In recent months, I have seen endless tweets, memes and articles about male sexual entitlement and “what we need to teach men.” These activists seem to miss an important point: the best framework for socializing young men is not Facebook news feeds but families and the colleges themselves. Because the college campus is the insular community many 18-2o somethings inhabit for four (and increasingly, five or more) years, the college obviously plays a role in socializing young men. While colleges have increasingly relied on sensitivity training sessions to attempt to rewire students to hold PC views, this is a poor substitute for a set of enforced social and institutional norms that promote respect and safety in the realm of dating and sex.
As a millennial who graduated college in 2013, I am too young to remember the days when it was common for college men to take women on dates. As a gay man, I am not really in that game anyway. However, if such a culture did exist, it seems to be a far cry from today’s campus. Colleges now promote sex weeks where they hand out condoms and lube like public city public health workers doing outreach to disadvantaged communities. There are often talks on sexual exploration and positivity but very few that promote treating sexual encounters as something that can be more than the pursuit of a pleasurable night. Sadly, the rest of the year the culture revolves around heavy drinking and casual hookups.
While at college, I saw girls leaving the dorms of their boyfriend barefoot in the early hours of the mooring. I saw boys running through an entire female friend group. I saw boys sleep with girls and then cut off all contact.
Since those days, many of my associates have found meaningful relationships (often off campus). These relationships seem to provide the satisfaction that messy campus hookups never could. In the name of sexual equality, the modern college campus has been trying for decades to get away from a hard truth: When we expect men who sleep with women to meet almost no standards, many men will do the bare minimum. To put it more crassly, if a text is all it takes to get laid, many men will ensure that a text is all a girl will get.
What if colleges used the energy they spent briefing students on unexplored sexual activities trying to promote a dating a culture? What if the university helped to create a campus climate where students could get to know one another as people? That would be truly revolutionary.
Stephen Handlon is a graduate of Haverford College and a second-year law student at The University of Michigan Law School. He is a former writer at the Bi-College News.
Stephen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.