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    It's spring in New York, and I invited my old college roommate, Sarah, now in her senior year, to see the city. Over lunch, she started in on the last party she went to: "The theme was Golf Pros and Tennis Hos. The girls wore super-short tennis skirts and heels and we all got incredibly wasted. I wound up dancing with the junior fullback, and we eventually went up to my room — smoked pot, watched the last half of Old School, etc., etc."

    That distant rumble you hear? It's the collective dissent from the Board of Concerned Writers of America. Their ears perked up when they heard "Golf Pros and Tennis Hos," but by the time Sarah mentioned the use of marijuana, they were chomping at the bit to decry the desperate state of young collegiate women who engage in "etc., etc." without having first bartered for an Easter dinner with the gentleman's parents.

    As a recent graduate, I decided it was my sisterly duty to introduce my friend to these finger-waggers eager to pat her hand (after slapping it) and what they've been saying about her sex life:

    Laura Sessions Stepp, author of Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both (2007). This Washington Post journalist and mother of three weeps tears of pity as she witnesses college girls drinking, dancing, stumbling, and (according to accounts validated by not one, but two, groups of college girls) giving head to strangers. Stepp laments, "Who was reminding [college girls] that sex, in any form, is more powerful when you don't throw it around, more satisfying when it's savored with someone you love? Who was asking consider that having sex with lots of men might limit their ability to sustain a long-term commitment as well as their ability to conceive children?"

    Dr. Anonymous, author of Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student (2006). This masked campus psychiatrist was shocked to encounter many depressed girls in her line of work. She denounces AIDS- and HIV-awareness pamphlets at clinics (panic-inducing!), multiple sexual partners (if you have lots of sex, you might get chlamydia, which might return again later in life, and if that happens, you might become infertile) and postponing domesticity for academic achievement (one woman she treated regretted that).

    Dawn Eden, The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On (2006). There is little more unsettling than Eden's shaky correlation between accepting Christ as your personal savior and having an incredible, sex-free single life. Full disclosure: I tossed the book aside after she advised her readers to buy calf-length skirts.

    Caitlin Flanagan, the anti-feminist book critic for The Atlantic, and most recently the reviewer of Lynn Peril's College Girls: Bluestockings, Sex Kittens, and Co-Eds, Then and Now. While critiquing College Girls (a historical account that kindly abstains from moralizing our sex lives) Flanagan pauses to share her own theory, gleaned from Peril's historical accounts: "Girls have a different relationship to home than boys do: They are more sentimental about it as well as more critical of its shortcomings, and they are moored to its routines and rhythms more deeply. Even those girls for whom leave-taking [to college] is more escape than sorrow enter a period of profound self-examination — and often melancholia — when they break out from the home where they were raised."

    Tom Wolfe, I Am Charlotte Simmons. Winner of the The Literary Review's "Bad Sex in Fiction" Award. If there's anyone less qualified to talk about college sex than women old enough to be your mom, it's a man old enough to be your grandfather. In one scene, Wolfe describes Charlotte's internal reaction after spying her roommate stumbling home after spending the night with a male co-ed: "As Charlotte peeked behind the curtains, she felt a mixture of sympathy for the weary and heavy-laden, revulsion at what was revolting, and guilt for feeling more revulsion than sympathy after witnessing a drunken slut on her Walk of Shame. Charlotte Simmons alone owns up to the scorn that the other analysts cloak in patronizing concern for our health and mental well-being, and only because Ms. Simmons is a fictional sock puppet designed by an aging Virginian male.

    The message behind all of these books is this: my friend Sarah's sex life is offensive. The authors are intent on rescuing college girls like her from the Walk of Shame. Only, they're overlooking one crucial consideration, in my view: Stepp and her cohorts are the only ones who feel any sense of shame. Sarah and her peers are perfectly happy.

    This generation of college girls is free to focus on degrees without worrying about nabbing future husbands.

