Abstinence at Harvard

Next to freshman biology class, there is nothing more universal on college campuses than the “hookup scene.” It is simply expected that students from state schools to the Ivy League will experiment with premarital sex. In the words of one Harvard student recently quoted in the New York Times: “For me, being a strong woman means not being ashamed that I like to have sex.”

Well, surprisingly there are growing numbers of students who have a much different definition of what it means to be a strong woman (or man). It means not being ashamed to say that they would like to have sex, but choose not to.

A relatively new student group at Harvard called True Love Revolution has urged college freshmen to resist the hookup culture by passing out flyers that read: “Why wait? Because you’re worth it.”

But what really makes this group stand out is not simply their catchy slogan, but their reason for choosing abstinence. Although many of the members of True Love Revolution claim a faith in God, their primary goal is to show their fellow students that choosing purity makes sense even without relying on religious convictions. Abstinence, they say, is the most rational choice.

For one thing, abstinence (or better yet, chastity, which embraces the idea of purity even beyond abstaining from sex) makes sense philosophically. Members of the group point to thinkers like Catholic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe and Princeton professor Robert George-both of whom have challenged popular notions of sex on the basis that promiscuity compromises human dignity.

Janie Fredell, co-president of True Love Revolution, also says that purity is nothing if not feminist. She points out that the forerunners of the feminist movement valued a woman’s right to have sex with whomever she wanted whenever she wanted. But that is allowing yourself to be used by men. Fredell thinks that it is far more dignifying for a woman to have control over her own body than to give in to exploitive demands by men. She is right.

Most important, the group, like any good Ivy League club, appeals to science to defend abstinence. On the True Love Revolution website, they make a big deal about a human hormone called oxytocin. This hormone, which is released during intercourse, birth, and breast-feeding, creates a deep psychological and physiological bond between people.

Fredell says that oxytocin in casual sex bonds people who may not want to be bonded to each other. In her words, “Why bond yourself so intensely when you are not sure you are going to spend the rest of your life with this person?”

True Love Revolution is also taking this radical stance by doing something that good Christian apologists have done for generations: by appealing to natural law. To put it simply, natural law is an explanation of reality based on the natural-and we know, created-order. C. S. Lewis, for instance, defended Christianity by explaining that it makes the most sense of the world. In essence, that Christianity is the most natural worldview.

Similarly, this exceptional group of students argues that sexual purity is the most natural way to find true love, because it respects the body and it respects the human being.

And that is one argument even the strongest proponents of the “hookup culture” can not refute.

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