October 25, 2005

"What accounts for this intolerance of abstinence by college students?"

I think that's probably a question that answers itself, but here is an account of efforts to promote abstinence on campus.


JBlog said...

I would imagine it's difficult to market anything that involves waiting to college students -- especially abstaining from sex -- in a society that creates a contrary impression.

The message we're bombarded with daily is that you can have it all -- now -- with no negative consequences.

It's a load, of course.

Dave said...

Who cares if a college student decides to abstain from sex? And why is the abstainer so sensitive about what others think of her?

Who cares?

I honestly had no clue who was having sex or not having sex, other than close friends, in college. And I didn't care.

Wade Garrett said...

Ann first posted about this Princeton society last spring. Regardless of whether or not abstinence is a good thing in and of itself, I think this woman, and the people in the NY Times article on the Princeton society this past spring, are really judgmental.

These societies aren't about keep sex sacred precious and sacred, they're about judging as morally bankrupt people who have sex. To take it one step further, they judge people who both a) have had sex and b) don't give them the level of attention to which they feel they are entitled.

Furthermore, I don't think her depiction of college students' attitudes towards sex strikes me as being somewhat detached from reality. I agree with Dave - when I was in college, the only people whose sex lives I knew about were my own, my girlfriend's, and those of my close friends who felt the need to share theirs with me, whether to ask for relationship advice or whatever. Certainly, nobody had a metaphorical scarlet 'v' on their chest.

Jacob said...

Detached from reality is a pretty good summary. I mean does anyone still listen to Cyndi Lauper?

But she does have a point about saving yourself for marriage

KCFleming said...

The book I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe covers this same territory.

Despite the professed ignorance (from dave and terrence) of the intimate lives of their friends, there is little reason to disbelieve the subject of the article that she has had a wholly different experience.

The intolerance is present because to behave otherwise suggests the abstainers believe that they themselves are practicing a higher moral behavior than non-abstainers. And the PC college atmosphere only allows such moralizing against Bushco, corporations, and Christians.

It is simply impermissible to suggest that people have personal moral responsibility over their own behavior. The only moral responsibilities discussed anymore have to do with one's position on topics and organizations over which one has no real effect or control.

JBlog said...

Well, frankly there's a lot to be judged here -- and I'm not talking about from a moral standpoint (although I suppose you could make a case for that too).

If they're promoting an "if it feels good, do it" philosophy, which frankly is a little dated itself, then they're ignoring the social, mental and health consequences that can result from a libertine lifestyle.

What people do behind closed doors is there own business.

But when they're giving bondage demos in the Student Union and ridiculing people who say it might be a good idea to limit yourself to one, committed partner, that's another matter entirely.

And I think that's what she's talking about.

amba said...

"The Anscombe Society — and others like it around the country — seeks to promote and encourage 'an atmosphere where sex is dignified, respectful, and beautiful.'"

I understand what they're trying to say, but the words are so funny juxtaposed with the real thing. Sorry, sex will never be "dignified." That is a flat-out oxymoron. "Respectful," in that context, quickly becomes irrelevant. "Beautiful," maybe, but not in the refined sense implied here. You can at best surround it with those attitudes to try to perfume its essential funkiness.

I think she does have a point that all the peer pressure now is toward treating sex as no big deal, a form of casual entertainment. People whose deeper feelings helplessly get involved suffer a lot in that environment. Also, that attitude squanders the real power of sex. Maybe our culture trivializes it out of a kind of covert puritanism -- making it nothing but "casual" in an effort to castrate its power. With some success. All this shallow-affect hooking up has led to a lot more impotence and lack of sexual desire than repression ever did.

JodyTresidder said...

Perhaps part of the problem lies with the prissy, humorless, parsimony-tainted metaphors the abstainers use? [from the article]: "Unfortunately, this campus is not conducive to those who choose to save their “treasure.”"

The whole idea that you're "banking" a "precious" lack of experience until Marriage favors you with a withdrawal slip transferable to one's husband..well, it hardly seems particularly beautiful.

Possibly, the abstainers should first work at polishing their slogans?

Wade Garrett said...

Amba - Exactly! If these people didn't talk about sex in such an obviously ignorant manner, then I would be more inclined to take them seriously.

Pogo - Okay, so you think I'm ignorant, but you believe what Tom Wolfe, who went to college 45 years before I did, has to say about sex on college campuses. A winning formula! Sure, I believe that some of what goes on here during the campus sex awareness week is a little disgusting, but that's a matter of degree.

In my own personal experience, when people in their teens and twenties talk about sex like this, they're not sharing their own views and their own experiences, they're parrotting what their PARENTS have to say about the 'if it feels go, do it' crowd whose politics they hated 35 years ago.

I graduated from college in 2002, that's pretty recent. I went to a school very much like the one described in "I am Charlotte Simmons." I found that "students who abstain from sex" and "prudes" are two entirely different groups of people. A lot of the people who abstain from sex are not prudes. This woman, and those students at Princeton, seem like prudes to me. That's fine, but there's a difference between being prudish personally and judging others out of bitterness, religious prejudice or, perhaps, even jealousy. They might claim the moral high ground, but I for one always view those who live and let live as holding the true moral high ground.

JBlog said...

Why is that prissy?

Although it may be old-fashioned, isn't there something beautiful about saying "I waited my whole life to share this with you."

I'd rather hear that on my wedding night than, "Before we get started, I think we should share our sexual histories, and did I mention I have genital Herpes"?

Dave said...

I would hope one knows one's partner's sexual history prior to one's wedding night.

I would think that even for a person who chooses to abstain from marriage, he or she would want to know his or her partner's sex history prior to the big event.

JBlog said...
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JBlog said...

But if they both remained abstinent, it's a pretty short conversation, now isn't it?

tcd said...

I graduated from college in 1998 and I can say confidently that I never, not once, discussed my intimate life or the intimate lives of my friends, with my friends or anyone else. Who cares if you are a virgin or not? Keep it in the bedroom. Keep it to yourself. Terrence is right. The public abstainers are claiming the moral high ground when they should be keeping their private lives private.

Bennett said...

