May 18, 2007


Sex and the college woman

(Listen to this editorial being read)

The virtue of chastity definitely is not culturally correct these days, especially, it would appear, among many college students.

Dating once was a time during which young men and women got to know each other better while having fun together. Today, it can often be a time for uncommitted sex.

It’s called “hooking up,” casual sex with, supposedly, no emotional strings attached. It has become common on college campuses, although surveys about just how common vary considerably. Some surveys report that 80 percent of college women “hook up,” while others say it’s about 40 percent, still a shockingly high percentage.

Today’s young men and women have grown up with television shows and movies that take premarital sex for granted, and magazines that tell their readers how to get the most enjoyment from sexual activity. Long before they reach college, girls have been indoctrinated by our media to think that the “Sex and the City” approach to the single life is the ideal.

Now, though, there seems to be a reconsideration of sorts—an effort to get the word out to young women that promiscuous and uncommitted sex isn’t all that it’s advertised to be. At least three new books tell it as it really is: Unprotected by Dr. Miriam Grossman (Sentinel, $23.95), Unhooked by Laura Sessions Stepp (Riverhead, $24.95), and The Thrill of the Chaste by Dawn Eden (Thomas Nelson, $23.99).

Grossman is a campus psychiatrist at UCLA. She warns college women who might be thinking about “hooking up” that studies show that women who practice casual sex are three times more likely to suffer from depression and to attempt suicide, and will be at a greater risk for developing eating disorders and performing acts of self-mutilation.

Stepp is a journalist for The Washington Post. Her book follows nine young women who became part of our culture’s practice of casual sex. Not surprisingly, they suffered the same emotional and relational consequences as those described by Grossman.

Eden’s book is a personal memoir detailing the emotional damage and loss of self-esteem that she experienced as a result of trying to engage in sex without commitment. She learned from her mistakes and has written the book to try to help other young women. She had been an agnostic Jew, but recently converted to Catholicism, an event that she mentions in the book.

The subtitle of Eden’s book tells her message: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On. She writes, “Through chastity—and only through chastity—can all the graces that are part of being a woman come to full flower in you.”

What she and the other women authors have discovered is that trying to have sexual freedom, as the world defines it, just doesn’t work.

While we call your attention to these three new books by and about women, men can take this advice to heart, too. The Catholic Church teaches that sex outside of marriage is immoral and is, ultimately, bad for you—as the authors have aptly demonstrated.

We hope the message of the books will reach not only college women, but also all young people influenced by our culture’s dating practices.

— John F. Fink

Local site Links: