluent backgrounds, the concept of saying ‘no,’ something seemingly so simple, can come across as unusual. This lack of transparency can be especially problematic for women because, according to a Journal of Sex Research study authored by five Loyola Marymount psychologists, university women are twice as likely as university men to experience distress after hookups. There is a lot of pressure to say yes in these social situations; it can feel increasingly difficult to say no to someone when there’s so much pressure pushing you to say yes. There’s a fear of judgement, one that I’ve noticed especially occurs in a bubble-like environment in which information spreads fast. Worse, there’s a culture of guilting the other party into submission.
Furthermore, many individuals use the gender gap in their favor by creating a setting in which students can believe that any women wouldn’t turn them away because, statistically speaking, it is harder to come across a guy due to sheer numbers.
The gender gap in college is one of both psychological and philosophical interest. Casual hookups are a part of college. It’s good that the stigma behind it is starting to change and that we are ushering in a new era of sexual liberty. However, this culture is one that needs to be grounded in trust and security. Hookup culture can quickly become detrimental when it becomes unenjoyable. And these “bad cases” of blurred lines between casual hookups and forced or unenjoyable experiences can quickly overshadow all the fun and spontaneity of it.