And the PC college atmosphere only allows such moralizing against Bushco, corporations, and Christians. It is simply impermissible to suggest that people have personal moral responsibility over their own behavior.

Doesn't taking responsibility for your behavior involve acting conscientiously and declining to whine about how the surrounding environment is "not conducive" to your choice?

An "atmosphere" is what it is. It does not support the "moral minority's" claim of victimization. The implication that there is no place on college campuses for Republicans, Christians, or abstinent folk is provably and patently wrong.

You can't argue for individual responsibility while also claiming that there is a collective obligation to cater to a given group. The truly conscientious, whether on sex, politics, or any other issue, would know this.

JBlog said...

Ah, back to the tolerance discussion.

But that IS the issue -- the double standard applied on campuses today that says let a thousand schools of thought prevail, except the ones that we find politically, philosophically, socially or religiously unacceptable -- anyone who holds those will be hooted at, ridiculed and ostracized.

It's a culture that says if you're a cross-dressing S&M bowler, shout it from the rooftops -- literally. But if you're a straight, conservative virgin, shut-up -- literally.

Dave said...

Jblog: I would prefer that both shutup and keep their sex lives to themselves.

I repeat: I don't care.

JBlog said...

Dave: Well I would too, and me neither.

But that's not the culture on campus. The culture is "no thought should go unexpressed -- except the ones we don't like or agree with."

And in a culture of "tolerance," if one group is encouraged to share all, and another is told they're bringing ostracism upon themselves by sharing their unpopular opinions, that's the definition of hypocrisy and intolerance.

reader_iam said...

Everybody here has good points.

But JBlog, I think, makes a telling statement when he points to the reality that one extreme is encouraged to "shout" from the roof and the other one to "shut up."

I'm with Dave in that I'd prefer they BOTH shut up. But if they don't BOTH shut up, then IMHO NEITHER should. It does seem to me that there's more of a tolerance of one side than the other (as there was back in the repressive old days, but there the pendulum was flipped too far in the other direction.)

Dave said...

JBlog: that's silly. The only culture on campus is the one you choose to ingratiate yourself with.

If you wish to associate with the abstemious, then you will avoid frat parties, sorority rushes, and anything else that contradicts your values.

If, on the other hand, you want to be at a raging kegger every night, then, well, you will be a frat brat.

All people must make these choices. That the prevailing "culture" at most campuses is more secular/sexually liberal than some conservative people would like is largely irrelevant.

Finally, those who are abstemious can easily go to religious institutions which repudiate licentiousness (say, BYU, Bob Jones University, etc.) It's not like religious and/or conservative students are lacking in educational opportunity.

Unknown said...

I seem to be missing the part of sex that's dignified. Frankly, sex has always seemed pretty damn silly. Incredibly fun, but silly, nonetheless.

JBlog said...
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JBlog said...

Sorry, Dave, but you obviously haven't visited a public university lately.

The rules of behavior are fairly strictly enforced and the practice of public praise for the "right" behaviors and public punishment for the "wrong" ones is widely practiced.

Sally said...

Dave and Terrence-

I'm assuming you are both men, so of course not many are going to discuss your sexuality on campus. Men aren't really the comodities, they are the shoppers, or so it seems. And it's hard for me to imagine men, who are so interested in sex, not chatting a bit about potential conquests and what may be potential barriers - boyfriends being the most common, and virginity being increasingly uncommon. But if you are female and not a virgin and not a "slut" no one is really going to discuss your sexuality much beyond whether you are hot or not.

Now, if you are female and a virgin in college, well, that can be very much like Tom Woolf's Charlotte Simmons. Women who enter college as virgins can have a tough time and people will certainly talk! And how do people find out? Well, it's not so hard I'm sure. Tell a female friend or fool around with a date and end by saying "not ready". Word travels fast, especially if you are a virgin and pretty, because again, men will want to size you up as a sexual commodity and women will want to size you up as competition. I don't thing these virgins are necessarily walking around with Doris Day smugness like it seems at the Princeton Club. It can just be a rough time for them in college, so I can see how this Priceton Club could pop up as a result. But I noticed such sexual politics in my East Coast college (graduated 93). Perhaps other regions and colleges treat their virgins differently?

Dave said...

Well, yeah, I'm a man.

And I'm shedding a tear for all the helpless virgins who are viewed as a commodity or competition.

Come on, what are we, schoolchildren?

Who the hell cares what other people think of you? If you want to abstain, abstain. And if you don't, well...

Bennett said...


I don't think it's quite that simple. Every society has its collective pressures. And virginity being relatively rare at that age, it will attract notice. But doesn't that have its benefits, including the insight into crass society that it provides? Thought the social microscope might ease up after graduation, the market dynamics of sex only intensify.

Besdies, I fail to see the great value of "shutting up" - not that you shouldn't have the right to, of course. Certainly you will see outrageous things on campus that don't exist in suburbia, and that is, I think, as it should be. I know many people who came alive in the permissive environment of college, not simply because of the hedonism and wantonness, but because of the freedom, esp. the freedom of expression.

Don't college students have the rest of their lives to be buttoned-down and to hide their personal lives away? At this stage, most of them are forming their personal lives, which takes a little more exuberance and risk. After college, it will become very hard to make the same kinds of personal connections.

PG said...

I'm also a 2002 graduate of a school like that described in I Am Charlotte Simmons -- academically elite, semi-Southern, frat-heavy, etc. -- and I'm willing to state that I was a virgin throughout my college career without anyone's giving much of a damn, except for the guy who was my first kiss, who probably wondered why I was so bad at it :-)

Who are these people whose sex lives are of so much interest to their classmates? It's really fantastically easy to go through university without drawing attention to yourself. I even wrote for the college paper and had my picture run every week without anyone's inquiring about my sexual experience or lack thereof. I have a very hard time believing that someone who keeps her private life private, as I did, can bring on so much opprobrium. Of my closest female friends in college, one was a lesbian with strong bi tendencies; one lost her virginity her first year; another waited until after college; my first year roommate never dated; my fourth year roommate had sex with her boyfriend while I was taking an at-home exam (I don't think she realized I was working in the next room)... they ran the gamut, and none seems to have encountered the kind of problems that the Princeton kids do. I don't know, maybe Yankees are just way more pro-sex than Southerners. Or maybe my friends and I were able to be discreet about what we were and weren't doing, and didn't label ourselves as Abstinent or Saving Our Treasure, but just lived our own lives by our own needs.

