Interesting article by BU religion professor Donna Freitas at the Wall Street Journal, on the culture of sexuality at many college campuses. She's surveyed 2,500 college students and found that many students want romance and dating, but they're stuck in a 'hook-up' culture. Freitas' blog is here, with links to some of her books on spirituality and sexuality.
"After conducting a national college survey of over 2,500 students, I found that among those who reported 'hooking up' -- a range of sexually intimate acts, from kissing to intercourse, that occur outside a committed relationship -- at Catholic and nonreligious private and public colleges and universities, 41% are profoundly upset about their behavior. The 22% of respondents who chose to describe a hook-up experience (the question was optional) used words like dirty, used, regretful, empty, miserable, disgusted, ashamed, duped and abused in their answers. An additional 23% expressed ambivalence about hooking up, and the remaining 36% were more or less 'fine' with it. And 45% of students at Catholic and 36% at nonreligious private and public schools say that their peers are too casual about sex. Not a single person at these schools said that their peers valued saving sex for marriage, and only 7% said that they felt that their friends wanted to reserve sex for committed, loving relationships."
"When last semester I taught Wendy Shalit's A Return to Modesty, in a class at Boston University called 'Spirituality & Sexuality in American Youth Culture', I assumed that my mostly left-leaning students would reject her arguments about the terrible effects that the hook-up culture has on young women and the positive effects of traditional religion and morality on young women's well-being. Instead, my students ate up her critique and were fascinated by her descriptions of modesty as a virtue, especially within the context of faith. One student said that she felt empowered to stop tolerating vulgar remarks about sex made by peers in her presence."
Freitas notes the disconnect between these students' ideals of romantic dating and their practice of casual sex. Why the disconnect? How to counteract that?
"The question remains, though, why students who feel bad about hooking up, who wish their peers would act less casual about sex and who dream of living with at least some restrictions on their sexual relationships then choose to act as they do. The answer lies in community. Most campuses do not provide an environment where acting on romantic desires, rather than sexual ones, is feasible. It takes a village to set standards for dating."
Hmm, I'm not crazy about the whole "it takes a village" to do anything, be it setting dating standards or raising children. Who then, to raise the bar on dating, romance, interactions between men and women?
Clearly many colleges are eager to distribute condoms and safe sex advice, but unwilling to distribute anything that recommends abstaining from or delaying sex. It's OK for them to espouse areligious, secular "values" (uncommitted sex, sexual experimentation) but it's not OK to espouse any religious values about sexuality, even those shared by virtually all of the world's religions.
This means that student organizations such as The Anscombe Society and True Love Revolution are so vital to spreading their message to their peers. I see them as being part of what Pope Benedict calls the "creative minority" who eschew the "strange consensus of modern existence," and who exemplify another, more positive way to live.