ANDINO: Treat Sex Week with prudence

Aristotle describes prudence as the virtue of practical reason. It is something akin to not only correctly identifying the right thing to do in a particular situation, but also then actually doing what we know to be best.

To be prudent has unfortunately taken on a new meaning. We use it to describe being cautious. In the case of seeing an injustice being committed, we might keep our mouths shut because it might be “imprudent” to put your neck out on the line. But in fact, speaking up for justice and doing the right thing is prudent in the true sense of the word. It is the logical conclusion of believing in justice — to act on it. It is here that I express my frustration with the conventional wisdom on campus and President Levin. I instead commend an ally in the cause of opposing Sex Week: the Marshall Committee.

The Marshall Committee, with its recommendation that Sex Week be dissolved, makes a bold but reasonable statement: A culture that celebrates casual sex “leaves young adults uncertain of how to address problematic behavior, develop their own standards of conduct,” and, in the worst cases, can often “blur boundaries of what consent means.” Sex Week at Yale promotes a culture that celebrates casual sex and thereby compounds the aforementioned ills. Therefore, out of concern for students on campus, Sex Week should be disbanded. It is a sound argument with prudent and practical action as its conclusion.

President Levin, in what I respectfully criticize as a desire to take a prudent (read: cautious) stance, endorsed the committee’s less effective recommendations — expanding campus bureaucracies and student training programs — and took an ambiguous stance on its more controversial Sex Week decision. But the recommendation to expand freshman orientation programs on consent out into sophomore year and institute mandatory councils for leaders of campus organizations does not solve the problem. It is a safe and uncontroversial solution that everybody will applaud because it is an easy, concrete step. But, again, this is prudent in the cautious sense. A real change in culture will not come from an ever increasing schedule of uninspiring information sessions.

I cannot help but believe that President Rihard Levin found the committee’s case against Sex Week compelling. It is why he recommended that Sex Week propose a new schedule before it be permitted to proceed in 2012. And yet, in a prudent (read: cautious) desire not to stir more controversy, he cited as an excuse the ambiguous reasons of corporate sponsorship and students’ “private inurement” — which really had nothing to do with the topic — rather than the degrading and dehumanizing message of Sex Week.

Yesterday, on this page, Nathaniel Zelinsky asserted that he supports the right of Sex Week to exist, even if he finds it distasteful. What I find most surprising about Zelinsky’s stance is its inconsistency with the type of conservatism I would expect to find in the head of a student organization named after William F. Buckley.

Conservatism implies that there is something worth conserving. It implies the existence of truth and the acknowledgment that a just and truly free society is not that in which a value-neutral public sphere unwittingly allows for mass indoctrination to nihilism but in which citizens are given the opportunity to discover a deeper meaning to their lives than robotic gratification.

Sexuality and conservatism meet in the institution of the family, an institution whose importance to society Bill Buckley understood well. The question of the family cannot be separated from the question of sexuality. When commitment and faithfulness dissolve, so does the family, and so does a free society. When individuals become isolated agents seeking their own good without consideration for those close to them, the individual and his community of loved ones is no longer the permanent and identifiable building block of society.

When the family is questionable and dissolvable, there is no option but that the state becomes the central unifying institution for individuals. Rather than government existing for the good and protection of individuals and their family units, individuals exist for the sake of the state. We can forget about even defending free speech at all if family-centered society is subsumed into a disturbing state-centered dystopia. That a moral society is a prerequisite for a healthy society is a basic tenet of conservative thought and is the justification for both social and economic conservatism.

Therefore, with all due respect to Zelinsky, I cannot help but think that his unwillingness to take a truly conservative stance against Sex Week is imprudent in the true sense. Indeed, it is the purpose of a university to foster those values that are conducive to a free society: The liberal arts are the studies worthy of a free person. The very reason we have laws is that we believe a greater truth is preserved when we limit other freedoms, and the university has the particular role of forming good citizens, which implies fostering respect for human beings.

I ask all parties involved to remember the virtue of prudence. If we desire to see true change we must be honest about the root of the problems, our attitudes towards sexuality, and fundamentally change them by setting the right example and sending the right message about harmful campus activities.

Eduardo Andino is a junior in Trumbull College and a co-founder of Undergraduates for a Better Yale College. Contact him at eduardo.andino@yale.edu.