PS: Is there a person under the age of 25 who deemed "I Am Charlotte Simmons" to be an accurate depiction of contemporary collegiate life? I haven't found that reader yet.

Dave said...

PG: Why aren't all people as sensible as you?!

KCFleming said...

It is frequently an error to extrapolate from your experience, and think it is representative of the whole.

For some, the "Charlotte Simmons" libertinism prevails, but for others, indifference is the rule. "Don't ask, don't tell" is perhaps the rule you were taught.

I see no reason to disbelieve the woman from Princeton about her stated experience. She is simply stating that at her school, the peer pressure is against virginity. At my college in the early 1980s, I was considered suspicious because I was a teetotaller.

Is it that hard to believe that a liberal Ivy league college might have a culture that in general makes it hard to be a public Christian without feeling like a freak?

Seems pretty much like most colleges in the US to me. The fact that the usual answer here is "fine, be a virgin, but shut up about it" suggests I am correct.

Sally said...


Don't be so myopic. We're talking about sexual culture on college campuses in America and I don't think anyone is shedding any tears on this thread or topic.

Now of course their are many many campuses and campus cultures in the United States, and I find it interesting to hear other perceptions of their experiences. As a northeasterner, we tend to be more secular than the south and the midwest, and many students view those who are religious, as in church going religious, a bit scary and niave. I think this ties into the perception of sex up here - if one is a virgin upon entering college they must have some repressive mentality akin to what they perceive as the repressive and backwards culture of the religious south and midwest.

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding from Dave and others what life on the college campus can be like for some women who are sexually inexperienced, so I'll share my experience. Now, I was a virgin when I entered college. This was 15 years ago, but it was the 90's, not the 50's and young people went to school to enjoy their sexual freedom. I didn't tell anyone that I was a virgin, but people figured it out. My first month at school I dated a famously handsome student, wouldn't have sex with him within 3 weeks, he broke up with me, and everyone knew. Men knew not to date me (it would be to complicated when their were so many fun prospects already) and women enjoyed my unworldiness because it meant less competition. It was certainly fun for everyone to make fun of me, so much so that guys would joke about my "sexual orientation" in front of crowds at a party. This certainly made dating difficult for me, and my only college boyfriend found me during my junior year. Finally! He was a bit older and could have cared less about this juvinille culture, so it was a good match for me. And by the way Dave, I was/am an atheist. I don't think I would have fit in well at one of those Christian Universities. I just happened to be a virgin when I started college, and their wasn't anything strangely moralistic about my decision to be one.

Now I don't know how some people got the impression that female college virgins are motor mouths advertising their position across campus, because it's just not true. No one does this! Many college virgins lie or shut up. And if a girl would like to talk to a boyfriend or close friends about their decision, what is wrong with that? I agree with Anselm - college is a time to express oneself and being a virgin in college should not have humiliating consequences.

me said...

In my experience people are very tolerant of other people's choices. I graduated from a large public University in the Mid-South/Mid-west in 2002. If people were talking about sex and someone said, "I'm a virgin" I think people would respect them; the same if they said "I don't drink."

However, if they say "I'm a virgin b/c I'm saving myself for marriage b/c that's what the Bible says," or "I don't drink because I'm a Christian" then people will think you're kind of a freak and avoid you, b/c you are implicitly judging their choices and saying the decision they made to drink or have sex was wrong. No one cares if you're a Christian; they care if you push your beliefs on them. The people who try to evangelize are the ones who get labeled and avoided, in my experience.

JBlog said...

But it's okay for them to push their choices on you.

"Hey everyone, they're demonstrating the new vibrators over at the sex fair in the Quad today!"

Now, if you're offended by that, you best keep your mouth shut, or you'll be labeled a prig and a prude. And if you offer some personal moral or religious rationale for your objection, well, may God have mercy on your soul, but THEN you're a priggish and prudish religious freak.

Again, this is not about what goes on behind closed doors -- it's about how some opinions are more equal than others, especially on "tolerant" public campuses.

tcd said...


To say that virgins are not advertising their status is untrue as the news article is about a club for virgins at Princeton. Is not a club, formed to declare one's virginity, a way of advertising one's virginity?

tcd said...

Dave & PG,
Thanks for your sensible comments!

Ann Althouse said...

There must be Hollywood movie about this "club for virgins." The main character would be a guy who pretends to be a virgin to join the club, probably on a dare from his friends, and he has to seduce the lead virgin to win the bet, but he becomes enamored of their ideas and wants to marry her before having sex with her, but then she ... etc. etc.

Anyway, I think a lot of people are missing a reason the virgins want to go public. They want to give support to other students who might go along with the crowd. If you think everyone does something, you may very well think you'd better do it too. The abstainers need publicity to dispel that peer pressure. There is a bad stereotype to overcome. The virgins want to make it cool to abstain, and our culture sends out a big, loud message that you should have sex, that it's unhealthy, pathetic, and uncool not to. It's not enough to say just keep it to yourself. This is a real and significant matter for public debate!

KCFleming said...

What supposedly enlightened universities fail to acknowledge is that their behavioral code is as rigid and authoritarian now as was found in many schools during the 1950s, just about different things.

There is a fairly monolithic culture on campus today still, and it brooks no dissent. Religious virgins become "freaks" or "scary" (why scary, one asks?), conservatives are "racists," and anti-post-modernists are denied tenure.

The tolerance extends only to libertinism and those who wish the death of the West.

Sally said...


Reread one of my earlier posts. I never supported this Princeton Virgin's Club, and I did say it seem to have a "Doris Day smugness" to it. I did say that I can see how such clubs would pop up, as in many schools (I'm thinking particularly in the Northeast) there is a level of hostility via humilation towards virgins on college campuses.

JodyTresidder said...

Ann wrote:"The virgins want to make it cool to abstain..."

Then, by all means, let them do so!
And they could start by abstaining from the blushing bit about hauling their "treasure" around with them, frankly.

JBlog said...

