ANDINO: Clarifying the Sex Week debate

As a co-founder of the Undergraduates for a Better Yale College (UBYC), I am delighted at the overwhelmingly positive response we have received so far. Students, alumni, faculty and parents have signed our petition, sent us emails and called us to encourage our efforts and ask how they could help. Freshmen and sophomores have shown particular enthusiasm; I am glad that those who will be here after I am gone are taking action about the future Yale they will inherit.

Amidst so many positive developments, we are not much fazed by the relatively scant criticism we have received. With the exception of one or two kind, patient e-mails seeking to explain a point of view and then understand where we are coming from, most criticism has taken the form of straw man arguments, mischaracterization and exaggeration. Keeping this in mind, then, and understanding that I, too, am capable of misunderstanding people’s words, I want to clarify UBYC’s aims by responding to the pair of op-eds that have been leveled against us.

In a column harshly titled “Exacerbating Yale’s rape culture” (Sept. 21), four Title IX complainants made the case that by “seeking silence” on sexual issues, “the Undergraduates for a Better Yale College (UBYC) create a culture of violence.” We are accused of “suppressing dialogue around intimacy.” But it is abundantly clear on our website, and in all of our materials, how eager we actually are to talk about intimacy — it is the key element, along with respect, responsibility and, above all, interpersonal love, in any healthy relationship, and it is what we find so conspicuously lacking in Yale’s romantic culture, especially in Sex Week. If the column’s authors have misunderstood our point, we apologize and rephrase: We are not seeking to stop discussion on sex and intimacy. Rather, we are seeking to improve that discussion.

Intimacy implies affection, warmth, friendship — true closeness. When we reduce sex to merely gratifying a physical urge, we do not create intimacy, but isolate ourselves from each other. We take the most intimate act possible and make it the loneliest. If we do not take an interest in the person we open ourselves to — replacing the love and warmth that should be present with impersonal efficiency, a desire to simply get our way and be done with it — that is selfishness and coldness: in the worst cases, it involves coercion and force. So we do not, as those Title IX complainants unfairly argue, assume “that sex itself is at the root of violence against women.” Rather, we assume that the selfishness of sex sought for its own sake, without love for the person involved, is the root of violence and all other sexual maladies. It is in intimacy that partners learn the ability to “draw their own lines of comfort through communication,” not in a culture of endless promiscuity, where the message is that we are unhealthy if we do not saturate our hearts with all of the insane “options” events like Sex Week present to us.

In his column “Yalies for minding your own business” (Sept. 20), Alex Chituc ’13 defiantly asserts that “my sexuality is my own, not a gift to be given or an object to be saved.” He is very right in asserting that his sexuality is his own. It is an inseparable part of intimate love to respect boundaries and not to try to take what is not freely given. However, the character of his statement is revealed in his next sentence: “The choice of who I share this with, be it with the woman I love, or that QPac girl I met at Toad’s my freshman year, is mine, and mine alone.” Regardless of whether we attach moral weight to questions of sexuality, Mr. Chituc’s is an inescapably self-centered attitude, in the most literal and objective sense. “Mine, and mine alone.” Such words are unbecoming on the playground or in the nursery when we are talking about toys — how much more so when we are talking about the most intimate experiences we can share with other human beings.

The Undergraduates for a Better Yale College wish to call Yale to treat love and intimacy in their fullness, and not stripped bare to their most immediately gratifying aspect. UBYC calls for the greatest possible dialogue. Accordingly, I ask future opponents to justify their opposition by facing the points we actually propose. Not with groundless accusations of promoting a culture of silence, not by aggressively asserting that we are sticking our noses in people’s personal lives, but by facing the question squarely: Can Yale promote a more enriching dialogue about sex and intimacy than that which is currently accepted?

Eduardo Andino is a junior in Trumbull College and a member of Undergraduates for a Better Yale College.

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