An abstinence “revolution” underway in Cambridge may not make its way to New Haven, if the lukewarm responses of Yale students are any indication.
Two Harvard University students made national news recently for founding a student group called True Love Revolution to promote abstinence on campus. But while a number of Elis said they too plan to wait on sex until marriage, there seems to be little support for a similar group at Yale.
Harvard seniors Justin Murray and Sarah Kinsella formed True Love Revolution at the beginning of the school year to create a forum for discussing alternatives to what Murray called a “culture of hookups.” He said he noticed that while vigorous intellectual debate about many important issues takes place at Harvard, decisions about sexuality were rarely discussed.
“The common attitude on campus seems to be summed up by the slogan, ‘Come to our office for condoms and cookies,’ ” Murray said, referring to an offer extended by Harvard’s Room 13, a University-sponsored peer counseling group. “We’re trying to promote the idea that sex is much more serious than that.”
But apart from a Yale Facebook group called “Abstinence Is Sexy,” the Yale students who have decided to hold off on sex are maintaining a lower profile.
Kyle Gong ’09, who founded the Facebook group, said he intended to show those who had chosen to abstain from sex until marriage that they were not alone. But he said he did not want to create a more formal organization along the lines of True Love Revolution.
“I don’t think that putting up flyers or marking with chalk would be effective,” Gong said. “It’s a very personal subject and I don’t think it can be fully communicated in a short slogan or a little flyer. On the other hand, something like a Facebook group seems useful because it gives you a list of people that you can see support this and have other similar interests.”
Though many Harvard students reacted positively to True Love Revolution, Murray said, some have accused the group of judging them based on their sexual decisions.
The “Abstinence Is Sexy” group has been the target of similar criticisms, the most visible of which is an “Abstinence Isn’t Sexy” Facebook group whose description reads, “We have no problem with people who choose to abstain — just your pretentious moral superiority about it.”
“Abstinence Isn’t Sexy” member Roger Kim ’10, who said he joined because the group was funny, said though he did not believe in waiting for sex until marriage, groups that promoted abstinence did not bother him. Other students said they would have no problem if a group raised awareness about abstinence on campus as long as it was neither patronizing nor coercive.
“I would be very comfortable with a group like that as long as they didn’t have a condescending attitude,” said Colin Adamo ’10, who leads workshops on relationships and abuse in New Haven public schools as part of the Community Health Educators program. “If the group is there to remind us that abstinence is an option, that’s fine, but if they’re here to tell us we’re a disgrace … this is not really the place.”
Murray said that while True Love Revolution was not trying to place blame, part of the group’s mission is to convince people to choose an abstinent lifestyle.
“We’re trying to give people who have made that decision a network and a safe place,” Murray said. “But we’re also promoting abstinence not just as an option, but as a good option.”
Abstinence plays a role in the sexual health curriculum sponsored by University Health Services. Yale’s Peer Health Educators, a group of undergraduate students trained to provide information on topics such as substance abuse and safer sex practices, cover abstinence as well as other methods of contraception and ways to prevent sexually transmitted diseases in the Connections workshops for incoming freshmen.
Peer Health Educator Axel Schmidt ’09 said the Connections workshops are valuable because they provide freshmen with a range of information about sexual health without pushing one particular agenda.
“I think what is dangerous is abstinence-only education,” Schmidt said. “That violates the idea of access to information, because people are entitled to get information about health and sexuality issues.”
The “Abstinence Is Sexy” group has 76 members, while the “Abstinence Isn’t Sexy” group has 20.