Hey, maybe we could put them all in camps! With armed guards and razorwire.

Then no one would be offended by their priggish views!

Sally said...

Jody T -

I agree, the blushing vernacular doesn't really do it for me either, but let's not stray too far from their main point, which is that they, and many others, have found the university environment hostile towards virgins.

tcd said...

"Now I don't know how some people got the impression that female college virgins are motor mouths advertising their position across campus, because it's just not true. No one does this!"
I was responding to this post. Doesn't matter if you agree or disagree with virgin clubs. The point was that virgins do advertise their status.

KCFleming said...

Re: they could start by abstaining from the blushing bit about hauling their "treasure" around with them, frankly

Funny how the reference to "treasure" is here derided, where the inescapable "Vagina monlogues" references to anatomy were flaunted and lauded on many campuses.

What is the oppostite of a prude, but denotes the same intolerant rejection of someone's mores, here in favor of libertinism?

tcd said...

Professor Althouse said: "If you think everyone does something, you may very well think you'd better do it too. The abstainers need publicity to dispel that peer pressure."
That's kind of weak, professor. Like my mom likes to say, "If everyone jump off a bridge, will you jump off the bridge too?" I would hope that by college, most people are independent enough to not give in to peer pressure.

Dave said...

Look, I can accept that in today's hyper-sexualized culture, people who wish to remain virgins until marriage face odd looks and the occasional inappropriate comment.

But there is something to be said for the idea that if you are sure of your moral choice, you should not then be bothered by such inappropriate comments.

Why, if you value your virginity enough to deny yourself the pleasure of sex should you then expect to live in a world in which no one makes a comment about your choice?

While in college, I happened not to be a big drinker--despite belonging to a fraternity. I can count on one hand the number of times I was sufficiently impaired for driving to be dangerous. And, of course, people made comments--"drink mother******, drink" being a popular refrain of the frat brat set--and, you know what? I ignored them and went about my business.

I'm sure my liver thanks me for my decision, but nothing else positive or negative came of it.

If people really are claiming that there is something special about one's decision not to engage in sex while in college, how is that different from choosing not to drink to excess, or at all?

In both cases, you will hear snide comments from those more insecure than you; part of adulthood is being secure enough in the decisions you make to ignore the judgments of others.

That it is "harder" to be a woman and a virgin implies that women are less able to deal with peer pressure than their male counterparts.

That is a rather sexist postulation.

Sally said...


Many others suggested that virgins must be sanctimoniously shouting their status in an inebriated religious fervor, otherwise, how would people know? My story was to demonstrate how people would know and respond to such knowledge.

And what do you mean by "virgins do advertise their status"? Do you mean in general? Or in reference to this club, which was formed in reaction to what participants felt were harsh responses towards their decisions on campus?

Ann Althouse said...

Jody: "And they could start by abstaining from the blushing bit about hauling their 'treasure' around with them, frankly." Do you think this is what "jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule" means? Anyway, you're right. Their PR campaign is third rate.

TCD: You don't think young people are swayed by peer pressure in college? It's my observation that most people are affected by peer pressure, media pressure, and cultural pressure most of their lives -- especially about sexual things!

Bennett said...
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Sally said...


"But there is something to be said for the idea that if you are sure of your moral choice, you should not then be bothered by such inappropriate comments."

Would you say the same thing to the gay and lesbian community?

Bennett said...

Remember that peer pressure dominates high school life. The choice inherent to being in college means a lot more independence, but also the need to express choices on an individual level. Like Me implied, having conviction in a set of beliefs, and communicating those beliefs to others, requires canniness and sensitivity.

By contrast, at the group level there is a lowest common-denominator, i.e. the Christians snark about the godless libertines, the frat kids snark about the poindexters and jesus freaks, the art kids snark about the bourgie mainstream, the chem-free kids snark about the wastoids puking in the hallway, the bucky fans throw beer on everyone else, etc. Politeness is given less stock than agency.

But, for the most part, so be it! Sure, there's still peer pressure, and often a knee-jerk suspcicion of institutions. However, imagine so many points of view in such proximity out in the real world - people would probably be getting shot. Many people graduate from college, get into the corporate world, and realize how much it's like high school over again. The tribulations of college may amount to constructive stress.

so, jblog:

What's the worst that ever happened to you for expressing your opinion in college? If you were ridiculed or worse, that sucks - but that's not libertinism at work as much as it's ignorance & disrespect, qualities not exclusive to any particular group.

We can probably find common ground in demanding that people respect each other's choices, whether in college or elsewhere. I think that a few years of freedom from rigid social mores can breed that respect, albeit not painlessly.

Re: Princeton - that social scene is a different breed of cat, I can't say I understand it but it's not representative of anything except Princeton. Virgins and non-drinkers may be Christians, but if they're not, they're probably just choosing a behavior rather than a whole ideology, and possibly a lonely one at that.

Dave said...


Your question is ratehr disingenuous. There's a difference between choosing to have sex and one's sexuality.

The question you pose is more analagous to me saying "by choosing to be Jewish, I shouldn't be bothered by anti-Semites."

There is a vast difference between one's identity and one's decision to have sex.

JBlog said...
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JBlog said...

Well, Anselm, we're really not doing me, so I'd just as soon not make this personal.

The point is that in a truly "tolerant" environment you supposed to be allowed to say and do ANYTHING you want -- even disagree with the popular culture on campus -- and the response from that "tolerant" environment is supposed to be "hey, that's cool -- whatever you want to think is fine."

But that's not what's happening.

In fact we're seeing examples of it right on this thread -- there's a very clear bias by some contributors toward saying "the virgins" are asking for it by expressing a public opinion contrary to the prevailing view, and they'd be best off keeping their opinions to themselves.

Meanwhile, the libertines are allowed hand out dildoes like doorprizes in the Student Union, and that's cool.

I would LOVE to see the story the Princeton student newspaper would write is someone sponsored an Abstinence Fair on campus. I can hear the hooting from here. But a sex fair would be given cool and favorable coverage.

That's why the whole "tolerance" thing on public campuses is a load.

Dave said...


If "tolerant" means one can say or do anything one wants, well, then, I suppose wanton murder and racism are just examples of tolerance.

