Co-ed dorms, binge drinking, and the culture of “hooking up”

Catholic University of America, in Washington D.C.
"Alright, boys on one side, girls on the other..." (Image via Wikipedia)

This was a great article today in the Wall Street Journal — both encouraging and sad at the same time: “Why We’re Going Back to Single-Sex Dorms” (behind a paywall, I’m afraid) by president of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Mr. John Garvey.

In it, he notes that studies show that the percentage of college students who engage in binge drinking and “hooking up” (what horrible lingo; for those who don’t know, think “engaging in impersonal, meaningless sexual activity”) is worse among those who live in co-ed housing than in single-sex dorms.  For instance (from the article):

I know it’s countercultural [that is, the idea of going back to single-sex dorms]. More than 90% of college housing is now co-ed. But Christopher Kaczor at Loyola Marymount points to a surprising number of studies showing that students in co-ed dorms (41.5%) report weekly binge drinking more than twice as often as students in single-sex housing (17.6%). Similarly, 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.

The idea that going back to single-sex dorms is now “countercultural” caused me to do a double-take.  How weird our culture has become.

As Garvey points out in his column, the point about increased sexual activity by students in co-ed dorms may be no surprise, but the increase in binge drinking is.  The thought he mentions that some may have that the presence of ladies in the housing might have caused the men there to be a bit more civilized just isn’t true.  In fact, the girls apparently seem eager to prove that they can “keep up.”

I am reminded here of an article I read earlier this year (can’t find the link) that showed a relationship between college students and sexual behavior — when there were more women than men, there was more fornication, when there were fewer women than men, there was less fornication.  The explanation was that with an abundance of available women, the pressure was on them to compete for the affection of the men, leading to purposefully loosened sexual barriers.  However, when there were fewer women, the men had to compete more for the attention of the ladies and, thus, reigned themselves in properly.  Perhaps there is something similar at play here in the co-ed vs. single-sex dorm comparison.  Regardless, whatever forces are at play are clearly destructive to good character.

Parents shouldn’t take these things lightly when their children are making those decisions about college.  “Well, our Johnny is a good young man, and he’ll do fine in a co-ed dorm.”  As Paul tells us, “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits'” (1 Cor. 15:33).  To pretend Johnny won’t be affected by the environment surrounding him — just like assuming you aren’t affected by your environment — is a losing game.  As I mentioned above, it seems odd to me that single-sex dorms are now countercultural, it shouldn’t be surprising.  Standing for godly morals and virtues is, in general, becoming countercultural.  But stand, we should.

5 thoughts on “Co-ed dorms, binge drinking, and the culture of “hooking up”

  1. obeirne

    Society throughout the Western world as we know it is in a destructive spiral of sexual immorality and other outrageous modes of behaviour. Even heterosexuals are engaged in sexual practices adopted from the perverted homosexual sex preferences and thus perversion is condoned by society as a whole. I have seen parents see off their sons and daughters to unsupervised debs events – first starting of in local pubs when alcohol is served to underage students – the legal limit begins at 18 in Ireland. The same parents fork out large amounts of money to pay for stretch limousines and buses to transport their offspring to the venue where the orgy of excessive drinking and probably drug taking is carried on , throw excessive amounts of money at their immature children to spend on the night and permit them to stay away for the night or arrive home in the early hours of the morning. These same sipposedly loving, over-indulgent fathers and mothers permit their sons and daughters to go on holiday/vacation with their respective boyfriend/girlfriend – and, although I can’t verify this, I suspect same-sex pairings are being allowed as well. I have known parents who have allowed their daughters to have their boyfriend come to live in the family home and the girl to share her bedroom with her boyfriend and have breakfast and other meals at the family dining table. Of course this is in Roman Catholic Ireland and it is well-known that morals of Roman Catholics are somewhat looser than their Protestant counterparts as opinion polls in the US have shown down the years. As a former Roman Catholic, but now in God’s true Church, the Living Church of God, I am very aware of such behaviours and laxity in morality in all spheres of life.

  2. Anonymous

    We’re facing this prospect in the next couple of years, The oldest boy has drawn the attention of baseball coaches from Stanford, Cornell, Harvard, and MIT. If he gets offered a scholarship to one of these schools, how can we turn him down? We’re not worried about the academics – he can handle that. It’s the peer pressure and the dorm life that we worry about. Actually, we’re hoping that he decides to stay relatively close to home, not half way across the country. But it’s going to be his decision, not ours.

    Parents have probably worried about this stuff for thousands of years. At some point you have to let the young bird spread his wings and fly. That’s just the way it is. You’ve done your best to instill values in him, and you’ll always keep the communications open. But he eventually becomes a man responsible for his own actions. Which doesn’t stop Mom and Dad from worrying, one single bit!

  3. Anonymous

    Some years ago, I read a child development article called “Why Teenagers Do Stupid Things.” I can’t provide the source, because I don’t catalog everything that I read. But the article said that the part of the brain dealing with judgment isn’t fully developed in teenagers. That’s why they do stupid things.

    When a kid hits their teenage years, parents are suppose to train them in how to make judgments. The best method is modeling. Mom and Dad discuss some decision they have to make in an open forum with their teenage kids. They walk through the pros and cons, making a judgment on potential consequences and rewards. That warms up the teenager’s brain on how to do that. Later, you can ask them, what did you decide to do about…., did you consider… and so on.

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