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.

Comments

  • The Anti-Yale

    All or nothing? All intimacy ? All fun? There’s a half-way point. This article sounds like a call for everyone to seek intimacy as the ultimate human experience. (That seems like a rather modern, pop-psychology view of human existence.) Further, it surreptitiously revives in Puritannical-residue the notion sex SHOULD NOT simply be recreation because that might be sin.

    My impression is that the word and the phenomenon ***sex*** –”decoupled” (excuse the pun) from procreation as it has been in the last 30 years, is currently in search of a new cultural definition but saddled with both archaic and emerging definitions: We are experiencing re-birth pains of sex, so to speak.

    • River_Tam

      Recreation is the wrong word – there is meaningful fun and frivolous fun.

  • ldffly

    The four Title IX complainants actually wrote “‘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.’” No longer should anyone brag that no stupid people attend Yale. I don’t have a difference of opinion here. I just think this is plain dumb.

  • alsoalsoanon

    If your goal is to expand the discussion, then why not call for an expansion of Sex Week? No one is criticizing you for having alternative views — you are being criticized for not letting others (including those behind Sex Week) have their voice.

    • River_Tam

      Because Sex Week is broken. Its leadership/organizers are the pathetic sex-obsessed narcissists that are causing this problem. The solution is not to seek a seat at the proverbial table – the solution is to send the table through the wood chipper.

  • River_Tam

    Everyone who opposes me is a dinosaur who wants to go back to the 1700s. They also probably want slavery reinstated and hate black people and teh gays.

    There you go – now you can tune 90% of Yale liberals out.

  • rm13

    “Freshmen and sophomores have shown particular enthusiasm”

    So the most enthusiastic people are the ones who haven’t actually experienced Sex Week? Telling.

    • River_Tam

      Maybe they just haven’t gotten inured to the constant sexual bombardment.

      Maybe it’s a generational shift – we can only hope.

  • geezeebee

    The stupidity here stems from the solipsistic impulse to assume everybody conceptualizes sexual activity as the author does. Here’s an example: “we are talking about the most intimate experiences we can share with other human beings” This second “we” is characteristic of the tendency to universalize what is true only to the author. More mature people realize that, in fact, personal relationships can be far more intimate than sexual relationships, and that sex can often be fun and exciting for all parties involved without any bearing on personal relationships. The idea that sexual and personal relationships are inextricably fused is a puritanical one from which our culture has spent a long time recovering.

    We should not take for granted your assertion that there is always virtue in a multiplicity of perspectives and the addition of more “voices” in a dialogue. When a position is one that has been largely phased out of our culture due to its idiocy, we need not listen carefully to its attempt at resurgence. Please go away.

  • River_Tam

    How do all the “Sex Week doesn’t trivialize sex!” crowd feel about geezeebee making you look bad now?

    I quote from him/her:
    > “sex can often be fun and exciting for all parties involved without any bearing on personal relationships.”

    > “The idea that sexual and personal relationships are inextricably fused is a puritanical one that our culture has spent a long time recovering from.”

    • geezeebee

      Hellloo! My views were not conditioned by sex week; I have never attended a sex week event! It’s hardly fair deduce “Sex week trivializes sex” from my comment. Furthermore, it’s not even fair to say that I have trivialized sex; you have to have a very dour notion of “fun and exciting” to assume that is what I’ve done.

  • All_Yall

    I find it strange that the members of UBYC assume that meaningful, “warm” sex can only occur in the context of a long-term, “loving” relationship, and that casual sex cannot also involve its share of interpersonal connection. In my experience, sex can be a wonderful expression of enjoyment of someone new in your life- a way to explore them, worship their body and personal qualities that you enjoy, giggle together, talk about preferences, figure out what the other likes both in sex and in life. I have had “casual” sex like this with someone I met the same night, and nothing about it feels like objectification. Or “hedonistic” (by the way, THAT is the kind of language that makes you sound puritannical) Casual or short-term does not mean self-serving.

    Insisting that their narrow view of the “correct” context for sex is the only one that should be discussed is repugnant to me. Certainly sex within an exclusive, long-term relationship can be warm and wonderfully fulfilling, and is DEFINITELY an option worth discussing, but insisting it is the only acceptable one is downright insulting. Should I not be free to explore sexual activity with people I like when I like to? Is sex a pleasurable but somehow red-letter activity that two people have to “earn” by being together for a certain amount of time, or after having learned the right amount about one another? At what point has my partner earned the right to my body? Am I witholding my affections until he proves himself in some way, or takes me on enough dates, or spends enough money? I am uncomfortable with the idea that sexual activity must be withheld until a good enough offfer (“love”? a certain number of weeks?) is proposed in exchange.

    By claiming that theirs is the only valid model of sex, UBYC completely robs me of my agency to decide when and with whom I want to engage in sexual activities. Trying to shut down Sex Week is like saying, no. We’ve decided what type of sex is best for you, children, so don’t worry about figuring it out for yourself.