An Abundance of Oil, a Shortage of Women

Link to The New York Times: "An Oil Town Where Men are Many, and Women are Hounded"
Link to The New York Times: “An Oil Town Where Men are Many, and Women are Hounded”

It’s a story we might read from American history books: men moving West to find work in the mines and discovering that they seriously lack female companionship. As America expanded its boundaries and pioneers rolled West through the 19th century, men answered the call to dig for gold, silver, coal, and other costly minerals. Typically bachelors, these men lived in communities which did not afford many (if any) feminine pleasures.

Before we close the history books, we need to read the newest chapter being written in America today. As oil drilling expands its reaches across the States, men are relocating for high-paying jobs in the oil boom. In North Dakota, where the oil is particularly plentiful and has drawn thousands of workers into the state, men are finding the same problem faced by the miners we see in the black and white photographs of the 1846 gold rush: there are not enough women to go around. In fact, the ratio of men to women in North Dakota has progressively widened over the past few years.

The manner in which these men seek to resolve their “problem” is less than suitable for the safety of the women who are living in oil-producing areas. One man (see the article linked above) mentioned “importing” women from his home state.

It’s likely safe to assume that there are few women from his hometown who care to be “imported” to a new state in order to satisfy the sexual appetites of oil men; however, there are women who have been in the sex industry, working in other states, and have relocated to take advantage of the scores of lonely men with full wallets in Williston, North Dakota’s two available strip clubs. One woman told a reporter that she’s making more in a small North Dakota town than she was on the Las Vegas strip.

Matthew Strayer for The New York TimesThe local women of  this North Dakota town have expressed real concern for their safety, not just while they enjoy a girl’s night out at a local bar but even while they do their weekly grocery shopping. One woman interviewed by The New York Times said, “So many people look at you like you’re a piece of meat. It’s disgusting. It’s gross.” Another woman, when asked if she would stay in the area, replied, “To me, there’s no money in the world worth not even being able to take a walk.”

As men talk of “lowering their standards” and visiting their hometowns periodically for female companionship (which they hope will “tide them over”), some have begun to act out against the local girls to get what they want. The women in town have every reason to be wary of walking alone. Families have begun to encourage the young women in their homes to stay inside, dress down more, and never go anywhere without a group of friends or relatives by their side. One woman told a New York Times reporter about two men trying to drag her into their vehicle while she was walking down the street one afternoon. A local man driving by stopped the two from taking her captive but the experience was traumatizing, nevertheless. She told the reporter, “It’s just people trying to have sex.”

Rape is fueled by a person’s desire to exercise their power and control over another person. It is not an issue of lust or sexual attraction, as many believe (a view which often fuels victim blaming depending on what the woman was wearing, etc.). However, at least to the women having to deal with sex-starved oil men every day, a power-complex is not the only fuel causing the men to force themselves on the locals. The definition of sexual assault may be rewritten for towns like Williston, ND.

With women few and good men fewer, the chances of sexual assault and gang rape in towns like Williston have risen significantly…to the point that women are arming themselves before they take a walk to the supermarket.


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