Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Fathers, don’t let your daughters grow up to be coeds

Vigen Guroian offers a long and impassioned indictment of college complicity in the sexualization of student life. Here’s a taste:

Doane College in Nebraska recently mailed a recruiting postcard that showed a man surrounded by women, with a caption that read that students at this college have the opportunity to "play the field." After a public outcry last December, administrators hastily withdrew the marketing campaign, explaining that the postcard was harmless and a metaphor for exploring a variety of education options. But the very fact that the campaign was conceived and approved in the first place speaks volumes. The sexual revolution, if that is an appropriate title, was not won with guns but with genital groping aided and abetted by colleges that forfeited the responsibilities of in loco parentis and have gone into the pimping and brothel business.

Sex Carnival

I do not use these words lightly or loosely, and rarely is a college so blatantly suggestive as was Doane, although this attitude about the commendability of sexual experimentation has become an orthodoxy among many who hold positions as deans of student life at our colleges. Of course, some colleges take concrete steps to resist this revolution of morals. Still, in most American college coed dorms, the flesh of our daughters is being served up daily like snack jerky. No longer need young men be wolves or foxes to consume that flesh. There are no fences to jump or chicken coops to break into. The gates are wide open and no guard dogs have been posted. It is easy come and easy go. Nor are our daughters the only ones getting hurt. The sex carnival that is college life today is also doing great damage to our sons’ characters, deforming their attitudes toward the opposite sex. I am witnessing a perceptible dissipation of manly virtue in the young men I teach.

Frederica Mathewes-Green offers an interesting response
here. She argues that students operate in accordance with a moral code "just different from ours":

They believe that it’s objectively wrong to dump someone in a callous way. It’s wrong to have sex with someone who isn’t willing. It’s wrong to transgress any one of a hundred subtle etiquette cues about who may sleep with whom under what circumstances. There is plenty of objective morality on their side, and they think it’s better than ours. As far as they can see, theirs is working and ours looks pointlessly difficult. Why should they switch? This argument sounds like nothing more than "because I said so."

In other words, a mere assertion of adult or parental authority is not an effective answer. The resources for resisting the "hook-up" culture, she argues, can currently be found only in religion. This gives her two sorts of hope, one from the relationships with God and with others that grow out of religious commitments, the other from living in a world created by God:

Chastity has been such a fixture of human history that the current situation is wildly anomalous, and I expect it will eventually right itself, probably due to women realizing that promiscuity doesn’t make them feel empowered, but endangered. It may even turn out, in a supreme irony, that the current phenomenon of transitory student lesbianism was just a strategy of desperation, the only way society currently allows young women to tell boys, "Go away, I’m not ready."

For a somewhat less despairing view of the sexualization of campus life, there’s this report from Powerline about a panel discussion of Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons, sponsored by the Independent Women’s Forum. As the father of a Charlotte (currently age 7), I hope the Deacon’s claim that the hook-up culture is really a student sub-culture is right. Not that I want simply to leave participants in it to their demons, but that I hope that there are morally and psychically superior alternatives available on campus. What say my collegiate readers, such as they are?

Discussions - 7 Comments

Don’t have much time to comment right away, but this post and the articles it refers to confound me. I distinctly remember a decade or so back when some smaller liberal arts colleges (the lefty school Antioch is the first one that comes to mind) formulated some sexual offense policies with very clear, unambiguous language that emphasized that sexual exploitation, harrassment and anything approaching date rape would not find a safe haven at their schools. The schools recognized that some of their students would likely engage in sexual activity - the students were, after all, "of age," able to vote, drive, and be drafted into military service, as adults - and the school would not act as dormroom sex police. Simultaneously, they clearly promoted the idea that any sexual activities that do occur should be fully consensual, and decisions not fogged by drugs or alcohol. And, perhaps because these policies came often from liberal-leaning schools, it seemed that the right had a real field day with bashing them. The schools are being "paternalistic" was often a critique, it’s "nanny culture," etc. And now we get this stuff from the right that schools NEED to act "in loco parentis" to protect their kids?? So, what is "nanny culture" and what isn’t? And if the right is going to be enraged about sexual permissiveness in any post-high school institutions, perhaps they should start with the military academies?? I would be much more fearful of my daughter attending one of the "super-disciplined" military academies (at least, those that might accept women) than I would most universities. That’s enough for now, but there are some pretty sexist concepts in those articles, too, but that’s for another day...maybe

...and let’s not forget those favorite traditional institutions of so many conservatives - fraternities and sororities - where the concept of date rape is fast-dissolving. Students at several left-leaning schools have happily opted to keep the greek system out.

