Hello! My name is Patricia and I'm a student at the University of Toronto. I met Wendy Shalit after reading her book and was motivated to start a new group on campus, but more on that later!
For now I want to report on the weekend conference organized by the Anscombe Society at Princeton University, which I attended last month:
While returning to Toronto I was startled when an airport security guard called me by name. “How does he know my name?” I remember, hyperventilating, until I realized that the guard had read my name from the conference tag from the day before.
He may not have been able to read the finer print of my conference name tag: “Sexuality, Integrity, and the University” but I wish he had. I could have told him about one of the best experiences of my life. First, I noticed that people at Princeton cleverly match their socks with their overcoats and live in Hogwart-ish buildings (sadly, I did not see any bats or owls). I observed a great deal of layering and accessorizing among the ladies which produced some of the most modest- and elegant- styles I have seen. More importantly, like Wendy Shalit’s writings, which were the first to make me seriously question the sexual mores of our society, the Princeton conference exposed the false promises of freedom in the hook-up culture. Exposed and debunked them.
Mary Eberstadt of the Hoover institution began by explaining the current hush-hush about the pitfalls of the sexual revolutions as the “will to disbelieve”. I became a believer that night. Why had I ever disbelieved? I couldn’t answer that question without the help of Professor George of Princeton University who explained that “culture influences conduct”. I agreed, wondering if without conduct one can talk about culture at all. I also remember questioning whether we can we influence culture. I saw an answer before me in the person of Maggie Gallagher, President of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, who is an influence if I ever saw one. She is living proof, as Professor George so eloquently stated, of our uncanny ability to think and articulate: in season and out of season.
Bradford Wilcox, Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia had a “friendly giant” presence and an ability to make logic and scientific inquiry human. His presentation on the negative impact of pre-marital sex and cohabitation on marriages was fantastic. I was surprised to learn that cohabitation before marriage can increase chances of divorce by 33-151 percent. I had never heard these statistics before. Maybe that is why we are living in times of Fragile Families (a must read study). Perhaps the greatest insight from Wilcox was this: cohabitation is not a clear, public commitment (like marriage), which means less trust in the relationship which means that when marriage happens; it is more likely to fail.
I was also uplifted when I was reassured that I had a soul. As professors Laura Garcia of Boston College and Christopher Toffelson of the University of Carolina explained, behind this flesh is the intellect and will. Garcia made a point which I think could be a starting point for discussion on every campus: is pre-drinking before hook-ups a deliberate separation of body and soul? How can we tolerate this? Can we? To those that are convinced that men cannot function without sex, I offer Tofellson’s idea of plasticity: sexual appetites can be melded by our desire to respect our beloved and ourselves. This is a radical definition of masculinity. Gentlemen, take note!
Ladies, step into the office of Dr. Miriam Grossman. Don’t worry, she won’t give you condoms, Prozac or pat you on the back after you’ve had your heart broken again. She will tell you the truth. For starters, the “politically incorrect” hormone oxytocin is the reason women can’t suppress the strong emotional attachment towards men they’ve had sex with. In fact, as Dr. Grossman warned with genuine concern, we should be careful hugging for more than 20 seconds. After that, our brains release trust inducing hormones which affect our judgment. I recall that the smartest in the crowd quickly calculated “that still leaves 19 seconds!” To which we all laughed, but quickly grew silent--realizing that something much greater than hugs is at stake.
is that great thing? It is love, which needs our defense. That is the secret of the conference which
cannot be held hostage any longer. We must be bold. We must break the confines of the liberal
university education and follow the lead of the great minds who have taken this
stand. On my end, I will
keep my conference name tag “pinned” to everything I wear. From now on, I think as I smile to myself, it is the wardrobe accessory, proclaiming "human relationships are back in style!"