    College girls of today aren't really fucking college boys more frequently or more desperately; they're just fucking more openly. While young women's sex lives have always freaked out conservative Congressmen and the elderly, the sexpidemic that's allegedly infecting American dorms is now alarming adults of a different breed: the liberal women who fomented the sexual revolution thirty years ago. Flanagan, Stepp, et. al., are falling over themselves to "save" Sarah before someone spots her downing Jell-O shooters and making out with the fullback. I suspect these older feminists fear their right-wing enemies will blame all this crazy young sex on the women's movement. And that's not far off the mark. My generation missed out on the toil of political struggle but showed up in time for the afterparty, plundering the spoils of birth control and Astroglide and sensitive men without so much as a "thank you" for our elders.

    So here we are, educated girls who traded in home economics and faux chastity for organic chemistry and vibrators. Our right to birth control is currently undisputed, our miniskirts depoliticized, our sexuality unabashed and on display for all to see. Caitlin Flanagan sums up her generation's torn reaction: "Yes yes yes to female empowerment, but Jesus Christ, why are these women giving blowjobs to men they barely know?"

    Sit down, Ms. Flanagan, before you get your panties in a twist.

    Feminism, at least among straight white college girls between 1990 and now, has obviously impacted college life, but not necessarily in the apocalyptic way that these authors think. This generation of college girls is free to focus on degrees, seek internships and hold student-council office without worrying about nabbing future husbands. Our most important relationships have shifted from the tight microcosms of same-sex friendships and heterosexual dating to looser, broader networks founded between students and professor, peer to peer, mentor to mentored.

    Personally, I had frequent and unsatisfying sex with goateed liberal arts majors who cared more about finding themselves on Kerouacian road trips than locating the clitoris, but they didn't define my academic experience. My friends and I often put nice boys and romantic love on the back burner, because they demanded the time we had already alloted to theses and volunteer programs. Hooking up with someone on a Saturday night didn't require us to follow up with brunch on Sunday, which worked out well, because we had a lot of homework to finish before The O.C. came on.

    Of course, there were the girls who trespassed into emotionally damaging territory, doing things they didn't want to do with boys they didn't really like. But blaming those tawdry Saturday nights on a new strain of collegiate debauchery ignores a long history of the coupling between booze and sex. For every girl who disappears behind the door of a different frat-house bedroom each weekend, there is the pious Methodist who attends church groups on Friday nights, the Dean's scholar who swears off boys in favor of graduating early, the serial monogamist who jumps from one steady relationship to another.

    One thing Flanagan says is true: "Once girls go off to school, there's no way to protect them." But I'd like to reassure her there's no need — really. We're big girls. Women, even. If most of the sex we have is devoid of rose petals and commitment, that's usually because we're too busy taking advantage of the career opportunities her generation made available to us to have time for more than quickies. It might sound sordid and morally degrading to anyone who remembers the time when American culture channeled the female libido into marriage and baby-making, but young women today weren't around for that. And shouldn't those pundits be happy we never were? Or is what all these new books suggest true: that the worst thing these writers can imagine — worse than abortion becoming illegal, worse than us going to college just to get a Mrs., worse than us not knowing our bodies — that we're having fun without guilt?


    Commentarium (22 Comments)

    May 10 07 - 11:58pm

    "My friends and I often put nice boys and romantic love on the back burner, because they demanded the time we had already alloted to theses and volunteer programs."

    Figures. So you're the one (kidding). This to me is the real story with the Girls Gone Wild culture--the fact that banal, self-identified "feminists" can think of nothing better to do with sexual freedom than fuck the most uninteresting, unintelligent frat boy. In other words, this is the freedom to be just as vacuous as men.

    Bitter? You bet, 1) because it seems like a meager use of freedoms obtained through long struggle and 2) because it actively provides disincentive to be a "nice boy." For my own part, I'm convinced that unless I get a six pack or sixty-grand in the next year and get rid of 60 IQ points, that I'm invisible to women. Being a well-rounded, well-traveled, well-spoken, and respectful guy is apparently for pussies who don't get any pussy.

