US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Sex on college campuses requires more than same sex dorms

By Megan Sweas | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

One line particularly struck me in the Wall Street Journal editorial (subscription required) announcing Catholic University of America’s same-sex dorms: “I would have thought that young women would have a civilizing influence on young men,” wrote John Garvey, president of CUA.

Whether you think the same-sex dorms will solve CUA’s hook-up culture problem or not (former managing editor Heidi Schlumpf says it’s just a PR move over at NCR),  this mentality concerns me.

We have to get past the assumption that all women are perfect and pristine, while “boys will be boys.” This puts the onus on women to protect their modesty, it is unfair to both men and women, and it perpetuates the lies of hook-up culture as well as its dangers.

In her study of hook-up culture, Donna Frietas explains that there are alpha males and alpha females on each college campus, and these are the people that tend to thrive off of hook-up culture. Most students, however, generally don’t participate in hook-up culture and don’t like it—and that goes for men as well as women.

The big problem with hook-up culture is that students think everybody else is doing it. They may make a mistake (hence guilt and depression), but hook-ups are far less common among the average college student than they are among the alpha males and females.

It gets really dangerous to reinforce the ideas that “boys will be boys” is when a woman literally cannot protect herself, such as in the two tragic stories of rape this past school year at Notre Dame, one of which ended in a suicide. No young woman should feel that it’s her responsibility to civilize a young man. He must own his responsibility of civility whether girls are living next door, down the hall, or across campus.

Instead of reinforcing the idea that boys need civilizing, why not teach both young men and women that there’s a different way to relate to each other than getting drunk and maybe going home together (or more likely going home alone while you think that everybody else is going home with others).

Same-sex dorms might be a good step, but there’s a lot more Catholic campuses can do. This didn't make the cut of the interview, but Frietas also suggested a much more radical rethinking of dorms, which essentially force you to entertain people of the opposite sex in your bedroom.

But the first step, she said, is to acknowledge that sex and sexual assault happens on Catholic college campuses. An editorial by the president of CUA in the WSJ shows you how far we've come since we interview Frietas three years ago.

Hopefully, this move is not just PR, but the beginning of establishing policies and programs that help these hormone-filled teenagers mature into young men and women who respect and love each other.