Living a chaste life on a college campus is difficult. Defending your commitments to chastity, whether to your friends in the dorm room or to your professors in the classroom, is even more difficult. If you haven’t been a university student for a while, think back to what the sexual climate on campus was like when you were in college. Now imagine what it’s like with official university LGBT offices pushing for same-sex marriage and gay rights. Not only the practice of chastity but the institution of marriage itself is called into question. Ask yourself this question: would a student invite more scorn if he penned an op/ed for the campus newspaper supporting same-sex marriage or defending sexual chastity?
But students are beginning to push back. And at Princeton they’ve organized the first-ever intercollegiate conference defending the dignity of human sexuality and marriage. Not just rebelling against the administration, one organizer explained the conference to me in this way: “We are having this conference because we sincerely care about our peers, our future families, and our society. This conference is not only to combat the challenges faced on campuses such as Princeton but also to provide a better understanding of what a healthy and meaningful relationship is, what marriage is, and what sex can be.”
They’re dedicating the conference in honor of one of First Things ’ own: “Making Love Last: Finding Meaning in Sex and Romantic Relationships: A Conference of the Princeton University Anscombe Society in memory of Professor Elizabeth Fox-Genovese.”
As Joseph Bottum wrote last week , Professor Fox-Genovese, a long-time board member of First Things , recently passed away. A leader in the field of women’s studies, she became one of the fiercest critics of the modern feminist movement with her 1995 book, Feminism Is Not the Story of My Life . In it Fox-Genovese sought to reclaim authentic feminism from modern feminist leaders—leaders who espoused an ideology detached from the real-life experiences and aspirations of the women on whose behalf they claimed to speak. She also was unabashedly pro-life.
The conference seeks to honor the vision of sexual and familial life that Fox-Genovese defended over the course of her career. Had she been in better health, the organizers were hoping she’d be a among the conference speakers, as she was a founding member of the academic advisory board of Princeton’s Anscombe Society . Instead, they have decided to dedicate this inaugural intercollegiate conference in her honor.
The Anscombe conference is intended to equip students from other schools with the academic arguments (from a variety of disciplines) that support committed marital love, a feminism not at odds with motherhood, and an ethic of chastity that seeks to integrate the entire person (rather than only focus on the sexual part of the person) within romantic relationships.
The schedule includes an all-star line-up of speakers:
- Princeton professor Robert P. George and Princeton alumna Christine Whelan (author of the recent book Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women ), keynote address.
- Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy: “The Case for Marriage”
- Steven Rhoads, UVA professor of politics: “Why Taking Sex Differences Seriously Would Be Good for Men and Better for Women”
- Patrick Fagan, Heritage Foundation research fellow: “A Sociological Defense of Chastity”
- Chris Tollefsen, USC professor of philosophy: “Chastity, Integrity, and Marriage”
There will also be instructional workshops detailing how best to establish and run an Anscombe Society on your own campus.
University faculty—let your students know. University student—make plans to attend. The first of its kind, this conference promises to be a wonderful opportunity for anyone looking to emerge from the sexual ruins and promote a more excellent way. It will be held at Princeton University on Friday night, February 16, and all day Saturday, February 17. It is open to all university students (registration and a small fee are required). Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible for more details.
Ryan T. Anderson is a junior fellow at First Things .