An article in the New York Times titled “Students of Virginity” reports on the surprising number of “abstinence clubs” popping up on university campuses all over the country. These clubs try to discourage students from engaging in pre-marital sex.
According to the article, a growing number of students that have been exposed to similar clubs in their high schools, called “chastity clubs”, are now entering university. They are alarmed by the prevalence of promiscuity on campus. Harvard abstinence club member, Janie Fredell, for example, said: “The hookup culture is so absolutely all-encompassing. It’s shocking! It’s everywhere!” Many of these students have created or joined these clubs in response to what they see as an immoral “sexualized culture”.
Presumably in order to have a balanced perspective, the article presents the opposing view, represented by another Harvard student, Lena Chen. Chen is a sex blogger who doesn’t see any problem with meaningless sex: “to say that I have to care about every person I have sex with is an unreasonable expectation. It feels good! It feels good!”
By the end of the article the reader is left with a very clear picture of the two disparate positions. As one blog puts it, you have Jezebel, on the one hand, and the Virgin Mary, on the other. Demonstrating this alternative, the article compares the miniskirt wearer that leaves nothing to the imagination versus her modestly dressed counterpart. Even their eating habits are compared in the article. While Fredell overcame her cravings for a sinful “chocolate explosion” dessert, Chen indulges her every desire “including a ginger cake with cream-cheese frosting and raspberry compote.”
The article leaves us with the choice between self-deprivation or indulging every whim one happens to feel. Are these really the only options?
A third alternative, which the writer does not mention, is that two people might value each other and engage in pre-marital sex. Such couples do not fall into either of the categories presented in the article—neither self-sacrificing nor hedonistic. They are not senselessly “sleeping around”, nor are they depriving themselves of the immense emotional/psychological benefits and pleasure that come from sex. To deny oneself these benefits, if one has found a worthy partner, is worse then senseless. If sex is a celebration of one’s life and existence, as Ayn Rand believed, then the self-denial of sex is one of the worst forms of abrogating one’s life.