On their website, they say they “believe Yale can do better.” In their eyes, they’re making a stand against our campus’ prevalent sexual climate — and they know they’re right.
To others, they’re everything from repressed, self-loathing Victorians to killjoys who should stay at Global Grounds to representatives of a larger division at Yale.
In the pages of this very publication, they’ve been called everything from “joyless prudes” to “puritanical.”
They don’t particularly care what you call them. They’re happy with their successes and are eager to fight for more.
Meet Undergraduates for a Better Yale College. They don’t believe in moral relativism, they don’t want your talk of “consent” and “live and let live,” and they’re ready to lay out a hundred and one reasons why.
“A number of events last year were indicative of a negative sexual environment on campus, such as the DKE incident, the Title IX complaint and that infamous email where Dean [of Student Affairs] Marichal Gentry spoke about ‘glorious consensual sex,’ ” said Eduardo Andino ’13, one of the three co-founders of the organization. “The problem is our obsession with sex and the pursuit of pleasure, and UBYC hopes to address that problem at its roots.”
Andino is used to giving these answers. He’s been interviewed by everyone from the YDN to MSNBC. After he and his friends established UBYC last semester, and put up a controversial flyer calling out to Yalies dissatisfied with the campus hookup culture, the group has become something of a phenomenon, in large part due to its determination to shut down or otherwise handicap Sex Week, Yale’s bi-annual, quasi-sex-ed-related week of events celebrating the glorious big S.
“People call us all these names — it’s baffling to them that somebody could even question the hookup culture or suggest that Sex Week is bad,” said Isabel Marin ’12, another UBYC co-founder.
In her eyes, UBYC is a one-issue group set on helping stable, monogamous, long-term relationships triumph over hook-up culture. And that means not just opposing Sex Week, but pushing for a general paradigm shift as well.
“If you’re willing to question random hookups, if you’re against friends with benefits, if you think the way to solve the sexual climate is by encouraging students to stay in serious, stable relationships,” Marin emphasized, “consider yourself an ally of UBYC.”
As things stand, how many students are willing to adopt that label is questionable. Andino said the largest turnout at a True Love Week event (not counting protesters) has been roughly 40 people, while, on average, they have drawn about 20.
“I’d like to see the rooms packed,” Andino said. He added that he has a “genuine” interest in getting to know the whole campus.
Perhaps the campus should get to know UBYC first.
When Courtney McEachon ’15 arrived at Yale from her Catholic all-girls’ high school in Buffalo, New York, last fall, she joined Choose Life at Yale (CLAY), an on-campus pro-life group. She had her mind made up about which direction she wanted to go at Yale: she became involved in CLAY, the William F. Buckley Jr. Program and the Federalist Party, groups that spoke to her “conservative religious perspective,” she said.
Then, at one CLAY dinner, she fell into the midst of a conversation that began months earlier. The main speakers: Andino, the president of UBYC and CLAY, and Marin, a senior member of the anti-abortion organization and part of UBYC’s troika of leaders.
“I heard about UBYC through Isabel and Eduardo, which was the same place I heard about Sex Week,” said McEachon, the sole freshman on the UBYC’s main organizing committee.
“They had to preface their explanation of UBYC with what Sex Week was — I understood it to be a series of very unsavory speakers talking about, you know, sex, pornography,” she continued.
Marin, Andino and Bijan Aboutorabi ’13, the group’s co-founders, began an email dialogue early last summer about recent events at Yale and the prospect of Sex Week being hosted just under a year on from Title IX. They agreed, Marin said, that a response was necessary. So they set out to bring together students from forums they considered likely to be home to those with viewpoints that matched theirs.
Travis Heine ’14, who is involved with CLAY and the Conservative Party of the Yale Political Union, said UBYC’s founders, friends of his, convinced him of the import of their mission early on last semester.
“At first, I thought, like many Yale students, that the Sex Week dialogue was useful based on [one’s] lifestyle,” he explained.
