First it was the women of Penn in the New York Times, explaining that college’s hookup culture is really great because they don’t have time to search out meaningful relationships at this point in their lives because they’re way too busy building their résumés, even though they have to drink to have sex with the guys they’re having sex with because if they were straight they’d never have meaningless sex with guys they don’t even like.
Then last week it was the ladies of Princeton, who, perhaps in an attempt to interfere with sales of “Princeton Mom” Susan Patton’s prospective advice book, are flocking in droves to join the infamous Tiger Inn, the “frattiest and hardest-drinking of Princeeton-University’s 11 eating clubs,” according to this piece in the Atlantic by Princeton student Caroline Kitchener.
Initiation to Tiger Inn includes such co-ed fun as swallowing live goldfish and having dog food crammed into your mouth, Kitchener says, and none of the hundreds of comments on her piece dispute that. Instead, much like the comments on the New York Times piece (except for the ones by whiny Penn women saying the author of the piece got it all wrong), they say, either approvingly or disapprovingly, that these are the logical fruits of feminism. Which is bull.
The point of gender equality, at least as I understood it back in the days when we were burning bras, wasn’t to turn women into men, with all the benefits that entailed (earlier death, lousier health, and, yes, higher rates of problem drinking).
Sure, some of what we sought was male-like: the right to, say, wear pants to school (in my school district, the rules on that didn’t change until I got to high school), or be paid equally for equal work. But some of what guys back then were seeking was womanly: the right to wear their hair streaming down their backs, to cry openly, to wear beads around their necks and their hearts on their sleeves.
What we had in mind was a centrist movement, with everyone shifting inward from clear-cut gender poles. Instead, young women today seem to have all migrated to the male end of the spectrum. We demand the right to publicly brawl with one another! To drink until we barf and pee in public! To have meaningless sex!
At Boston College, hookup culture is so pervasive that one concerned professor instituted a course that required students to ask someone out on that thing we used to call a date — you know, a shared meal or movie where you don’t get blasted and have sex right away. The first year, only one student in the class actually fulfilled the requirement. In an interview with The Christian Century (Christ, I can’t believe I’m quoting The Christian Century), the prof, Kerry Cronin, explained the current college generation’s heartrending cluelessness when it comes to intimacy:
Students will ask for an appointment and wait weeks to talk to me. They want to know: “Is it okay to ask out someone I have been friends with for a long time?” “If I ask this person out, will he know that I have never kissed anybody before?” The questions are about courage, about making yourself vulnerable, about risky acts of relationship.
Perhaps because they spend so much time online and so little in face-to-face interaction, young women and young men are crippled when it comes to openness and vulnerability. So much simpler to just get blackout-drunk and not have to deal with any of that — or remember it, if you do.
Susan Jacoby had an interesting op-ed in the New York Times last week on the subject of Anthony Weiner and the women with whom he’s been sexting. In it, she writes:
As a feminist, I find it infinitely sad to imagine a vibrant young woman sitting alone at her computer and turning herself into a sex object for a man she does not know — even if she is also turning him into a sex object. Twentieth-century feminism always linked the social progress of women with an expanding sense of self-worth — in the sexual as well as intellectual and professional spheres. A willingness to engage in Internet sex with strangers … expresses not sexual empowerment but its opposite — a loneliness and low opinion of oneself that leads to the conclusion that any sexual contact is better than no contact at all.
Surely the willingness of the women of the Ivy League — women whose achievements are legion, whose lot is the envy of millions of other women — to get drunk and perform oral sex on young men they don’t even know because, as one of the Penn interviewees said, she “was starting to sober up and didn’t want to be there anymore” is the opposite of liberation. What the hell happened to “Just say no”?
There are different kinds of nakedness. I’m not anti-sexuality or anti-drinking. I’m for the kind of sharing Kerry Cronin is advocating first, that’s all. For both genders. You should at least try to see into your partner’s soul before you see his dick.