Last week at National Review, David French had an article entitled “The Vindication of Christian Sexual Ethics” that takes a welcome turn in the controversies over sexual behavior on college campuses that have erupted in recent months. (See here and here and here for examples of thousands of stories from that last month.) Instead of focusing on incidents of proven and alleged sexual assault, then maintaining or denying “campus rape culture” at work, French speaks of “sexual-revolution values” in general and sets against them Christian values of sobriety, chastity before marriage, and fidelity after.
It’s not a popular approach. If you Google “campus rape culture,” with quotation marks added, 252,000 results line up. The stories typically include lurid, embarrassing, sad, or horrible illustrations of stupid and/or predatory conduct, with victims and victimizers elevated to exemplary status as women-in-danger, fraternity-house norms, etc. Feminist advocates clearly see the theme as politically helpful to the cause, and the Obama Administration, among others, has assisted (for example, in this January 2014 White House report).
French’s argument applies more broadly to sex culture on campus, the mores, expectations, and attitudes toward sex that prevail among undergraduates and are reinforced, or at least allowed to continue, by campus officials. It is satisfying because French aims not to discuss individual cases or to divide the partiers up into victims and victimizers, but to overturn the values surrounding sex itself as practiced by students. This is a fundamental adjustment that is necessary if Christians are to enter the culture wars of the present time rightly armed.
The adjustment is basic: to cast a limit on sexual activity as a plus, not a minus. It persuades youths that stopping short of going to bed is not restriction, denial, prohibition, a Big No. Rather, it is preservation, affirmation, obedience, a Humble Yes.
To complete this transvaluation, though, means overturning an entrenched culture. College is a hook-up world, a “five-year party,” as has been repeated over and over. Princeton Review compiles a Best Party Schools list, and while schools in the Top 10 (Syracuse is #1) are embarrassed, admissions officers know that it helps build the applicant pool. The whole set-up casts chastity as a downer, an uptight schoolmarm telling liberated youths not to have fun.
What is needed is a chastity recommendation that doesn’t end with “Thou shalt not.” It follows through with “And thou shalt enjoy a better life.”
More on this in the next post.