Monday, March 31, 2008

Sex on College Campuses - Fact or Myth?

Recently, the New York Times Magazine published a cover story about abstinence groups on college campuses, notably Harvard.  

The article, titled "Students of Virginity", laid out the story of Janie Fredell, a student at Harvard.  She grew up in the midwest, surrounded by abstinence-only culture:

There was a time when not having sex consumed a very small part of Janie Fredell’s life, but that, of course, was back in Colorado Springs. It seemed to Fredell that almost no one had sex in Colorado Springs. Her hometown was extremely conservative, and as a good Catholic girl, she was annoyed by all the fundamentalist Christians who would get in her face and demand, as she put it to me recently, “You have to think all of these things that we think.” They seemed not to know that she thought many of those things already. At her public high school, everyone, “literally everyone,” wore chastity rings, Fredell recalled, but she thought the practice ridiculous. Why was it necessary, she wondered, to signify you’re not doing something that nobody is doing?
But, as the article goes on to describe in great detail, she then went to Harvard, and found herself surrounded by sex. She went to Harvard because it's a good school and has a lot of name recognition, even though "people back home called it 'godless, liberal Harvard''.  To make a (very long) article short, it then goes into detail explaining the origins and goals of a number of campus abstinence groups, including the Anscombe Society at Princeton and True Love Revolution at Harvard

This article piqued my interest because it shows that the abstinence only education that many conservatives are pushing on high school students is clearly now infiltrating college campuses, and it begs the question: Should you wait?
Having graduated from the Catholic University of America, I know every reason and argument for abstinence: sex should be used only in the context of marriage, virginity is laudable, premarital sex causes divorce.  But the founders of these groups are going much farther.
According to the New York Times article, Janie Fredell believes that sex will cause people to be bound by hormones forever:
She began talking about oxytocin, the hormone released at birth, in breast-feeding and also during sex. True Love Revolution gives it the utmost significance, claiming on its Web site that the hormone’s “powerful bonding” effect can be “a cause of joy and marital harmony” but that outside of marriage it can create “serious problems.” Released arbitrarily, it can blur “the distinction between infatuation and lasting love,” the Web site cautions, making rational mating decisions difficult. Fredell said oxytocin could also bond people who didn’t necessarily want to be bound, and “you can bond yourself to the wrong guy in the wrong situation.”
In addition, Justin Murray, the co-founder of True Love Revolution, believes:
“We found a huge body of scholarship that suggested conclusions that nobody on our campus was making,” he says. They posted the conclusions on their Web site — the belief that “ ‘safe sex’ is not safe”; that even the most effective methods of birth control can fail; that early sexual activity is strongly associated with all manner of terrible outcomes, from increased risk of depression to greater likelihood of marital infidelity, divorce and maternal poverty. Premarital abstinence, on the other hand, is held up by True Love Revolution as improving health, promoting better relationships and, best of all, enabling “better sex in your future marriage.”
But these arguements are exactly the arguements that have proven factually false in the abstinence only debate.  And these abstinence groups starting on college campuses are showing that the inaccurate abstinence only sex education President Bush has forced on high schools is now permeating into colleges, where young men and women are far more likely to be sexually active.
Luckily for GW students, the University has a liberal policy os sex education and birth control.  The University Health Services offers contraceptive counseling and the University Counseling Center offer information on sexual communication, men's and women's sexual problems. But if abstinence-only thinking can be popular at liberal schools like Harvard and Princeton, then how long until GW may be affected?  
That answer depends on the students, and how their actions shape the University Community.  


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