After reading the July 12 New York Times article “Sex on Campus,” which documents the college hookup culture, along with Gracy Howard’s TAC piece on the same, I can’t stop thinking about Pope Francis’s first encyclical, Lumen Fidei.
In the essay on faith, Pope Francis explains that without a connection to God, we begin to worship idols. This idolatry “is always polytheism, an aimless passing from one lord to another.” As a consequence, “Idolatry does not offer a journey but rather a plethora of paths leading nowhere and forming a vast labyrinth.”
American Millenials, especially college students, worship Bacchus, as they are dragged into an environment that promotes drinking copious amounts of alcohol and sleeping with the most intoxicated warm body.
Kate Taylor of the Times interviewed 60 different undergrad women at the University of Pennsylvania about sex and relationships. The interviewees ranged from ambitious upstarts to insecure freshman. Yet something struck me about the article itself: None of the women wanted their full names printed. Though many of them practiced “hooking up,” their consciences still intervened to warn them against such activity. Apparently shame still lives.
In the “hookup culture,” young, ambitious women prioritize bulking up their resumes instead of developing healthy relationships with men. Hooking up is “a functional strategy for today’s hard-charging and ambitious young women, allowing them to have enjoyable sex lives while focusing most of their energy on academic and professional goals.”
“Enjoyable” being defined as an abundant, emotionless, and hedonistic Bacchanalia.
One of the women, labeled “A,” describes one of these fruitful relationships: “‘We don’t really like each other in person, sober,” she said, adding that “we literally can’t sit down and have coffee.”
Right, enjoyable. These attitudes towards sex, isolated from any overarching worldview or faith, lead into a labyrinth of moral confusion, unconfident interactions, and general dissatisfaction with making love. This labyrinth is experienced the most by “M”:
“I’m like, ‘O.K., I could do this now,'” she recalled thinking. “He’s superhot, I like him, he’s nice. But I’m not going to expect anything out of it, either.”
The alternative, she said, was that “I could take the chance that one night I get really drunk and sleep with someone that I don’t want to sleep with, which probably is what would have ended up happening.”
M sounds lost. She experiences sex as an inevitable eventuality, despite the shame, despite her own desire to make love with a special guy.
M and A represent two different approaches to sexuality in youth culture; whether feminism, alcohol-soaked adventurism, or both have led them to this view of sexuality, they still compartmentalize their sex lives from their careers and even their social activities.
Ultimately, I ask this: Why do young men and women, shameful of their sexual activities, isolate that from the rest of their developing livelihoods? Love should drive our pursuits and passions, instead of the other way around.
Indeed, this is the “labyrinth” that the Church so fears. With no one defining truth, we lose ourselves amongst the many paths given to us by television, our parents, our universities, and our jobs.
You don’t need to be a Christian to witness that. You can just read the New York Times.