Note - I know I have a few friends out there whose kids read my blog from time to time, so just to be forewarned, there are a couple of places in this post that lean toward being PG-13. Just thought I would let you know in case you want to read this first.
I went to college in the 80's which, when it comes to sexual mores, certainly weren't the 50's, but neither were they the 00's. Sexual activity could be had for those who wanted it and there was plenty of "hooking up" going on, but most of it was in the context of a dating relationship.
However, there were times when I would get a bit
shocked. One evening I was doing laundry
in the dorm laundry room and this guy I had never met came over to me and said
that his girlfriend was up in his room and she had brought a friend of hers who
was a nymphomaniac, and did I want to come up. Much to his surprise I said "no thank you," and he was
incredulous. He went away shaking his
head probably thinking I was gay, not knowing that in actuality I was something
far worse - a right wing religious fundamentalist zealot Christian.
I forgot about that incident until a few years later when I was a youth minister. We took the youth group to a weekend conference on dating by a well known youth worker. At one point in the weekend he explained the current situation - that we all know that kids are having sex, but most of us thought it was happening in the context of dating relationships. Not so anymore he said, now students were into hooking up. On any given night, high school kids might have multiple partners, going from party to party and person to person.
After that session I spoke to a couple of girls in the youth
group, who were leaders and asked if that happened in their school. I must have had a look on my face that said
"nah, probably not - that's the kind of thing that happens in the big
city, not a small town in
All of these memories came back to me when I read the
Brothel in Christianity Today by Vigen Guroian. He contrasts his own college experience at
Not so anymore, and by the way I realize that I am not
telling anyone anything they don't already know. It's just that Guroian writes about this in
such a way as to move us to truly lament the way things are. Here is his description of a recent
interaction with a student:
I recently gave a lecture at Loyola on Brave New World. During the question-and-answer period, there was a brief discussion about the similarities of dormitory life with Brave New World. I opined that whatever the resemblances, there is a clear difference between the two: Sexual promiscuity and hooking up among college students is voluntary, I said, whereas in Brave New World this behavior is mandatory. A young woman and dormitory resident adviser walked up to me afterwards and chided me: "Dr. Guroian, you are mistaken about that. The peer pressure and the way things are set up make promiscuity practically obligatory. It doesn't matter what the school says officially. The rules are to be broken. This freedom can make girls dizzy and unsure of whatever else they believe about 'saving oneself' for marriage. When it seems like everyone else is 'doing it,' it is hard to say no. It is more like Brave New World here than you think. I deal with it or, more frequently, turn my eyes from it, every day as an RA."
The same student later wrote about what is actually going on at Loyola and other campuses.
It may not be that dating is at the brink of extinction, but … it has taken a back seat in the modern-day lives of students. Hooking up, going out, going steady, and dating, contrary to what some may think, are not the same thing. … If you are "going out" with someone it means that you have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, you are in a "steady" relationship with that person. However, a couple needn't actually go anywhere [go on dates together] to be in this kind of relationship. Hooking up is basically dating without the romance. It has become customary for young adults to simply cut to the chase, the sexual … part of a relationship. A hook-up can be a one-time thing, as it most often is, or it can be a semi-regular thing, but not a full relationship. Although it may take on the signs of one.
One might conclude that modern-day youth have simply gotten lazy and careless. Most … are not looking for a romantic relationship; they see the new freedom and plethora of sexual opportunities and simply take what they can get. They get to college, and it's an amusement park with so many different enticing rides, one would be missing out on the whole experience to settle with the first one they tried. And why should they bother with the responsibility and formalities of a date when they have a better chance of getting immediate satisfaction after buying a few drinks at a bar?
you wonder if I
am Charlotte Simmons should be classified as fiction or documentary.
The most interesting quote of the article again came from
the same young lady:
"Coed dormitories," she continues, "are they an ideal situation or a sad form of prostitution? You go out with your friends on your terms, after a few drinks you're both attracted. … Interested and lonely, you go together, no obligations, no responsibilities, and no rules. Then there is that late-night 'booty call.' This has become such a custom of the college lifestyle [that] most have come to accept it, although maybe not respect it. If it were really the ideal situation, the walk home the next day [to one's own room] wouldn't be called 'the walk of shame.'"
Hmm . . . so loneliness, lack of respect and shame still play a role in the lives of college students today. There still seems to be some kind of moral compass. Not that anyone is paying attention to the moral compass, but it seems to still be there. Maybe, even in this postmodern age, the requirements of the law are still written on the heart (Romans 2:4), no matter how much we try to suppress them (Romans 1:18).
Even though there still seems to be a “walk of shame” in the life of students, it still isn’t powerful enough to get most to refrain. And it’s not just college students facing this battle; it is common in much lower grades.
A few weeks ago a 10th grade young lady came
into my office to talk about her boyfriend. She thought I was his pastor and was hoping I would straighten him
out. It turns out that I didn’t know the
boy because he is part of a separate group that just uses our facilities. I listened to her heartbreaking story for
some time – she loved this boy, but he treated her badly and ran around with
other girls. It was the old “I know he’s
bad for me but I love him and can’t let him go” situation. Although I didn’t ask, she sheepishly
volunteered that she had been having sex with him. I responded that this explains a lot. In another circumstance you would have no
problem walking away from someone who treated you so badly, but the sex has
given you a bond you can’t easily break. As I sought to change the conversation to the gospel she suddenly
remembered she had somewhere else to be and left. And, I doubt that we made any progress.
This past weekend I went to one of those abstinence talks for the youth of our church that was put on by a local crisis pregnancy center. I met the director who told about going into a local junior high school to give an abstinence presentation. The director said they have a standard program they give, but when she got there the Principal asked if she was going to talk about the problem of girls raping girls. This is a big problem, and this in a junior high school!
So, all around us the signs indicate that sexual obsession
isn’t letting up. And, my personal
opinion is that all of our abstinence programs aren’t as successful as we might
hope. Most Christian abstinence programs
that I have attended ask kids to refrain from sex because of the potential
consequences. You know how it goes – don’t
do sex because you might get pregnant, you might get an STD and you might
create memories that come back to haunt you later.
Those things are all very true and are all very unpersuasive to hormone driven, risk-inclined kids. The only real convincing reason I can come up with to avoid pre-marital or extra-marital sex is simply to please God.
In a sidebar to Guroian’s CT article, Frederica Matthews-Green says:
All the warnings about the dangers of promiscuity, all the vaunted bliss of marriage, can be irrefutably countered by somebody's experience. Doing the right thing is not guaranteed to make you happy, and the wicked sometimes thrive. But because the love of God constrains us, because our bodies are not our own but bought with a price, we persevere in a difficult path, pressing on toward the light ahead.
Now, this is a difficult sell to people who don't believe in God. For them, this is like a shiny new car with no engine. If you don't have the motive of love for God, passion for purity looks like an empty shell.
Ultimately, sexuality is a gospel driven issue. G. K. Chesterton was getting at something
like this when he said that every man (or woman) who enters a brothel (even a “Dorm
Brothel’) is looking for God.
The gospel gives a love for God that can create a passion for purity. Our moralizations may be true, but they will be unpersuasive apart from the gospel.
It is helpful to once again remember that sexual sin does not construct an insurmountable barrier to grace. The Scarlet Letter was fictional, not biblical. There is a walking path from the dorm to the household of God, but it is not a walk of shame, it is a walk of grace. And it is a walk that addresses the loneliness, lack of respect and shame in a way that sexual gluttony never can.