Philadelphia Magazine has published a story about my beloved alma mater Swarthmore College that is so depressing I could almost not bear to read it. What it reveals about the sexual anarchy of campus culture is, however, by no means unique to Swarthmore. My students at Princeton and Harvard describe the same culture at those institutions. I suspect that it exists at all institutions, save, perhaps, the comparatively few which have maintained strong religious identities. It is unfathomably sad.
What have we done to our young people? What are they doing to each other and to themselves? The sexual revolution of the 1960s was supposed to usher in utopia and the Age of Aquarius, right? What it has produced is hell on earthcomplete with ideologies hardened into orthodoxies to immunize it from truth-telling and to stigmatize and marginalize truth-tellers.
Sex need not be something ugly and brutal. Indeed, there are few things in this life as beautiful and joyful as the chaste and loving sexual congress of husband and wife in marriage. But so many of our young women and men don’t seem to know it. Theirs is the world of the “hook up” culture where sex is an appetite to be sated and where individual satisfaction, not marital communion, is the point of it all, and where consent is the only norm of conduct. Just think of all the things that can go wrong when the gift of our sexuality is (mis)understood in this way. Well, all those things that can go wrong, are going wrong.
Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the Philadelphia Magazine article. May God have mercy on us.
[Lisa] Sendrow is a 23-year-old brunette from Princeton, New Jersey. Her mother is from Mexico; her dad is a Jewish guy from the Bronx. She graduated last spring and works in health care in Washington, D.C. If 3,000 smiling Facebook photos are a good barometer, her four years at Swarthmore seem to have passed by untroubled. But in the midwinter of 2013, Sendrow says, she was in her room with a guy with whom she’d been hooking up for three months. They’d now decidedmutually, she thoughtjust to be friends. When he ended up falling asleep on her bed, she changed into pajamas and climbed in next to him. Soon, he was putting his arm around her and taking off her clothes. “I basically said, ‘No, I don’t want to have sex with you.’ And then he said, ‘Okay, that’s fine’ and stopped,” Sendrow told me. “And then he started again a few minutes later, taking off my panties, taking off his boxers. I just kind of laid there and didn’t do anythingI had already said no. I was just tired and wanted to go to bed. I let him finish. I pulled my panties back on and went to sleep.”
A month and a half went by before Sendrow paid a visit to Tom Elverson, a drug and alcohol counselor at the school who also served as a liaison to its fraternities. A former frat brother at Swarthmore, he was jolly and bushy-mustached, a human mascot hired a decade earlier to smooth over alumni displeasure at the elimination of the football team, which his father had coached when Elverson was a student. When Sendrow told him she had been raped, he was incredulous. He told her the student was “such a good guy,” she says, and that she must be mistaken. Sendrow left his office in tears. She was so discouraged about going back to the administration that it wasn’t until several months later that she told a dean about the incident. Shortly thereafter, both students graduated, and Sendrow says she was never told the outcome of any investigation. (Elverson, whose position was eliminated by the school last summer, emailed me that he would answer the “great questions” I raised, but never wrote back.)
As the issue of campus assault gains national media traction, stories about incompetent or callous administrators have become bleaklyalmost numbinglyfamiliar. But Sendrow’s account is also quite specific to Swarthmore. The unrest that’s roiled the little U.S. News & World Report juggernaut 11 miles southwest of Philadelphia over the past yearincluding dozens of allegations of student-on-student sexual assault, two federal investigations, two student-filed federal lawsuits, and four (unprecedented) expulsions for sexual misconductnominally revolves around a campus rape problem and an administration accused of abetting it.