Heine and several other students friendly with UBYC’s leaders had similar conversations over the next few weeks — in suites and in dining halls — slowly but surely rallying behind UBYC’s ideology.
“There’s a lot of overlap with CLAY,” Andino admitted. But he added that this is because the two issues are tied. “They’re both social justice issues, not just conservative causes, that are protecting human rights and dignity in two different ways.”
Why UBYC’s issue is so pressing is a question Andino’s peers answer in different ways: while common causes may have brought the UBYC’s membership together for this battle and others, they come to the organization with varying perspectives that inform their individual understandings of its mission.
Marin, for one, was drawn to UBYC for its condemnation of Yale’s hook-up culture. Although she said she “fully participated in hook-up culture at one point,” she eventually realized that she was “not respecting [her]self.”
Reaching out to individuals who might also be both involved in and skeptical of the hook-up scene is a focus of the organization, according to Heine and Andino.
“We believe our views will make those people happier,” Heine said.
Still, Andino argued that it may take a “truly bad” hookup experience for someone to come around to the UBYC view.
Such is the position in which Marin found herself, she said. “It took somebody else to respect me more than I respected myself to make me realize I wasn’t respecting myself,” she explained.
With that realization, the self-described “super-liberal high school feminist” began to look at her former experiences in a different light.
What bothers Marin most now is the danger inherent to a culture based on loosely defined consent. She argued that, despite consent, the hook-up culture inevitably leads to violence against women, rape and sexual misconduct.
“It’s a pretence that you can fully communicate with someone you don’t know, especially about issues as powerful, as dangerous, as exciting as sex,” she said. “Real consent needs relationships — a hookup culture will just lead to rape.” A conservative feminist, Marin added that groups like the Women’s Center and the Consent and Communication Educators are often helpful only “after the fact.”
Unlike Marin, Heine and McEachon approach membership in the UBYC from more religious points of view.
Heine said that his own experience with the Bible confirmed the organization’s view that hookups necessitate an “unnatural separation” between emotions and actions.
McEachon explained that her Catholic beliefs mean that she never engaged with the hookup culture and that she mostly associates with “like-minded people.”
She added that her association with people who share her views means that she sometimes lacks exposure to other perspectives.
“A lot of times I can’t relate to some of the things in hook-up culture that I don’t know about,” she said. Heine and McEachon are both involved with groups of undergraduates who don’t participate in hook-up culture, seeking out their own forms of entertainment. But the fact that the groups are comfortable sidestepping Yale’s hook-up culture rather than attempting to reform it can make recruitment difficult.
Heine said that prior to speaking to UBYC’s founders, he too had “resigned [him]self” to the “majority culture” of Yale dances likes residential college screws, and tends to avoid them.
True Love Week has generated articles, protests and, perhaps most critically to UBYC’s mission, conversations. Yet where the group will go moving forward, in the absence of a clearly defined opponent like Sex Week, is unclear.
Andino said he wants to continue spreading an anti-hook-up message, particularly because Yale graduates are likely to play important roles later in their lives. “If we can produce individuals with that enthusiasm and that vision, we can increase happiness, trust and friendship,” he added.
Even in an ideal situation, establishing such an environment on just one campus may not necessarily lead to the broader cultural changes UBYC envisions.
“My friends at other colleges haven’t really come to be as sympathetic with the UBYC views,” said McEachon. “Some of them definitely see the effect of hook-ups on the campus culture at large, but they’re not willing to give it up.”
The battle may be “never-ending,” Heine said, but the organization’s increased visibility after True Love Week may be a cause for some UBYC celebration.
“I do think a change will come from people seeing that they are hurt by the sexual culture,” Andino said, “and that they don’t have to be embarrassed about the fact that they might want a relationship.”
Perhaps, then, we’ll one day come closer to Heine’s vision of an ideal night out: “toning down the whole hip-hop culture […] any dancing would be preferable to grinding.”