My thoughts on the Anscombe Valentine's Day campaign
by Josh Franklin
This Valentine's Day, the Anscombe Society produced a poster campaign that perfectly symbolized my relationship with the Anscombe message. Attached to lampposts all over campus were double-sided posters: on one side there was a positive message like, "This Valentine's Day, share a journey," and on the other, a negative message like, "This Valentine's Day, don't share misinformation." David Pederson expressed the purpose of this campaign in his column in the Daily Princetonian:
"That is why, instead of hooking up this Valentine’s Day, students and their significant others should go out on a date. Watch a movie, see a play, have a romantic dinner, enjoy deep conversation — the list is endless. Dating or courtship is not a time for sexual experimentation but rather for sharing time together and coming to know the other person as a person — as an end, not a means. If one night’s mistakes can lead to a lifetime of regrets, one night done right can lead to a lifetime of bliss in a loving and faithful relationship. The possibility of that bliss is the best thing to share this Valentine’s Day."
Understanding that it's unpopular to hold this opinion among certain circles, I was a little conflicted about this message. While I dislike the pretentious language of academic ethics and Pederson's shameless definition of dating for everybody everywhere, I found something really positive in this message. Seeing the photograph of two young lovers sharing their "journey" peacefully in a sunlit field was moving for me. I appreciate the idea that creating meaningful relationships is valuable and even beautiful.
What I don't like is the closed-minded condemnation of certain behaviors. This isn't the place to discuss the accuracy of the Anscombe ideas, but I will say that I don't think it's any better to scare people about the risks involved in sex without cause than it is to intentionally conceal them. For some, premarital sex constitutes a part of what is valuable to them in life. To combat what could be percieved as an overwhelming "hookup culture" (assuming it exists) by creating a new standard of normativity and exclusion is merely to perpetuate the anxiety and suffering that we experience when our sexual identities are not respected.
Since there have been numerous critiques of the Anscombe position, I don't want to approach that territory here. Rather, I want to address Anscombe's critics (among whom I count myself). It's my belief that the unfortunate antagonism we have to experience every Valentine's Day (and every day, for that matter) ends not when we dismantle every ridiculous claim about oxytocin, but rather when we challenge our slavery to sexual normativity itself. Progress, I think, consists in creating possibility. It is necessary to recognize the idea of a chaste lifestyle as legitimate--not at the expense of other lifestyles--in order to allow both to exist as possibilities rather than exclusions. I hope that when we challenge Anscombe's dissemination of misinformation, we don't merely create a new vision of what kind of behavior is acceptable, but rather assert that one ought to explore the profound world of sexuality in freedom.