“Sex Jeopardy” has been a staple of the freshman experience at Princeton University for a number of years now. Although the game is not mandatory, freshmen are strongly encouraged to participate. To be sure, the university is right to be concerned about the sexual health and safety of its students, especially incoming freshmen. Questions concerning sexually transmitted infections and sexual violence and harassment are certainly warranted. However, university officials are deceiving themselves if they think Sex Jeopardy educates students in a “value free” and “morally neutral” way, as the game purports to do. Other categories, such as “Contraception and Birth Control” and “LGBT sex,” suggest that, far from being “morally neutral,” the game reflects and advances a particular (moral) view about sex. This view is that any sexual behavior (even promiscuous and deviant behavior) is morally innocent and even good so long as precautions are taken to avoid undesired consequences. It is not a matter of sexual health and safety, for example, to know the various functions and flavors of condoms, nor how LGBT individuals behave sexually. And it is doubtful that a student choosing from the “Grab Bag” category would be better equipped to guard his safety (or the safety of the girl he is with) once learning new sex moves and positions. The fact is that Sex Jeopardy, and other university programs, educates students in sexual liberationist ideals, where anything goes so long as there is consent. In effect, this only results in more, not fewer, cases of unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and emotional distress. There is nothing “morally neutral” or genuinely “healthy” about it.
Furthermore, think of the young students attending these programs: the Orthodox Jew whose modesty give her reason to cover her elbows and hair; the Muslim girl who also takes care to cover up. Let’s not forget the many Catholic and Christian students who, far from being ignorant about sex, were raised in households where sex was revered as a beautiful part of the union between husband and wife. For many of these students, Sex Jeopardy and other university programs offend their sensibilities. It is an affront to human decency to treat so casually and crudely matters that are respected as being deeply intimate, meaningful, and even holy.
But many within the university community seem quite ignorant of this body of students. Worldviews that value the institution of marriage as being between a man and a woman, the special role of the family, and premarital abstinence and sexual fidelity are often either not represented or misrepresented. The fact is, while universities tout neutrality on sexual matters, the notion that premarital abstinence is normal, reasonable, and healthy is entirely foreign. Take, for example, the final jeopardy question in “Sex Jeopardy,” which asked why someone would choose to be abstinent. One freshman remembers most of her peers’ answers as referring to problems with self-confidence. With such a misunderstanding about the arguments in favor of chastity, we cannot be satisfied with mere lip-service to the word “abstinence” in university sexual health programming. Nor can we be satisfied with the fact that so many young people today are ill-formed and misinformed on the reasons defending the institution of marriage, the special role of the family, and sexual self-restraint.
This is precisely what motivated students at Princeton to speak out on their campus and launch a student group called the Anscombe Society (www.princeton.edu/~anscombe), through which they have been working with university administrators and staff to reform sexual health programming. These students do not seek special treatment for themselves and their values, but are instead committed to establishing a fair and equal platform whereby their reasons for valuing chastity, marriage, and family can be heard and discussed honestly. Since the group’s founding in 2005, it has hosted over two dozen scholars and professionals for campus-wide lectures, where they discuss marriage, family, and sexuality from a variety of different academic disciplines. At Harvard, Yale, William & Mary, and Arizona State University too, students who reject the hookup culture and defend chastity and fidelity are making inroads with speakers, lectures, and discussion groups offering an “alternative” voice to the standard “safe sex” programs and hookup mentality.
So, despite the gloomy picture of sexual health programming and campus social life, there is indeed hope. Students are recognizing that there is more to sex than scary STI statistics, fun “Sex Jeopardy” factoids, and your typical Saturday night hookup. They are seeking an honest and balanced education in how to make responsible, healthy, reasonable, and moral decisions, and they are respectfully making their voices heard among university administrators so as to benefit the campus community at large. These students are calling for a new sexual revolution – one that empowers their minds and hearts to love responsibly and authentically.
Cassandra L. DeBenedetto is an alumna of Princeton University and one of the original founders of the Anscombe Society. She is now the Executive Director of the Love and Fidelity Network, which equips college students with the arguments, resources, and direction they need to promote the integrity of marriage, family, and sex on their campuses. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.loveandfidelity.org