    If you want to look for a cause for America's waxing anti-intellectualism, I think that women, specifically of the GGW ilk, bear some responsibility. "Liberated" women consistently choose oafs, as though they're programmed to fulfill a Homer Simpson-Archie Bunker-Ralph Cramden-Fred Flinstone-that guy from King of Queens vision of domesticity. I think that this is in no small way part of the greater phenomenon in America that shames men for speaking during class and leads to ever declining rates of attendance in college for males. The dynamic is even more pernicious in the case of black men (like me) who, in popular culture, represent an apex of masculinity and thus anti-intellectualism. Having a brain and being a nice guy are doubly problematic when you're a black male, especially as you are basically invisible in hook up culture (being neither a baller, thug, or dope slinger, or even a wannabe).

    Basically, my point is that now women too are helping to cement the notion that nice guy=fag/eunuch, not by hooking up, but by doing so injudiciously. Congrats! You've come a long way baby.

    Whether or not all fucking should be seen having ethical, political, and social consequences I don't know (though my constructivist leanings make me think so). However, the collective fucking of a million retard frat boys and the collective fucking over of a million nice guys, certainly does have consequences. Since pussy is a commodity (like it or not), this "exchange" makes being a dickhole into a commodity, while simultaneously devaluing intellectual sensitivity. Wonderful! With all this you might just find that the nice guys become resentful after being stuck on the back burner, as you put it. Fancy that.

    Send complaints to

    May 10 07 - 12:17pm

    Two gripes:

    1. The idea of freedom and spontaneous action as embodied in GGW or the oh-so-Paris-Hilton "Tennis Hos" party is kind of like giving yourself the freedom to ingest huge quantities of sugar. It might taste sweet going down, but it's going to have some repercussions. Also, lacking in this concept of freedom is creativity. I do think that people should be adventurous in their sex lives, but maybe that adventurousness can be carried out in more meaningful ways. An example? I don't know... have a long-term four way with another couple or something.

    2. New moral standards don't change the laws of probability, and STDs still suck. Even simple and exceedingly common things like chlamydia, HPV, herpes can carry a long sentence of shame, potentially pain, and further complications. The more partners you have, the more risk. You have to have some heuristic for selecting and limiting partners. And you need communication and honesty above all else with those partners.

    May 10 07 - 1:01pm

    in an unrelated note, how hard would it be to run a search and replace that would change /n into , you know so that one could use paragraphs in these comments?

    May 10 07 - 1:22pm

    I really appreciate that you point out that not everyone is involved in this hookup culture, that there are people who are focused, not on the weekend's hookup, but on their career, friends, activities, or just abstiaining for moral reasons. However, it is incredibly hard to be one of those people. As a young person in a culture where orgasms are so quickly and easily exchanged, people are being programmed to expect it right away. In my sphere of experience, there are very few guys, nice, rotten, or otherwise, who are interested in someone who won't give it up right away. Although I am not a member of the abstinance only/ no sex before marriage camp, I personally won't have sex outside of a relationship. And while the sentiment for a while has been "why should i marry someone I am not sexually compatable with?" in my circle it is evolveing to "why should I date someone I am not sexually compatable with?" This makes it hard for someone trying to keep their body count relatively low to even get a date. I realize that this may not be true everywhere, but where I live it is becoming the norm. The ultimate kick in the face however, is that these same guys, the ones who are more interested in something easy and painless, are the ones who form a guard around myself, and others like me, to make sure that we remain how we are. Because although they won't ever be interested, and neither will anyone they know, someone probably will be interested in us, and won't we be glad then that we saved ourselves? Just is case?

    May 10 07 - 6:14pm


    May 10 07 - 7:59pm

    This is a wonderful article!
    The author articulates so much of what I think about this issue.

