This was published today in the Daily Princetonian. In conversations with other students, one of the concerns that seems to come up again and again is the size of the Center's potential constituency. This column makes the argument that a Center for Abstinence and Chastity would benefit the entire campus community, not just those who are committed to abstinence and chastity.
You can read the full article after the jump.
A center for all students
From personal experience, I knew that chaste and abstinent students can feel alienated by a campus culture that embraces casual sex and disdains the view that sex is about more than stimulating nerve endings. I saw how a University center could provide institutional support to such students. But it took me a little longer to understand that the center would have reverberations throughout campus life. While there are many other arguments in favor of creating a center, I think this particular reason is often overlooked. Yet it is precisely because the center would benefit all students that its creation is imperative.
Upon closer inspection, the notion that the center would impact all students is rather obvious. After all, the ambitions of University centers have always been greater than simply providing resources to their constituencies. The Davis International Center, for instance, was created not only to serve international students but also to advocate for their interests on campus. Through lectures, social gatherings and other events, University centers try to change perceptions and bring about a more welcoming environment. It is in the nature of a University center, then, to reach beyond the students it seeks to support and try to effect change in the broader campus culture.
Such would be the case with a Center for Abstinence and Chastity. The center would provide educational resources, host lectures and engage the campus community in a variety of other ways to make Princeton a friendlier place for chastity and abstinence. This change in campus culture would ease the social pressure to have sex and create a viable social alternative to a culture that puts sex on par with a handshake. Certainly abstinent and chaste students would benefit from this more hospitable environment, but so would students who are considering chastity or abstinence but are undecided on the subject. Even students who reject abstinence and chastity but value the freedom to make a decision about sex unencumbered by social pressures would reap the rewards of this center. Since the center would present an alternative to an ethos that expects students to engage in casual sex, it would create breathing space within the campus culture for students to more freely decide their sexual futures.
Beyond its cultural impact with regard to sex, the center would also provide students with an educational opportunity that they might value for its own sake. As an academic community interested in all points of view and in a healthy exchange of ideas, Princeton would benefit from a center presenting arguments in favor of chastity and abstinence. The center would offer scholarly literature on the medical and sociological implications of sex, and it could illuminate the importance of marriage and the various perspectives on how to achieve a successful marriage. In short, the center would open a range of academic opportunities for students of all viewpoints and encourage a vigorous and fair debate about sexual ethics on campus.
Every day this week, the Anscombe Society will sponsor a lecture that will examine different aspects of campus culture and help show why it’s time to establish a Center for Abstinence and Chastity at Princeton. I would invite all students to attend whatever events they can with an open mind and give careful consideration to the reasons for a center. Much more must be said to win the argument in favor of creating a center, and throughout this semester Anscombe will continue to make the case. But it will be for naught if skeptical students are unwilling to reexamine their views and approach the issue in good faith.
Almost two years ago, I considered the argument for a Center for Abstinence and Chastity to be dubious. I am sure that many of you reading this will have the same initial reaction I had at the time. But if you join us in this conversation, I hope you will come away as I did after months of reflection about the center: convinced of its necessity, committed to its creation and willing to work toward the establishment of a center that will touch the lives of students for generations to come.
Joel Alicea is a politics major from Plaistow, N.H. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.