Translation of title of Mr. Knippenberg’s post (using definition of "coed"):

Fathers don’t let your daughters grow up to be "women who attend a coeducational college or university."


As for the title, I was trying to play off a Willie Nelson song--"Mothers, Don’t Let Your Sons Grow Up To Be Cowboys." Nothing in particular rides on this lame attempt at a creative allusion.

I’ll speak only of my own situation as the father of two children, a son and a daughter. I am hesitant to put either of them in a setting where many of the "cultural" forces militate against their making the "right" choices, and I fear that the "hook-up" culture is powerful, if not necessarily dominant, on many, if not all, of America’s high-prestige (and middle and low prestige) college and university campuses. The sole exceptions may be the "pervasively religious" colleges, like Calvin, Wheaton, and BYU. But I can’t say for certain about those places. I encourage readers out there familiar with them to chime in.

I agree with Guroian and Wolfe that the apparently increasing, if not necessarily pervasive, sexualization of American college and university life threatens not only the moral and psychic health of the student body, but also their intellectual endeavors. While I won’t tell them where they have to go to school, I might, depending upon my assessment of the situation roughly ten years down the road, encourage them to examine options that I wouldn’t have ten or twenty years ago.

I wonder how many parents would feel the way I do, if they had access to the information I have. I think, for example, that one of the reasons liberal arts colleges are even more overwhelmingly "female" than are colleges and universities as a whole is that parents regard them (at least in the South) as "safe" places to send their daughters. If that were shown to be a myth or at least a fragile stereotype, there might be more of a tendency to look seriously at genuinely safe places--no, not convents, but yes, perhaps single-sex institutions and religious colleges that still take the notion of in loco parentis seriously.

S Tragger - You’ve set up a straw man here. The right didn’t oppose the reasonable definition of coercion so much as it derided attempts by feminists to paint *any* male interest as coercion. The "sex=rape" culture put men in a position where even obviously consensual relationships were subject to charges of rape.

Chris L - You’re not seriously arguing that ’conservatives’ approve date rape are you. Other than as a *very* loose mental association, by what logic do you argue that fraternities and sororities are conservative?

The essential conservative argument is that these institutions should not be actively undermining rules of sexual conduct that time and common sense have shown to be effective. When a freshman arrives at college he or she experiences a massive change in their living arrangement, social milieu and dating opportunities. They naturally ask - and actively try to figure out - what is appropriate. At their age, they need no particular help to conclude they should screw their brains out. They *could* use some help understanding that such a loose attitude may lead to VD, emotional trauma or ’deadening’, unwanted pregnancy, etc. While most of them know this abstractly, it only makes sense to build a social milieu where the expectation of responsible behavior is made concrete: some form of lifeline that keeps their souls intact as they navigate from "mom and dad’s" morality to a satisfying and meaningful adult sexuality.

What angers many conservatives is that, once again, the denizens of academia seem incapable of acting as if they themselves have grown beyond adolescence.

Wait a second, why are just the "denizens of academia" bearing the brunt here? Seems to be that they are simply following a well-established pattern--one that is ages and ages old--using sex to sell. Turn on the television one evening and check out how many instances of the exact same thing that you seen. Watch 10 music videos in a row and see what you see. My how interesting it is that many of the arguments are aligned with feminist ones--that women should not be used as sexual objects to "sell" a product (in this case, the university). Only in this case the "denizens of academia" are to blame, not a much larger force in society.

Here’s some further evidence to reinforce my claim and suggestion that "if the right is going to be enraged about sexual permissiveness in any post-high school institutions, perhaps they should start with the military academies," from that bastion of liberal thinking, the Defense Dept.
Funny, you’d think that military training would instill nothing but respect for women, not the we-do-it-because-we-can mentality. I was being sarcastic, there, of course.

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