    I'm tired of being made to feel by (mostly older) feminists that somehow I and my generation (college students and recent grads) are somehow totally letting down our elders by doing what college BOYS have been doing for ages--shagging left and right without guilt. It's deeply insulting to me that these women seem to subscribe to the very notions about gender roles and stereotypes (women need protection, girls can't have hookups and be emotionally ok like boys can, etc) they should be out to abolish.

    Much applause!

    May 11 07 - 11:33pm

    Am I missing something here? Did I not read this article closely enough? Seems to me that what's offensive about "Sarah"'s story isn't that she's having sex but that she and her peers seem to enjoy being labeled "ho's". There's nothing wrong with sex; there IS something wrong with young women and men creating a merry and flippant social context around the word "WHORE". The n-word is still the n-word even if it ends in an A...

    May 11 07 - 5:18pm

    Jeez, man, I'm all for having plenty of sex with whomever you want, but the way you paint it, two things happen: (1) I get the distinct impression of a young woman who, despite her protests, isn't really having much fun at all ("frequent and unsatisfying sex with goateed liberal arts majors who cared more about finding themselves on Kerouacian road trips than locating the clitoris"); and (2) it makes you sound thoroughly, lamentably, completely self-centered and shallow ("Hooking up with someone on a Saturday night didn't require us to follow up with brunch on Sunday, which worked out well, because we had a lot of homework to finish before The O.C. came on."). Is the point of this article *really* meant to be "Hooray, now self-involved college girls can have rough, mediocre, emotionless sex with comparably self-involved boys"?

    May 12 07 - 3:19pm

    This article makes a lot of great points, but I want to add that the appeal of no-strings-attached sex isn't always a choice based on practical aspects like lack of time, career, school etc. A lot of times it is an emotional choice based on the fear of getting hurt. And I don't mean this in a condescending sense that "young women need to be protected." It goes both ways. College age people have often never had a real relationship or they have had one--that broke their heart. Many men and women at that stage of life are looking for something that isn't threatening emotionally: aka stupid frat boys or sorostitutes that have zero potential for long-term entanglements. I know I was scared of a real emotional connection at that age. So I think subdude has a great point about "nice boys" getting the shaft, but intelligent, nice, interesting young women aren't any better off. Twenty year old guys just want a dumb blonde with big tits. I think it just takes a few years for young adults to gain some confidence and be willing to take an emotional risk and get involved with people they might have real connection with. The whole issue is a lot more complicated than promiscuous girl=slut vs. promiscuous girl=empowered.

    May 12 07 - 7:30pm

    This article seems to perpetrate the idea that you can either have a relationship of quickie no strings sex.

    When I was in college it seemed like most sex was not so either/or but more of a mix between the two.

    I'm not sure that the argument made in this article is that different from the old Madonna/Whore stuff of my parents generation.

    Why is it so hard to get that sometimes girls just want to get laid and sometimes they want relationships - and they are allowed to want and have both.

    Jun 19 07 - 10:08am

    Forgive me, but nothing has really changed over the years. I turn 40 this year (which means I graduated about 20 years back). Sure girls did not flash their sexual exploitations then like they do now, but "same shit different day". Being a male with four older sisters (educated, attractive, intelligent, athletic and sexually active) gave me a clear insight into what attractive popular girls do - whatever they want. They were just smarter back then. They knew no self respecting man would place much respect on a woman that held sex in such low regard (fuck'em sure - date no). Maybe that approach is rooted in insecurity - who knows for sure. I do know that as men age and look for long term commitments, women with spotted sexual histories are not looked on with much admiration (what chick can't get laid???). The pornification of this generation (by male dominated media) has lead women of this generation to bend over without enough thought to the consequences. As a young guy, I was pretty lucky, smart, attractive enough and well funded. I could bed down most any women I pursued. "Fat nights", "most women in a 24 hour period" etc. were games we and my friends played (and our undoubtably still being played on these girls today). I stopped playing those games because I could not remove myself emotionally, but many of my friends played on. In my opionion, the emotional baggage of these choices are yet to rear their ugly heads. When the sexual power changes hands (the sun shines on a woman but a short time) there has to be more there to sustain mental well being.

