According to the forthcoming book, Girls Uncovered: New Research on What America’s Sexual Culture Does to Young Women, by the time our daughters graduate from college, the vast majority will have had sex without the benefit of marriage. Many will be engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors, including having multiple partners and sex under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
This may be shocking, but sadly it’s no surprise, given the sexual culture on many campuses. Take, for example, Yale University.
For the past several years, this elite Ivy League institution - where the great theologian Jonathan Edwards once served as president - has supported a student-initiated event called Sex Week at Yale, which is described as “a campus-wide interdisciplinary sex education program.”
Folks, this is not Sex Ed 101. The Yale Dean of Student Affairs has e-mailed students about the wonders of “glorious consensual sex.” The university itself says that Sex Week at Yale, next scheduled for February, “has prominently featured titillating displays, ‘adult’ film stars, and commercial sponsors of such material.”
So if that’s how the grown-ups at Yale approach human sexuality, can you imagine how the students feel? Well, not altogether. A group of brave young people at Yale is bucking the sexual trend. Calling themselves Undergraduates for a Better Yale College, they’re cleaning up the campus like the New York police are cleaning up Zuccotti Park.
Yale’s sexual culture has been dysfunctional, to say the least. Rape, harassment, the objectification of women, and simple disrespect have caused even The Yale Daily News to admit that “the project of reforming Yale’s sexual culture is a formidable one.”
But Undergraduates for a Better Yale College is challenging the kind of thinking and worldview that allowed Yale’s sexual culture to go so badly off the rails.
“We believe,” they say, “that the heart of the problem is … a paradoxical attitude that both trivializes sex and is obsessed with it.” They add, “It is obsessive - and pathetic - to be as consumed with sexual curiosity as our campus so frequently is.”
Strong words, but they are also backing them up. Opposing Sex Week at Yale, these students set up a website, betteryale.org, placed advertisements in the alumni magazine and in the student newspaper, and challenged campus officials. And that’s not all. They are organizing fun, wholesome, and healthy alternatives - such as True Love Week, Great Date Night, and Better Yale dances.
And you know what? They’re winning! Under pressure from Undergraduates for a Better Yale College and other groups, the Yale administration has backed down, removing its support for the “sex week” and kicking it off campus. That’s amazing!
While nobody will be surprised if the university allows it back in some restructured form, this cultural skirmish shows what can happen if advocates for moral standards break the spiral of silence and realize that they can accomplish great things. It’s just what I’ve been talking about over these weeks. We have to break the spiral of silence created often by a tiny minority.
Well, OK, this is only a small victory. But small victories add up. Remember, Yale University is one of the most influential institutions in America. If it can happen at Yale, it can happen anywhere.