Your argument suggests that someone could up all the sexually active people (or the abstemious) and kill them off because, well, this person is just doing what he wants.

Your argument is rather weak.

Bennett said...


Like I said earlier, I don't agree that "just shut up" is not a desirable M.O. for virgins or anyone else.

I asked about you because you have had some very biting criticism of the whole "tolerance" thing, while clearly reserving your own right to be anti-libertine.

So if you've caught some mumbled insults or dirty looks, I don't approve of the behavior but you haven't proven that permissiveness on campus is itself a bad thing.


I'd say what Dave said to anybody with a modification - if you are bothered, fine, but you still have to deal with such "comments" - within limits. Who else will? Plus, you seem to have gained something by it - at the least, you know what real friends aren't. (Maybe I'm blending in my own experiences here.)

What's dignity if you haven't had to, or aren't able, stand your ground for it?

Sally said...


Your response seems a bit light weight. So if I choose to be muslim I should fend for myself in regard to discrimination? If I choose to be a lesbian (this does occur)then again, I should fend for myself? I could go on and on really, but do you think this atttitude positively enhances social values? And do you not think that analysis of the college sexual climate is worthy and beneficial?

Dave said...

Allicent: You're missing the point of my response to you.\

Your original question was "would you say that gays/lesbians should not be offended by comments made to them about their sexuality."

My response to you was that your question is disingenuous. I never argued that one who faces criticism for one's identity should ignore comments about that identity. Yet, your question implies that I did.

There was nothing "lightweight" about my response to you--only about your understanding of my response.

Sally said...


You didn't answer my questions.

JBlog said...

Dave: You misunderstand -- I'm not saying I buy into the whole tolerance thing.

I DO believe there are moral absolutes.

What I'm saying is the people WHO do espouse this so-called tolerance philosphy are selective in their application of it, and therefore inconsistent and hypocritical. They're not living up to their own standard.

Strictly speaking, in their view you SHOULD be able to literally say anything you want -- even something as extreme as a racist view -- with no negative repercussions, because supposedly in their view there are no moral absolutes.

But in practice, anyone who expresses a view contrary to theirs -- a moral or religious view, or a conservative political view -- is denounced, typically in the harshest terms possible.

And that's why "tolerance" on campus is a load.

Bennett said...

And that's why "tolerance" on campus is a load.

and therefore colleges should...?

KCFleming said...

Re: "tolerance" on campus is a load.

and therefore colleges should...?

Colleges should refrain from their 'diversity training camps,' speech codes, condom disbursement, and other indoctrination procedures, and get back to plain old in loco parentis policing.

amba said...

Re Allicent's story: this stuff started a long, long time ago. In 1965 (I was 19 and a college sophomore) I told a guy who was trying to get into my pants that I was a virgin. (It had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with intense shyness. I was not so much sexually inhibited as interpersonally inhibited.) He said solemnly, "It's very brave of you to tell me." I was like, "Why??" It was just a fact, not some shameful secret!

I lasted another year. Again it was not a matter of principle, just of readiness and instinctively insisting on being allowed to come out of my cramp of shyness one small step at a time. However, not being a guy, I almost never enjoyed sex outside of a relationship of some kind, even if it was friendship. Which is to say, if I was attracted to somebody I interpreted it (sometimes mistakenly -- often mistakenly!) as something more than merely chemical.

JBlog said...

anselm said...

And that's why "tolerance" on campus is a load.

and therefore colleges should...?

Uh, stop being so hypocritical...?

amba said...

Ann said: It's my observation that most people are affected by peer pressure, media pressure, and cultural pressure most of their lives -- especially about sexual things!

Before I went away to college, my father took a walk with me and gave me this piece of advice: "Don't ever do anything just because everybody else is doing it."

That was such good advice that I never forgot it.
But, of course, I didn't heed it.

Bennett said...

if only it was all as simple as that german book!

the best advice seems to be duly dispensed, duly ignored, with each generation. sneering teenagers mature into fretful parents.

sigh and sigh.

jblog: agreed.

JodyTresidder said...

I still think you're getting it wrong - blinded by your very understandable irritation with the vibrator-waving campus darlings.
IF you have a minority, temporary, sexual lifestyle choice and genuinely, actively want a college atmosphere of more understanding and less ignorant and humiliating sniggering then it is up to YOU to slap a fresh coat of paint on it.

Start with something campus-friendly and, gosh, sassy - say "The Virgin Dialogues" revue.

Get people on your side by defanging the "prissy freak" insults. At least be likeable.

At this rate, the only folk the article's treasure-toting virgins are appealing to are their potential boyfriends' mothers.

KCFleming said...

Re: "Get people on your side by defanging the "prissy freak" insults. At least be likeable."

Cool. I like that answer, very much.

Bruce Hayden said...

What I see is that this is somewhat like when the Gays first really started coming out of the closet back in the later 1960s or so. It wasn't necessarily that they wanted to show off that they were gay, though there was probably some of that. But one big thing was that they wanted those in the closet to understand that they aren't alone.

I wouldn't be surprised if Princeton is a bit more sexually promiscuous than some southern or mid-western schools. But that just means really that the virgins there probably have more need not to feel different. To feel like there are other students like them out there.

PG said...

Um, at my campus the people who flaunted unusual sexual practices were more likely to get grief than those who attended Bible study -- as I did irregularly throughout my third year. Someone who goes around waving her vibrator (which is slighty unhygienic) is going to be as much a figure of fun as someone who goes around talking about her treasure.

There are the counter-arguments that one will be mocked for one's virginity even if one doesn't trumpet it from the rooftops, and that there's nearly overwhelming pressure to have sex. Perhaps this is just a matter of the company one keeps. I have to say that I never dated the (to use an archaic phrase) Big Man on Campus types, avoiding them in favor of the smart nerdy guys who didn't treat sex as an entitlement for bestowing their attentions on a woman. Sure, my university had World AIDS Day and had bowlfuls of condoms by the quilt, but that hardly strikes me as promoting the fiction of "sex without consequences."

