Reflecting on reactions to news about college students and sex Matthew Yglesias wonders what all the fuss would be about.
As John Garvey explains, “Students in co-ed housing are more likely (55.7%) than students in single-sex dorms (36.8%) to have had a sexual partner in the last year—and more than twice as likely to have had three or more.”
Except strangely Garvey presents this as part of an argument against co-ed dorms. Which is silly. College students are adults. It’s of course true that, thanks to technological change, it’s now important for a large share of young adults to dedicate themselves to additional schooling at an age when traditionally they would have been engaged in full-time back-breaking agricultural labor. But that doesn’t change the fact that a college student is a person fully equipped to enjoy having sex — a fun, affordable, and ecologically sustainable pastime.
Source: Matthew Yglesias
Recalling my own early non-college days and then later college days I'm going to accept the figures at face value but add the very strong caveat that at least as long as there's a choice different kinds of people choose different kinds of housing. I'd go a step further and suggest that even in schools where only single-sex or only co-ed housing is offered different kinds of people choose different kinds of schools as well. And finally I'd add that at schools that still have a tradition of in loco parentis younger students (freshmen at least and often sophomores) are probably more closely supervised and more likely to be assigned to single-sex dorms even when both types are available. And of course contrary to popular belief roughly 50% of college sophomores have not yet had sex (or at least not intercourse) and so unless you're completely wild-eyed and squeamish about sex your studies should control for all of the above.
And finally, whereas there's some small number of students who enter college before age 18 there are scarcely any at all who are still 17 or younger by their Junior years.
I'd like to assume Garvey's sources controlled for obvious stuff like that (I can't tell because his op-ed is behind a Murdoch paywall), but like Yglesias I get the distinct impression that in keeping with Murdoch-publication tendencies Garvey himself sounds too panic stricken about the possibility of adults having
That said, Yglesias is of course 100% correct: the kind of college student most likely to live in mixed housing is an adult, is almost certainly better-socialized to both genders (regardless of his or her individual orientation), and is generally very well equipped to safely and conscientiously decide to have consensual sex with his or her partner(s) of choice when presented with an opportunity. And to both expect to have their decisions to be honored and to honor the decisions of others.
If I can just go one step further out on a limb about co-ed living situations, they tend to present more opportunities for between-sex contact while everyone's completely sober and while people are not likely to be in party/"hookup" mode. With the result that, all else being equal, students in co-ed situations are more likely that segregated ones to form... interesting but not necessarily well-informed opinions about the opposite sex. At least that was my general experience under three circumstances: while living in co-ed apartments with other starving hippies, when working in bars in a big-10 university district when the legal drinking age was still 18 and most students and the single-sex to co-ed housing ratio was around three to one, and much later when I went to college myself and lived in co-ed student housing.
And finally, particularly based on my experience of big-10 single-sex housing students vs later mainly co-ed housing college, there were still instances of sexually abusive situations (by men and women) in co-ed housing they tended to be waaay lower-frequency than with single-sex housing. Even considering factors such as big southern university vs. small northwest college and greater awareness of personal autonomy. The main determinant, in my opinion, was that in housing people of both sexes were in a position to monitor goings on and apply peer pressure and, if necessary, peer intervention when situations began to develop.