Wednesday, April 1, 2009

An open letter to Professors George and Londregan

Dear Professors George and Londregan,

Calls for a chastity center at Princeton caused quite a stir last semester, so we were interested to see that you had brought this idea up again in your March 17 article in "Public Discourse." We are the co-editors of Equal Writes, the campus feminist blog, and we wanted to engage you in conversation about the much-debated "hook-up culture," because we agree many of the issues that you raised. The sexual culture at Princeton is problematic, and many students are ambivalent about our school's perceived sexual norms. We were particularly disturbed by the discourse about the “hook-up culture” around Valentine's Day, which was mostly played out in the opinion pages of the Daily Princetonian. What we saw was a discussion that antagonized, rather than engaged, the campus community.

We think that this discussion has gotten out of hand. And it certainly isn't fair to any of the campus organizations involved - not least the Anscombe Society, which is marginalized because of the perceived extremity of its views. The value of sex after marriage, or for that matter, within any committed relationship, is an important subject which is rarely addressed at Princeton. There is a damaging tendency for students to feel socially compelled to make themselves sexually available, because of widely held campus assumptions about what other students want, and what other students expect. And this is fair to no one involved. There has been an essential breakdown of communication about sex at Princeton, and it has resulted in a sexual culture that benefits no one.

Where we disagree with you is in the solution. You suggest a "Love and Fidelity Center” designed to provide support for students who are seeking a more “traditional” sexual lifestyle, but we think that the answer is not to create more islands of difference in a campus climate that tends to dismiss people who represent extremes. Instead, we want to open the conversation to all Princeton students, so that people who fall on all sides of the sexual spectrum feel comfortable speaking openly about their desires, confusions, and fears when it comes to sex.

You write that our campus culture is hostile towards students who hold traditional beliefs about sex. We know this to be true, and feel that it is crucial to give these students the highest degree of respect for their individual choices. However, we feel that to create a "Love and Fidelity Center” would simply isolate these students further from their peers, and render the issue even more polarizing. Moreover, it is necessary to remember that many students arrive for their freshman year at Princeton without strong commitments to a particular vision of what sex means. Could a "Love and Fidelity Center" serve all students as they come to terms with the role that sex will play in their lives? It seems to us that the center, as proposed, will exclude the majority of students who are nevertheless struggling, unsupported, to gain a clear understanding of their sexual identities.

We believe that sexuality at this point in our lives is a process of self-discovery, and any institution that does not recognize this will only serve to exacerbate the confusion that students already experience. We also believe that college is a time for students to engage with their peers in these processes, and that conversation about these issues should be broadened, not narrowed. This does not mean that Princeton will produce homogeneous students who follow one ideal blindly, but rather that Princeton will produce well-rounded individuals who have given serious thought to a variety of viewpoints and come intelligently to their own conclusion. That is, after all, the goal of the liberal arts education, and one that we think Princeton students should strive for.

We want to know how you envision the services of the proposed "Love and Fidelity Center" in terms of all of the students who are coping with the negative effects of the "hook-up culture." We recognize that we do not have all of the answers to the dilemmas that students face when they arrive at Princeton. Nevertheless, we want to express these concerns to you because we believe that real progress on this important issue can be made only with the input of diverse student voices. To that end, we will post this letter on our blog, and with your permission, your responses. We're looking forward to engaging with you about these issues.

Sincerely,

Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux '11
Joshua Franklin '11
Co-editors, Equal Writes

1 Comments:

At April 1, 2009 at 4:42 PM , Blogger Roscoe said...

So, very well-written. It seems to me, though, that there are already some programs that cover what you are talking about. The SHARE program is in no way shy about addressing any sexual topics. Sex Jeopardy is the first experience of many students with regard to sexual identity (Sex on a Saturday night isn't so much about sex, rather it's about sexual assault). Groups like the LGBT center and Pride Alliance lgbt students to explore their sexuality in safe havens. Moreover, Pride Alliance also seems to be advocating for more liberal and open sexuality (Love=Love campaign, for example).

While your letter was clearly written soberly and with much thought, I think, ultimately, disagreements about the "Love and Fidelity Center" falls on its face. Given the programs and institutions listed above, it seems absolutely clear that what is needed to have a balanced discussion about sex is indeed a chastity center. There are NO institutions or programs on campus that focus exclusively on the question of abstinence and chastity in a serious fashion. From what I have outlined above, it may be possible that there are people who may even feel pressured to be more sexual because of the current campus environment.

Your most important claim, in my opinion, is that a chastity center would isolate more those students who have chosen to abstain. But I think this is, while well-intentioned, absolutely incorrect. The LGBT center does not further isolate those who identify as lgbt...on the contrary, it has normalized the view that homosexuality is not some disease or pathology; it has removed (or is in the process of removing) a stigma. Following the same logic, a center for chastity would only serve to solidify abstinence as a serious way of life, rather than a fringe movement by a bunch of religious fundamentalists.

And would a center "exclude the majority of students who are nevertheless struggling, unsupported, to gain a clear understanding of their sexual identities?" Again, the same could be said of the LGBT center, but this place also serves to educate those who do not identify as lgbt. This center is open to all students, and while the services provided may be different for each person, it still stands that any student knows they are free to walk into this place without encountering any hostility. Again, the same truths would apply to a chastity center. The center would not be hostile to those who engage in pre-marital sex. On the contrary, this is THE ONLY place that any student could go to have a serious discussion about abstinence without the fear of judgment or inadequacy. Religious groups are not enough for those who do not want to be pressured into a religious framework, this much should be clear. It seems the only reason students may feel excluded is from their own lack of desire to go. In other words, I highly doubt your claim that anyone would actually feel excluded, rather it seems more plausible that most people would choose not to go. But the same could be said, again, of the LGBT center.

I agree that a campus without a sexual discussion would be severely lacking. It does not follow that we should refrain from having a different, and serious, point of view introduced to such an environment. In the end, not only do I believe that this campus is suffering for not having a different, and minority, point of view represented, there are those that will go as far as saying that a campus without a chastity center is damaging its students.

We must remember, chastity is not something that is advocated because it would "please God". Those who advocate chastity do it because they sincerely believe that people are being hurt and objectified every day they have a sexual encounter outside of marriage. For the sake of the student body, we need a "Love and Fidelity Center".

Thank you,

Roscoe

 

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