Frankly, the people who want to be publicly advocating BDSM and those who want to be publicly advocating abstinence until marriage both are going outside the mainstream (at least what was mainstream on my campus at the turn of the century), and both are going to be mocked for it. This is what the herd does to those who go too far away from the herd and publicize the fact. If you hang with the popular kids, you probably are neither wearing a big red V nor a big red dildo, because such public displays are outside the norm. The sex fair may be fun to giggle over, but the person who starts talking about her own use of every implement available there is going to be giggled at.

tcd said...

Professor Althouse,
I'm not so old that I don't remember what high school and college were like. I encountered peer pressure, but unless someone was holding a loaded gun to my head, no one could get me to do something that went against my moral fiber. Certainly not then and not now.

Wade Garrett said...

"the libertines are allowed hand out dildoes like doorprizes in the Student Union, and that's cool."

JBlog- This is manifestly not true. If it was, our law school classes would be half-full. First of all, it doesn't happen. Secondly, if it happened, nobody would say that it was cool. Similarly, there are no bondage lessons at the student union.

But, if there were, this would still not be what the woman in the article was talking about, I think. Rather, I think she's referring more to peer pressure, which can be subtle and insidious, rather than anything as public and over-the-top as a bondage lesson at the student union. Don't get me wrong, I still think she's incorrect, but what you're referring to, to the extent that anything like that exists at all, is the pro-sex equivalent of the bible-thumping preachers who come to campus a couple of times a year and tell everybody that the campus is full of Jews and fags and devil-worshippers and that we're all going to hell if we don't repent. Those people, on either side of the issue, are ridiculous and nobody takes them seriously.

Eli Blake said...

I know exactly what accounts for it. College students are adults. They may be abstinent or not, but either way, they are old enough to make up their mind for themselves. People telling them they 'should' stay abstinent (or for that matter, 'should' engage in any other behavior, good or bad) are patronizing and treating them as if their entry into the adult world is less than complete.

Bruce Hayden said...

I can't really believe though that the sexually active women on campus are, for the most part, happy about it. Why? Hooking up primarily benefits guys. Quick sex. No reprocussions. No commitment.

And the women wonder why the guys aren't there when they are ready to settle down, get married, and have kids? Why should they be? They are getting what they want with no strings attached.

Add to this that as far as I have been able to tell, quick, uncommitted sex, is much more enjoyable for guys than it is for gals. At least the women I have know well have really only grown to really like sex when they become comfortable in a long term relationship.

So, realistically, if women were as smart as we all give them credit for, most of them would be virgins in college.

W.B. Reeves said...

Incredible. A raging cultural war thread about the abuse of virgins on College Campuses, with the righteous inveighing against the persecution of the chaste by the intolerant hypocrites of political correctness. We are informed that nothing less than the fate of "the West" hangs in the balance.

Call me old fashioned but I thought I should go back and read the piece that started this tsouris.

I discovered something amazing. Nowhere in the entire piece did the writer cite a single instance of behaviour to support her contentions. Not one example. Just a generalized claim with no evidence.

That's right. For all the rhetorical brandishing of dildos and bondage gear seen here, there is not a single instance, documented or anecdotal, of hostility towards virgins related in the piece. The best that the author can come up
with is a hypothetical. She feels certain that a pro-abstinence student group would not receive the positive response given to some existing sex positive outfit which, she helpfully informs us, receives student funds.

Anyone care to guess what the author would accept as a sign that the University is not hostile to her organization? One thing that clearly hasn't changed since my time in College is the nature of campus politicos.

Not only does this piece fail to substantiate anything about attitudes towards virginity in Colleges as whole, it doesn't have anything substantial to say about conditions at Princeton either.

Its hardly a question of accepting or rejecting the author's experience. She hasn't bothered to share her experiences, just her opinions.

As for the attempt to equate this presumed hostility towards virgins with homophobia, show me a pattern of physical assaults up to and including murder that target the chaste and I'll be willing to entertain the notion.

JodyTresidder said...

Bruce Hayden wrote: "Add to this that as far as I have been able to tell, quick, uncommitted sex, is much more enjoyable for guys than it is for gals. At least the women I have know well have really only grown to really like sex when they become comfortable in a long term relationship."
Come on! Since it's possible to extrapolate your attitude to an uncommitted roll in the hay from several million miles away, I figure your sample of confessionally chatty ladies may not be quite as diverse as you imagine.
At least Kinsey, for all his faults, never underestimated the importance of a neutral interviewer to cut through the poppycock talked about sex.

JBlog said...

I think you guys are in denial.

If I believe the premise of the article that started this -- and I have no reason not to, coming from an eyewitness -- casual sexual practices on campus are the norm, and people promoting what most of us would describe as, at best, unhealthy behavior are prominent and aggressive.

Anyone who even modestly disagrees with those values -- so much as by quietly promoting abstinence as a sensible alternative -- would be the target of derision and ridicule.

I know that's how it was at my university. Anyone suggesting abstinence in any form would have been pilloried in every campus publication and broadcast outlet. SOMEBODY would have complained to the student council and a resolution condemning the abstainers as intolerant, ignorant, antisex Nazis would be drawn up and at least considered, with plenty of snarking and snickering.

And that was 20 years ago.

Being nicer,or cooler, or hipper, or just being quiet won't change that, because the culture of tolerance as practiced on campus is a lie.

JodyTresidder said...

You seemed to have learned a harsh lesson at college that all ideas are not equal. But sometimes you seem to forget you are talking about a TEMPORARY sexual lifestyle preference which - to the unsympathetic - appears to be freighted with a fair amount of moral baggage and grumpy evangelism.

You write: "Being nicer,or cooler, or hipper, or just being quiet won't change" the supposedly snotty attitude to campus virgins. But how on earth did you know that? (Apart from "being quiet" which never seems to have much effect on popular opinion, I agree).

Bennett said...

I know that's how it was at my university. Anyone suggesting abstinence in any form would have been pilloried in every campus publication and broadcast outlet. SOMEBODY would have complained to the student council and a resolution condemning the abstainers as intolerant, ignorant, antisex Nazis would be drawn up and at least considered, with plenty of snarking and snickering.

So, either (a) this actually happened, or (b) nobody ever suggested abstinence in any form, thus avoiding the whole chain reaction of majoritarian retribution, and keeping the whole scenario safely in the hypothetical realm?

