Thursday, May 29, 2014

The consequences of a hook up culture. . .

I read the story of a young woman at a prestigious college who tells the story of a rape and of an administration that seems to have covered it up in the hopes it would all go away.

Part of the story is below.  You can read it all here. . .

[Lisa] Sendrow is a 23-year-old brunette from Princeton, New Jersey. Her mother is from Mexico; her dad is a Jewish guy from the Bronx. She graduated last spring and works in health care in Washington, D.C. If 3,000 smiling Facebook photos are a good barometer, her four years at Swarthmore seem to have passed by untroubled. But in the midwinter of 2013, Sendrow says, she was in her room with a guy with whom she’d been hooking up for three months. They’d now decided — mutually, she thought — just to be friends. When he ended up falling asleep on her bed, she changed into pajamas and climbed in next to him. Soon, he was putting his arm around her and taking off her clothes. “I basically said, ‘No, I don’t want to have sex with you.’ And then he said, ‘Okay, that’s fine’ and stopped,” Sendrow told me. “And then he started again a few minutes later, taking off my panties, taking off his boxers. I just kind of laid there and didn’t do anything — I had already said no. I was just tired and wanted to go to bed. I let him finish. I pulled my panties back on and went to sleep.”

A month and a half went by before Sendrow paid a visit to Tom Elverson, a drug and alcohol counselor at the school who also served as a liaison to its fraternities. A former frat brother at Swarthmore, he was jolly and bushy-mustached, a human mascot hired a decade earlier to smooth over alumni displeasure at the elimination of the football team, which his father had coached when Elverson was a student. When Sendrow told him she had been raped, he was incredulous. He told her the student was “such a good guy,” she says, and that she must be mistaken. Sendrow left his office in tears. She was so discouraged about going back to the administration that it wasn’t until several months later that she told a dean about the incident. Shortly thereafter, both students graduated, and Sendrow says she was never told the outcome of any investigation. 

Others can comment on the case.  I want to comment on the fruits of the so-called sexual liberation of the 1960s and later years, of the casual nature of sexual relationships, and of the creation of a hook up culture that continues to inhabit campuses all across the nation.  The 1960s insisted that the root of all problems was the Victorian era and its prudish view of sex.  The Age of Aquarius promised that liberation from the oppressive sexual mores of the past would bring great benefits of pleasure, freedom, and better male and female relationships.  When children and marriage ceased to enter in to the sexual act and when disease no longer became a great fear (though it is still rampant), sex became a very casual thing.  It did not mean love or commitment or a future or even a past that led to the sexual relationship.  It just was -- the sex, raw, unbounded by many constraints and devoid of any attachments or commitments.  The hook up culture was born and with it more sex, less love, and a great deal more confusion about what it all means.

I certainly do not intend to blame Ms. Sendrow or any women who are attacked, harassed, or raped.  However, it is foolish to think that the casual approach to sex, the hook up culture, and a context for sexual behavior devoid of love, commitment, or formal attachment have not contributed to the problem. There are grave consequences for our choice as a culture to remove sex from marriage, children from sex and marriage, and sex from love and commitment of any kind.  At the root of these consequences is the whole idea that "it's just sex."  Everyone who chooses to see it as "just sex" contributes unwittingly or deliberately to the rising number of episodes in which "no" has come to mean "not now but maybe later."  I do not mean to let off the hook the boys who use this as convenient excuse for ignoring the "no" of the girl.  What I do mean to suggest is that this cannot be seen outside the poisoned fruits of the sexual liberation movement.

I am not sure whether it is a real quote or myth that C. S. Lewis said that absent God the only left is sex.  Regardless of the authenticity of that quote, we find ourselves reaping the rewards of a movement which has been extraordinarily effective and efficient in removing every constraint and turning sex into something casual, unimportant, and empty of any ties or commitment.  "It's just sex" is just sex, except when it isn't.  Who is not confused by the legacy of a movement which was supposed to elevate and ended up only demeaning what it claimed to treasure?  Yes, Christians have not exactly been without blame in their treatment of sex, love, and marriage over the years.  That said, who can argue that we are in better shape today than we were before the so-called liberation of sex from the Victorian era, prudish restriction, and Christian context?

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