Sex and gender on campus

Printed from:

Feb. 1, 2016

The NewBostonPost this month will tackle the topic of “Sex and gender on campus.” This theme is broad and poses a vast array of questions on sexual mores, campus sexual assault, equality of the sexes, feminism, and academic disparities – to name just a few.

Long before Freud, human beings understood the sheer power of sexual attraction and sexual identity. Yet the wisdom and artistic genius of previous generations perfected ways of channeling and sublimating the sheer force of lust into creations of culture and beauty. Nudity was depicted as art, sexuality was transmuted into eroticism, courtship elevated to dance, attraction to a longing for transcendental complementarity. Most literary classics, artistic masterpieces, and old fashioned rituals of courtship are informed by the powerful tensions of human sexuality. Those were the hallmarks not only of western civilization, but of any civilization.

Oh, how the times have changed! To find out how much, the NewBostonPost examines campus life around the country. We will consider how sexual liberation and acceptance of instant gratification have affected student life and how notions of gender have become fluid.

Most people have heard of spring break excesses and the so-called “epidemic” of sexual assault on campuses. Looking more closely at today’s campus menu of sexual norms and identity is, indeed, fascinating and frightening at the same time. Rather than being intrigued and challenged, as we would be looking at Goya’s Maja laying nude, we will consider the question of whether this generation may have lost its way. What happens when the idea of sex purely as intercourse, a sort of recreational sport, no strings attached, is omnipresent? Is true romance and commitment even still an option?

What happens when the search for “sexual identity” becomes more important than the search for truth and beauty? How can “sexual identity” even be meaningful when there is no longer a deeper meaning to sex? And how are we to understand the political, social, and linguistic significance of gender when the academy informs us that it is a mere cultural construct?

College campuses are supposed to turn boys into men and girls into women. Yet with gender a fluid concept, it has become unclear what that really means.

In addition to looking at the culture of sexual behavior and identity, we will investigate the impact of sex disparities on campuses where women vastly outnumber men. This, no doubt, affects not only the relationships between the sexes, but also post-college professional life. We take seriously the effects that such disparity in higher education has on society. Can it be that girls, while soaring academically, are losing out in every other way? Can it be that boys, while having the time of their lives at college, will never become the men that women really want? And we wonder, in the interest of increasing professional opportunities for women, are we shortchanging our boys?

What are college feminists saying about this new disparity and what is the relevance of feminism to today’s college students? How has Title IX impacted not just college sports, but campus disciplinary tribunals? What are we to make of recent demands that colleges create “safe spaces” for women from so-called misogynistic speech?

These are just some of the many topics we will explore this month as we examine the campus as the incubator that cultivates larger societal debates about sex and gender.