Pardon my skepticism. That's why I asked you if there was some particular experience you were coming from. You seem to be sulking in the shadows or, at the least, exxagerating.

Bruce Hayden said...


Not quite sure of your point there. Are you suggesting that women, over all, are as happy with casual sex as men are, esp. at that (college) age? If so, I would be interested in the basis for your opinion.

I admit that I don't have any studies on my side, but so far, neither do you. I am operating from personal experience, stereotypes, and common wisdom. After all, it is almost invariably the woman who has regrets the next day. The guy just has another notch in his gun.

I am willing to look at any evidence you have that women are not more interested in relations and men in sex while college aged (on average, the usual bell curve proviso, etc.)

Diane said...

As a recent college graduate I have to say I have some experience with this, but *not* from the perspective of the virgin.

There was an intelligent, attractive young lady on our floor who was “saving it” for marriage. Behind her back a group of mixed sexes discussed this. One young man opined that she was being selfish. She was young and attractive and she was denying them access to her hot body! That wench!

So all of the women there smiled at him politely, and silently blackballed him. He couldn’t get ANY from ANYBODY we spoke to. Whenever he talked to a girl in the club, one of us would go up to her and explain his high regard for women. It’s one thing to be philosophically against virginity. It is quite another to feel you are entitled to sex from women. His attitude was horrible, and his newfound virgin status served as a lesson to all men on our floor. The women supported her right to be a virgin. Not vocally, and they were sure-as-heck glad that it wasn’t them. But they felt she had the right to make the decision for herself and didn’t want her to feel pressured.

Granted this was the Honor’s floor in a Midwestern university, so we might have been an a-typical case, but most of the girls we spoke to weren’t honor’s students. They freely agreed with us.

What bothered me was how the “virgin groups” could chat up girls who slept with a different boy every night of the week, yet treated *me* like the whore of Babylon because I lived with my boyfriend. I’d only had sex with one man in my life, I married him after we graduated, and we only had sex *after* we lived together for several months. I treated sex more sacredly than many of the women who lived around me did, but that was precisely what got me talked about. I called attention to the sex.

Apparently it’s okay to have sex with multiple partners, but have a long term relationship with them? You slut!

JBlog said...

JodyTresidder: You seemed to have learned a harsh lesson at college that all ideas are not equal.

Ah, but THAT'S the point -- under the official dogma of tolerance, all ideas ARE supposed to be equal.

Yet, in practice by those who espouse this philosophy, that's not the case.

That's the whole "hypocrisy" thing.

If they're gonna say they treat all viewpoints equally, then they should. If not, then they're full of crap.

Anselm: Well, I think I have a pretty good memory of how political, religious and social minorities were treated on my campus -- and if you want real-life examples of actual events that occurred, I can provide them.

I mean, you don't have to take my word for it, but are you refuting the experience of the young woman who wrote the article that spurred this discussion too? Are you saying she's not being ostracized for her views? I don't know how you could know that.

JodyTresidder said...

If you don't - as you say - have any studies on your side, then please stop firmly restating: "After all, it is almost invariably the woman who has regrets the next day."

No, I'm no kitchen Kinsey either.

My genial exasperation is simply with arguers like you who - spookily enough - find that "common wisdom" supports their "personal experience" or vice versa.

And to go back to quote your original musing: "I can't really believe though that the sexually active women on campus are, for the most part, happy about it."

Since you're the one who is sticking to gender-specific reactions to a college quickie, perhaps we should also consider social conditioning as well?

Hey, perhaps it's the swinging guys who pretend it's just another notch on the belt - but are actually softly weeping inside - while the swinging women are secretly high fiving each other - while outwardly bewailing their "lost treasure"?

Sally said...

I love my country, but I think Americans are a strange group when it comes to sex. Perhaps that's why we have such a great reputation for being good lovers - the contrast of sexual repression/sexual promiscuity can create some dynamic lovers!

I personally think I would have had a much better time if I had grown up in Switzerland or Italy or France. My European friends are not prudes, but there is none of this sexual pressure - to or not to - regarding sex. It seems a bit more organic. People come to it when they are ready and do not tend to be prudes or promiscuous, from what I have seen.

Whatever ones sexual morals are I don't think is the point - the point being, why is it so humiliating for some people to be virgins on American campuses? No one saying that this is across the board, judging from the various experiences presented here and elsewhere, but it does happen, and that cannot be denied. What does this say about our culture? I don't think many people are trying to stop premarital sex here, so this isn't about prude vs. the sexually liberated. We're just reflecting on our sexual culture, which I think is a very fair thing to reflect on.

Oh and I think this virgin club as well as some responses here are over emphasizing those who want to wait to have sex until they are married. Many many young girls just want to wait till they are ready, or wait till they find that boyfriend that they really like and feel comfortable with. Yet for these women, waiting can also be a stigma.

W.B. Reeves said...

I mean, you don't have to take my word for it, but are you refuting the experience of the young woman who wrote the article that spurred this discussion too? Are you saying she's not being ostracized for her views? I don't know how you could know that.

Where does she claim that she is being ostracized?

Sorry but the young woman in question is advocate for a particular veiwpoint. As such, its her job to make a convincing case. That requires more than just her say so. Yet, as I pointed out above, that is all she has brought to the table.

The closest she comes to providing anything substantive is the following:

Let’s face it. My views on sex have prompted many to call me puritanical, and others to believe my father is the Bible-toting Ned Flanders on “The Simpsons.”

We can be certain of only one thing. In this instance "many" means more than several and something less than dozens. It certainly doesn't sound as though the peasants are about to storm her Dorm.

What is it that she's complaining about in reality? That some people have responded to her advocacy by voicing their opinion of her opinion. Some have gone so far as to compare her to the progeny of a cartoon character. The horror!

If the hostility to virgins at Princeton is so pervasive, how is it that she can't cite a single incident or name a single name? Instead we get the nameless, numberless "many" whose only real offense is that they have criticized her. It appears she may want to pursue a career in politics. May all her future critics be as kind.

The piece is a thinly constructed exercise in the politics of victimology, designed, I suspect, to leverage some cash from the "student segregated" funds.

Susie said...