Comments

  • yale716

    “to discover a deeper meaning to their lives than robotic gratification.”
    Someone has obviously never had good, meaningful sex. Who was it that made you feel degraded and dehumanized?
    Everyone is so sick and tired of you, Undergraduates for a Better Yale College. Just. Stop.
    You speak so highly of freedom, but all you do is make me feel oppressed as a woman on this campus. If I wanted to be made to feel ashamed about my sex life, I would have gone to BYU. But, I came to Yale, because I wanted to learn how to be a grown up in the real world who has to deal with sex. Yale has given me a great environment to do so, and I am happy and fulfilled.
    My sex life has no effect on you or this campus.

    • teusz16

      Made an account just to support this comment. Wake up, Undergraduates for a “Better” Yale College; you’re only hurting.

    • burnttoast99

      Made an account just to provide a counterpoint to this comment.

      Someone obviously misunderstood the author’s point. Yes, many conservatives are espousing archaic views that shouldn’t be applicable to today’s society. However, that doesn’t mean whenever someone expresses a view against casual sex doesn’t mean that they are trying to make you feel oppressed as a woman. I believe the author isn’t against sex but simply against casual, drunken, unmeaningful sex and making Sex Week into a porn exhibition (aka “robotic gratification”). Sure, you can say, what’s wrong with porn being in the conversation, but I can bet that if you go on any website that gives advise about sex (say Cosmo) you’ll find advise against reenacting a porn movie because that what they do in porn movies actually isn’t the most pleasurable way to have sex.

      The purpose of rebooting Sex Week isn’t to oppress you but to once again begin a good conversation about good, meaningful sex. This is why the author speaks out against Levin’s decision to expand bureaucracy and “uninspiring training” instead.

      Tl;dr, while I think many conservatives are being overly archaic, on the other hand, there are also people like you who jump at any minutia of conservatism as an attempt to oppress your sex life. Neither is helping the discussion. All we want is to keep sex good and meaningful.

      • zoey

        What’s bothersome about this article is the vague concept of “good, meaningful sex.” It has no real meaning and can be used to attack more liberal (yet still healthy) views on sex that “conservatives” don’t agree on. Keeping sex good and meaningful doesn’t mean being quiet about it. In fact keeping the “status quo” means maintaining ignorant and, often, gender-oppressive views on sex. While I agree, many of the events of sex week are meant purely for provocation, deterring the people who actually should attend sex week, the concept of sex week — openness, conversation, and acceptance– is still something that we need at Yale. Our bodies as sexual bodies is a topic that so many people, especially at Yale, are ignorant about. Everyone has made a big issue about the porn thing (which still needs to be discussed) but there are so many other topics in which we need healthy conversation — masturbation, oral sex, virginity, contraceptives, homosexuality, hair. I just hope that the current sex week is replaced with something that fills in what is really needed at Yale.

        Digression: So many magazines and female friendly websites advertise acting out a porn scene. Trust me, It’s fun.

  • basho

    Both UBYC and the sex week people are damn BORING

  • strauss1

    I stopped reading when you name-dropped Aristotle.

    • LtwLimulus90

      typical of the members of YUBC that I know

  • RexMottram08

    A majority of New Yorkers surveyed by a classical radio station think Beethoven was a dog. It is the price paid for isolation from a larger culture. Knowledge of what happened before us is not a hobby. To call someone a history buff is like calling someone a DNA buff. We are walking inheritances, and if we do not know about people who lived before us, we cannot know ourselves. Lacking experience of what Matthew Arnold called “the best which has been thought and said,” we cannot prudently reject the worst that has been thought and said.

    Prudence is the guide for its fellow natural virtues: it discerns justice, which in turn justifies temperance, which then tempers courage. Aristotle called prudence “right reason in action.” Prudence analyzes experience, correctly judges what is right and wrong, and acts accordingly. It is imprudent to underestimate the machinations of evil.

  • user_name

    this is idiotic
    breaking news: there is no absolute truth. thought you would have figured that one out by now.
    conserving delusions only makes you waste time and miss opportunities, all for the sake of arbitrary principles you hold in your narrow mind to convince and comfort yourself that the world is simple and understandable. you would go as far as to bend all rationality to your specific end, ignoring the other side of things and the grey areas in between as nothing more than “evil.” guess what: this world has no single narrative. in a world as complex as this, it’s just so incredibly sad when one narrows their mind and perspective to one string of bullshit.

    in any case, sex week only adds to experience, and thus to judgement. one who fully experiences such a week can still come to your conservative doctrine if it is truly so superior by their own judgement.

    • LtwLimulus90

      re-read your first sentence and try and figure out why it is idiotic standing on its own.

