I’m willing to bet that at least three quarters of the student body at Goshen College have members of the opposite gender whom they consider friends. Just friends, with no romantic feelings for each other at all, or even any possibility of Goshen dating.
Personally, I’ve always related with girls more easily than I have with guys. Because of this, I decided to apply for co-ed small group housing next year. During the housing application process, I discovered that co-ed housing was still disappointingly gender segregated; that is, even though I am living in a house with six other women, I am required to have a male roommate. I think this is unfair to people who feel more comfortable rooming with members of the opposite gender, specifically LGBTQ students.
There are several reasons LGBTQ students might feel discomfort in rooming with their own gender. Perhaps their roommate is making homophobic comments, or perhaps they simply identify easier with the opposite gender, like me. There’s even the possibility of an LGBTQ student developing a crush on their straight roommate; although this has never happened to me, I’m sure it would be very awkward.
A common misconception is that a guy and a girl can’t be roommates because they will obviously have sex. This view is outdated and promotes heteronormativity. Obviously, I’m going to have a lot of girl friends, but I encourage the reader to think about their own friend group. As I said before, they’re bound to have some friends of the opposite gender. Guys and girls can be just friends. Furthermore, LGBTQ students are forced to live with members of their own biological sex. If anybody is really concerned about sex happening between roommates of the opposite gender, they should worry about a gay student rooming with another man, or two lesbians rooming together.
But suppose for a moment that two co-ed roommates do decide to engage in a sexual relationship. Who’s going to stop them? Is somebody from the college going to follow them around all the time like a weird peeping Tom? Is it really anybody else’s business who one person decides to sleep with? College is supposed to be the first step in our lives toward independence, and we can’t step toward independence if we can’t be trusted to control our own sex drives.
Men and women will have to work together in the real world, and some men and women might even live together (gasp!) as friends. Furthermore, separating men and women and preventing them from rooming together isn’t actually stopping sex from happening on campus. It still happens, and will continue to happen. So what am I suggesting?
Men and women should be allowed to room together. I’m not saying we stick a random man and a random woman together and force them to be roommates, but if two people who happen to be of opposite genders want to live together, they should be allowed to. Those people who prefer same-gender rooms and floors would not be forced to live in a co-ed room or on a co-ed floor.
The biggest counter-argument to what I’m proposing is that men and women rooming together will increase the instances of rape and sexual assault. Granted, I have no experience with rape or sexual assault, and I am certainly not intending to be insensitive towards people who have experienced it, but from what I understand it’s more about power and dominance than sexual attraction. While the majority of rapists are men, this means that if we’re going to discuss rape we need to be concerned about men living with men, not just men living with women. Also, if rape is a problem on your campus, that should be addressed before co-ed rooms are discussed; I would like to point out, however, that segregated gender housing is not going to end rape.
If co-ed rooming was allowed at Goshen, many would feel more comfortable in their rooming situations and more compatible with their roommates. Co-ed roommates could be allowed on Yoder floors, where there are two bathrooms. However, if we continue to live in the past with this outdated notion that men and women couldn’t possibly live together without sex happening, we continue to isolate a number of students in our college’s population. In conclusion, I ask everybody to think outside of our society’s heteronormative box and consider the needs of the students who are often overlooked.
Jake Smucker is a sophomore music composition major. Smucker originally presented this argument at the “best student speeches of spring semester” convocation on Monday.