I'm a '03 Berkeley graduate, BA in applied math and minor in pre-1645 English lit. Maybe it was my friends, mostly engineering and science majors, but most of us were virgins and weren't even in serious relationships until after graduation. A lot of us dated casually, because we were more concerned with classes and group outings (getting dim sum in Oakland's Chinatown, clubbing in San Francisco, running the Davis Stampede on their wonderfully flat campus, etc). Then again, my friends are mostly Asian-American or Asian, usually raised in a Christian background. This is not to say that there's no sex on the Berkeley campus, but there are probably more virgins than expected among Berkeley's Asians, about 45% of the student population.

Bennett said...


There's obviously no simple answer to your question. But my tuppence is that we Americans view freedom as opposed to moderation, and maybe as an absence of moderation. And apply this ethos to the high-contrast spheres of religion, commerce (consumption), and sex.

Given this combustible mix, maybe we are more prone than Europeans to act one way, feel another way, and make social rules in yet another - and to expect some contradictions from others. Being hard on virgins is one outgrowth of that juxtaposition: individual conflict/social warfare.

Sure, we are hard on staid tradition (premarital abstinence), but our real contempt often seems reserved for sincerity (conscientious virginity).

me said...

"I know that's how it was at my university. Anyone suggesting abstinence in any form would have been pilloried in every campus publication and broadcast outlet. SOMEBODY would have complained to the student council and a resolution condemning the abstainers as intolerant, ignorant, antisex Nazis would be drawn up and at least considered, with plenty of snarking and snickering."

Umm...you must have gone to some school. Your experience is not typical. At my school the frat boys ruled the day. Someone suggesting abstinence in the school paper might have been made fun of, but "intolerant, ignorant, antisex Nazis"? Beyond the reach of most drunken college students. Feminists and liberals did NOT rule the day at my school, and I graduated in 2002. They were certainly present on the faculty, but preserving the basketball program was probably the number one priority of the administration. As for the students, the hippie liberals protesting sweatshops were widely pilloried and hated by frats. Now that I think about it, actually CARING about some social issue, whether abstinence or sweatstops, is probably what gets people ostracized.

Bennett said...

Me: Neither the original writer nor the commenter you quoted have pointed to the kind of harrassing incidents they insist might have or could have occurred.

It's more of a complaint over P.C., combined with some flamboyant conduct by "campus darlings", combined with smaller scale snarking within social circles.

All of which have unpleasant consequences for some. But what is the answer - decency/speech codes? Obviously, outright harrasment and violence would be punished, usually quite harshly, in any event. Multiparty "dialogues", roundtables, and the like are already academic de rigeur. Not all students are interested though.

These are social problems, and, without denying them, fairly low-level ones for the most part. And no one knows better than conservatives that such social problems can't be regulated, top-down, out of existence. After all, the universities are permitting, not creating, these points of view. The universities are not parents - that is very much the idea.

Also, if you are a beleiver in free markets, note that to the extent any problems exist, they should be self-correcting - right?

JBlog said...

Well, tell ya what -- why don't we take a peek at some of the comments posted on her original story by people who disagree with the writer and see if they pass the "tolerance" test.

Not particularly scientific perhaps, but I think it provides some perspective.

The only problem is that you seem almost maniacal in your quest to pose your group (if you are in it) as victimized by the cruel, oversexed institution that is the University of Wisconsin.

I really love Tuesdays. Another Tuesday means another crazy rant from Beckstorm. Let’s list the reasons she is crazy this week.

However, the true motive that brought about this article is the puritanical right wing moon bats out there who want everyone to be only abstinent until marriage.

Ladies and gentlemen, Ann Coulter!

When you make an affirmative decision to be different than your peers you should expect to be singled out and get some weird looks. A sexually mature adult abstaining from sexual activity is unnatural.

Personally, I think you need a good lay to wake you up to the real world.

I wish you were having sex, then perhaps you would have less time to write these worthless columns.

"Over the years, the attitude toward sex among college students has increasingly become that of acceptance. Several factors have contributed to this widely held view of the intimate act..." YEAH, MAYBE YOU SHOULD TRY AND YOU WILL UNDERSTAND THE #1 REASON WE ACCEPT IT...

Yet again you argue that we should be more tolerant, but maybe YOU should start the effort. Surely you are smart enough to understand how you come off as a hypocrite when you champion tolerance but are intolerant to many others, gays being one prime example.

Intolerant of gays and many others and other columns?!? Hell, she's intolerant of Sex-Freaking-Out Loud in this very article. Putting the word facilitators in quotation marks? What was she really thinking...."Tools of Satan?"

Just when you thought that the Herald lost its righteous Christian moral crusader in Baumgartner, they give us an even bigger holy roller. At least Mark had a brain and pride in where he stood. I didn't agree with him, but I was happy that he found somewhere he belonged.

Darryn whines so much about everyone else being treated unfairly, she reminds me of Dols. I'll bet THAT comment'll make her whine.

Lessee, we have "maniacal," "crazy," "puritanical," "hypocrite," "whiner,"
"unnatural," "intolerant," "holy roller," and suggestions that she needs to get laid.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the "tolerant" pot calling the kettle black.

While there were some comments supporting her position as well, you'll note that NO ONE who opposed her opinion wrote, "While I disagree with your views, I respect your right to express them AND BELIEVE THEY ARE JUST AS LEGITIMATE AS MY OWN."

And THAT is why the liberal notion of "tolerance" as practiced on campus is a load.

Ibid said...

"My European friends are not prudes, but there is none of this sexual pressure - to or not to - regarding sex"

I'm a grad student; I've lived in Europe twice. Certainly sex is viewed as more organic there, but the European (French) guys who found out I supported not sleeping around were downright puzzled. One sat me down and explained that I was virtually comitting suicide. I certainly didn't advertise my status, because from what I gathered, a lot of my friends would have done the same, though not from any sort of malice. I would say people in the U.S. tend to be more understanding, from my experience, although there is the odd snide comment like "you're going to die an old maid," "you're just sheltered" (what?) and "you're not getting any younger." But seriously. They're snide comments. If we can't take a couple of snide comments gracefully, we should call ourselves neither students nor convinced.