Party Algebra 101

We may not all be math concentrators, but many of us have probably encountered this problem at least once: If a group of men attempt to enter a party and get denied entry, how many women must be added to their group in order to be let in? Please round your answer to the nearest tenth.

In layman's term, this disconcerting phenomenon is referred to as the “ratio,” or the ratio of guys to girls at any given party. I remember my first time learning about the ratio. My friends and I were sitting on the brick steps outside of a frat house, dejected from failing to enter yet another MIT party. We were quite a large group of mostly males with a few lone females.

“I knew this was going to happen,” sighed one of my friends.

“If we want to get in, we need to either bring fewer people or bring more girls to compensate.” I was puzzled. “We do have girls in our group. What does the number have to do with anything?”

“Well, they want to keep their ratio,” my friend explained. “They can’t just have a bunch of guys in there.”


At the time, I accepted this as basic party logic that my 18 years of sheltered living had failed to teach me. However, the more I thought about it, the more I grew to realize that the need to maintain a ratio actually reveals an underlying motive for many partygoers: namely, hooking up.

Of course, hooking up is certainly not a crime, and parties are a perfect place for a one-night fling that you can regret in the morning and stash away in your memories. The issue lies in the fact that not every person wants to hook up, but everyone has to play into the culture if they want to be included. Women are seen not as individuals wanting to have a good time but as potential equalizers for male-dominated spaces in order for straight men to find people to take home.

As for boys, they have to endure the irrational logic of women entering parties or getting drinks for free while they have to pay up. As a female, I theoretically benefit from this socially constructed system; I enjoy easier entry to crowded frat parties and free benefits, right? In reality, the only thing I’m left with is a sickening realization of why my gender grants me these privileges.

In fact, the notion behind guy/girl ratios inadvertently fuels an even larger issue. With 31.2 percent of Harvard female seniors reporting graduating as sexual assault survivors in 2015, there is undoubtedly a toxic undertone to party activity and social life on campus that is not nearly as discussed as it should be. Why is it that the presence of alcohol and deafening pop music makes people assume that the world is their oyster for satisfying their drunken urges? Rather than a misguided perspective that shames victims for getting intoxicated, my criticism toward party culture is against the entitlement it brings unto assaulters who view substances as an opportunity to coerce victims. To put it simply, no one should be afraid to go out at night within their own campus.

Although it can be argued that a gender ratio is maintained to ensure everyone is comfortable in a new setting, I find it quite antiquated that party hosts assume that people can only get along with members of their own gender. As we approach the end of 2018, let us leave behind the restrictions that gender norms unnecessarily enforce. Gender ratios aren’t fair to anyone: Boys are not happy with having to pay for entry, and girls don’t enjoy a role in maintaining a misogynistic system.

To all “exclusive” parties out there, I have a proposition for you. For one night, consider letting in any group, regardless of their gender ratio. The night probably won’t go that differently. It’s time we stopped regarding women as hookup currency.

Linda Lee ’21, a Crimson Blog editor and Crimson Editorial comper, is a Computer Science concentrator in Eliot House.