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Indicting the Hook-up Culture

(For students returning to campus, we are re-printing a few highlights from last term.)

Green Heart.jpgThe events of May 2, 2013 between Parker Gilbert and the young woman who pressed charges against him for rape need to be looked at in a broader context. The gymnastics that occurred between them seemingly did not mark firsts for either one, a point that can sadly be made about many students. What the defense called “clumsy, awkward, drunk college sex” is a feature of weekly life at the College for far too many students — the end result of which is, at best, hurt feelings, and at worst, angry “he slurred/she slurred” accusations.

Consent is a strange concept for two people who hardly know each other, whose inhibitions and modesty have been erased by liquor. One or both are vulnerable to abuse, and certainly clear communication between respectful people is well nigh impossible. The hook-up culture will lead to many more May 2’s; things cannot be otherwise. No need to wait. Just look around you, and talk to students whose emotional wounds are not buried at all.

While students will initially protest that they have thrown off the shackles of Victorian morality, and sociologists opine that the hook-up culture is a rational response on the part of both males and females to educational pressures and career ambitions that leave them short of time, it doesn’t take long to hear from students that the age-old longings for love and enduring caring still mark them to the core.

Red Rose1.jpgThe question is whether students in their late-adolescent confusion — and in a world deeply marked by Internet pornography that makes most freshman more knowledgeable about sexual permutations than many of their parents — can learn to hold out for something better than the unsatisfying rutting that takes place today without emotion, let alone love.

The D had a column on Tuesday that, among other things, derided students for what is called on campus “slut shaming.” Maybe we ought to reconsider that point. Perhaps sluts should be shamed as breaking a moral code that treats making love as something precious. And so should “playas” — the kind of guy who thinks that he is admired for bedding as many girls as possible. Both not only do harm to themselves, but they put unneeded pressure on other students to sexually commit themselves far too early in “relationships.”

While we’re at it, let’s also ask students to ask themselves why is it that they need copious amounts of alcohol in order to loosen up and enjoy a party. Are they proud that they have so few personal resources, so little self-confidence, that they can’t go to a fraternity without having knocked back shot after shot of cheap vodka? Examine your lives. Is this how the supposed best and brightest are meant to live with each other? Are the arts of intelligent conversation and romance so dead that Dartmouth students can’t interact without alcoholic lubrication?

Will some group at Dartmouth have the conviction and boldness to break with the herd, and decide that romance is worth the effort — and the risk? A frat? A sorority? A club? There is renown to be had in carving a new way, even if it is the old way. And no little pride in doing an unalloyed good thing. Any takers?

Addendum: I’ve touched on these themes in the past in posts entitled Girls Just Wanna Have Some and Will No One Defend Romance?

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