    Aug 18 07 - 3:30pm

    Um, sleeping around is not feminism.

    I think you get that in 101.

    Jun 15 10 - 4:32am

    Don't confuse "nice guy" with self-deprecating. A "nice guy" is as unattractive as any frat boy because at the heart of most of it(but not all) is it's falsehood. It is employing a sense of decorum you believe should be socially acceptable over true feeling and intentions.
    "Nice Guys" tend to feel the need to be submissive, even apologetic about their wants and desires, as if their self worth is irrational and unimportant. An extension of the guilt and self hatred Flanagan and her ilk would have over fulfilling their own desires.
    What you want matters. What you feel matters. Don't apologize for it and tell that girl that you don't want to be her friend, you want to be her boyfriend. If she's still not into you, she will still be your friend and respect you for it. If she is, then you are five by five and living entirely large. In any event, you have freed yourself from the shackles of self censorship and loathing. I think Susan B. would be proud.

    That being said, Annsley is super cute. Ridiculously so. And a Jack Kerouac novel about his long, hard journey finding the clitoris would sell like hotcakes
    Send complaints, witty repertoire and pictures of cute literaries to

    Sep 06 10 - 7:58pm

    wow as a "nice guy" all i can say is that I suppose I'm part of a dying breed. I've seen at school and many other places and I guess smart, nice guys just don't have a place in your world. That is something that you'll miss though in the end because after you've been hurt and lonely for long enough and come looking for someone better good luck finding that guy. Because by then those "nice guys" will remember how they got rejected and will have found someone else. Your loss I just hope you can live with that later.

    Sep 18 10 - 10:13pm

    I don't understand how it's possible to be completely sexually frustrated in college. College is when you can present yourself as anything and everything you want to become! I was not a frat guy by any means, but hardly goateed either, and not only did I have no trouble locating the clitoris, I even showed one girl where her g-spot was, she didn't know (she was like "WOW, what are you doing??" and I was like , "it's magic.") But that was then. This is now. It's far easier to be sex-starved in your mid-to-late 20s, especially in this recession, and especially with a liberal arts degree. This is because you are no longer seen as pure potential, but also a track record of worldly achievement or lack thereof. (See this graphic: But mark my word. One day I will make lots of money, and will move out of my mom's house again. And then, watch out..!

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    Oct 01 10 - 8:10pm

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    Nov 05 10 - 12:41am

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    Feb 18 11 - 9:47am
    Keygen Rory

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    May 30 11 - 4:06am

    All kinds of people in this world. People are still people, no matter how popular culture changes. I can be bitter thinking about all the sex I missed out on, but when I think back there were plenty of nice girls who were willing to give me a chance, but I blew it, pursuing the wrong girl and putting off the other girl who actually liked me until it was too late.

    There were plenty of loose shameless women in the 60s 70s and 80s. The vast majority of women I know do not give their bodies out indescriminately and they are concerned with finding/maintaining a meaningful relationship. And some people do grow up and realize what's important. I'm still learning.

    Dec 19 11 - 3:46pm
    Kevin USA

    Here's the deal, girls who give it away and blow every guy that comes along, are hot for a few days, then we american men get bored. Almost no one of us is going to have a serious relationship with a girls that just blew half the dorm.

    College girls having sex without commitment isn't new, it's just the how much it's done now, and that it's celebrated in the media as something good. As well as girls used to know, that after college, this kind of attitude can backfire alot. i don't have anything against casual sex, and it can be done with a certain amount of decency. Meaning a girl may only blow one guy at a time.