Phi Beta Cons

Beer, Sex, and Co-ed Dorms

Catholic University has decided to start housing students in single-sex dorms, starting with next year’s freshman class, citing studies that show students housed in co-ed dorms drink more and have more frequent sexual encounters.

Catholic University is bringing back single-sex dorms starting with next year’s freshman class. Why? To reduce binge drinking and hooking up, University President John Garvey said this week in The Wall Street Journal.

Garvey said studies show that students drink more, and have more sexual partners, when they live in co-ed dorms. His university’s job is to train students in the virtuous life, and certain virtues are best learned and practiced living apart.

But Laura Sessions Stepp, in her opinion piece over at CNN.com, argues that the students involved in these studies are most likely self-selecting. In other words, kids who drink more heavily or have more casual sex are more likely to choose to live in co-ed dorms. Leaders at Catholic University may be confusing correlation with causation.

Stepp also doubts that females have more problems with alcohol when they are in the company of male students. I think she’s wrong on this latter point. It’s not just about how often females drink when they are in male company, it’s about how much they drink. Females, who have a lower average body mass and lower alcohol tolerance, tend to get drunk faster than males. This is true because drinking is such a social activity. Each time the group has “one more round,” females in the group get closer to the point of being intoxicated than their male counterparts.

Single-sex dorms certainly won’t solve the overall problem of alcohol abuse. And Catholic University’s move won’t put a end to the dangers of students making sexual decisions under a haze of alcohol-impaired judgment. But female students do get drunk faster than males — and that fact does have sexual consequences, which Stepp is wrong to discount.

Stepp, by the way, wrote a great, and fairly even-handed, book on youth sexual culture a few years ago, entitled Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both. It’s quite revealing and worth a read if you’re interested in understanding how the hookup culture works, and how it is shaping students’ lives.

Most Popular

Sports

The Dominant-Sport Theory of American Politics

I think it’s safe to assert that President Trump has an unfortunate tendency to do and say (and tweet) embarrassing things. When he does, we all join in the condemnation, and often it’s not so much for the substance as for the style. The president of the United States should be dignified, measured, slow to ... Read More
World

Why Does Russia Build So Many Doomsday Weapons?

While America’s ruling and chattering classes were chasing Moose and Squirrel, back on planet Earth the Russians have been busy building a doomsday bomb. As Vladimir Putin alluded to in his March 1 address to the Federal Assembly, the Russians have developed, among other “superweapons,” a Doomsday ... Read More
Film & TV

Little Pink House Speaks Truth to Power

Coming soon to a cinema near you—you can make this happen; read on—is a bite-your-nails true-story thriller featuring heroes, villains, and a history-making struggle over . . . the Constitution’s Takings Clause. Next February 24, Little Pink House will win the Oscar for Best Picture if Hollywood’s ... Read More
Economy & Business

A Trump Trade and Economic Doctrine

If the Treasury Department’s recent semiannual report is any guide, the Trump administration still doesn’t quite get it when it comes to trade imbalances. “The US government has all the tools it needs to achieve balanced trade without risking a trade war,” writes Joseph Gagnon for the Peterson Institute ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Comey–Trump Dance

I never thought the Comey book would make much news for the simple reason that it would be outrageous if it did. If Comey knew something relevant and important about the Russia investigation that we didn’t already know, he couldn’t possibly put it in his book. Let’s say he did have something big on the ... Read More