      • user_name

        Look past the surface. I could have easily written, “it is more likely that there is no absolute truth in this world”
        attack the meat of the argument if you must respond.

    • yayasisterhood

      “This is idiotic breaking news: there is no absolute truth.”

      Do you realize that this is akin to saying, “All generalizations are false”? Also, do you have any evidence to support your self-contradictory claim?

  • JEThirteen

    The idea that preserving a particular model of the family and sexual relations is essential for free speech and individual rights, and that Sex Week is somehow the thin edge of a wedge that ends in ‘a disturbing, state-centered dystopia’, is one of the more curious instances of paranoia that I’ve encountered.

  • River_Tam

    Eduardo hasn’t yet figured out that a lot of conservatives at Yale (and at liberal institutions in general) will talk about how much like William F Buckley they are, but when the rubber meets the road, they’re more concerned with being well-liked by their liberal classmates than they are about any consistent set of principles.

    See also: David Brooks.

    • croncor

      Fortunately, I don’t think Eduardo is in that category.

  • qwertyqazol

    There’s a reason why so many activities and hypothetical events are not allowed to ever occur. To say that one should attend sex week to add to one’s experiences is to say that anti-Semitic events or activities degrading women or instruction on physical torture should all be given on campus for the sole purpose of expanding one’s horizons and allowing one to form a more educated opinion and ultimately choose the better doctrine. EVERYTHING can add to experience, but that doesn’t mean that everything is good or necessary. Is sex as harmful as the aforementioned concepts? The way it’s so casually approached on campus prevents the development of a clear perception of pleasure and meaning to life, degrading morals to the level of a common beast (animal) and to the point that those affected don’t even realize the impact they have been dealt.

  • RexMottram08

    “there is no absolute truth” he asserts absolutely.

    LOL @ user_name

    • River_Tam

      Only a Sith deals in absolutes.

  • The Anti-Yale

    “Conservatism implies that there is something worth conserving. It implies the existence of truth”

    Above all else, William F. Buckley believed freedom of speech ( intellectual debate) was worth conserving, and that that belief was truth.

  • lollercoaster

    This is an extremely thoughtful op-ed and I do agree with what it being said. Well written, Eduardo.

  • connman250

    Animals know how to do sex like it was ment to be. Humans have to make an industry out of sex and also have weeks dedicated to it.

    • ac826

      Because only humans have let Puritanism lead to repressed and incredibly unhealthy notions about sexuality.

      I can’t imagine bonobos would rally behind UBYC’s cause.

      • connman250

        Did you ever consider that sex is best kept private. Who really cares how one gets their rocks off? So just get a room already!

  • es1212

    I’m going to ask the questions I’ve tried hard to push out of my mind because — especially when I read screeds like this one — they repulse me to the core.

    Have you gotten laid, Eduardo Andino? Can you tell me what it feels like to be empowered, dehumanized, or completely neutral towards casual sex as someone who’s engaged in it? Have you watched porn? Have you watched woman-positive porn that’s not about subjugation, but mutual pleasure? Can you offer this campus an alternative to the kind of speech your group has encouraged Levin to ban? Can you put forth a moral model of sex?

    tl;dr: Do you know what the hell you’re talking about?

    • River_Tam

      > Have you gotten laid, Eduardo Andino?

      Stay classy.

      > Have you watched woman-positive porn that’s not about subjugation, but mutual pleasure?

      Could exist in theory, doesn’t exist in practice.

      • domlawton

        “Could exist in theory, doesn’t exist in practice.”

        That’s just not true. Most porn is absolutely rife with terrible problems, misogyny chief among them, but somehow I doubt you’ve had the chance to go through the full and vast archive of existent pornography just to make sure that there’s no such thing as porn that genuinely celebrates female sexuality.

        • River_Tam

          > but somehow I doubt you’ve had the chance to go through the full and vast archive of existent pornography just to make sure that there’s no such thing as porn that genuinely celebrates female sexuality.

          Please, enlighten me. (btw, homemade videos don’t count, or else I’d count Kim Kardashian’s sex tape as woman-positive porn)

  • connman250

    Why does anyone need to come to Yale to discuss sex? You all could have saved your parents some money or donate it to charity and just go to the nearest bar in Timbucto, Iowa and get yourself a piece of meat.

    • River_Tam

      Because Yalies have deluded themselves into thinking that Sex Week is high-faluting intellectual discussion instead of just a low-level circlejerk.

    • domlawton

      Because people actually have sex at Yale, and discussing it is a necessary component of making it both good and safe.