The Nation's Pulse

Where the Joys Aren’t

Thanks to feminism's liberations, many a young woman is now on her way to spring break debauchery.

By 3.12.06

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According to a study released last week by the American Medical Association, almost three quarters of the women (74 percent) surveyed revealed that they equate "spring break" with sex and outrageous behavior. Eighty-three percent said it means heavy drinking.

Is this what the feminists had in mind when they touted the virtues of "liberation"? Because if so, they're hardly the man-haters of popular imagination. After all, what sounds better to a college guy, barely out of adolescence, than a vacation featuring tipsy women ready to engage in "outrageous behavior," with a little sex thrown in for good measure?

Certainly, spring break has long been a time when college kids can head for Florida with their friends, ready for a week or two of sun, sand and co-ed fun. But today's vacation is a far cry from the days of Where the Boys Are, the 1960 George Hamilton movie that became a cautionary tale about a college girl who gave too much, too soon while visiting sunny Fort Lauderdale with her friends. Today, young women cut loose by dancing on tables and disrobing in public -- and perhaps, if good fortune strikes, by appearing in a "Girls Gone Wild" video -- all in the name of a little harmless fun.

News reports about spring break beg the question: Isn't there something profoundly amiss in a society when young women decide that mixing casual sex, exhibitionism and extreme drunkenness constitutes the recipe for a really memorable, festive vacation? Where have these girls gotten the idea that such behavior isn't just appropriate, it's almost expected?

Certainly, in the age of reality television, too much of American culture celebrates the outrageous and the extreme. Old-fashioned feminine virtues, like modesty and even (gasp!) chastity are devalued -- they're simply not entertaining.

But if "boring" is bad, being a "prude" is even worse. Somehow, over the years, some feminists managed to convince Americans that women would remain second-class citizens until they were allowed, even encouraged, to adopt the same "anything goes" attitude toward sex that had previously been associated overwhelmingly with men. In the realm of elite -- and then popular -- opinion, those who declined to go along were deemed as retrograde as a typewriter in the computer age. And now, young girls are paying the price, whether they know it or not.

This spring, as the college men enjoy the fruit of the feminists' labors -- scantily clad beach bunnies, ready to "party hearty" -- it's worth wondering who is looking out for the young women who will return from spring break filled with regret over bad decisions made after a night of too much alcohol. And even as the American Medical Association issues value-neutral warnings about the health risks of excessive drinking and unprotected sex, there are precious few cautions about the danger of intangible, but nonetheless real, damage to the psyche, to the heart and to the soul.

Through their impact on American culture, the feminists may have been able to influence how young girls think about casual sex. But despite their best efforts, they cannot change how the girls will feel about casual sex once spring break has passed, and the party's finally over.

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