Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Mixed-sex Dorm Rooms, Mixed up World

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First it was coeducation.Then it was young men and women in different wings of the same dormitories. Next we had the sexes sharing the same hallways and bathrooms. Now, this evolution (devolution?) has brought us sex-neutral housing, where male and female students can share the same room.

Already allowed in approximately 50 colleges nationwide, including some Ivy League schools, it’s a trend of which many parents are unaware. And they won’t always be consulted, either. Many schools, such as Harvey Mudd College, don’t allow parents to veto their child’s decision on housing. The thinking, I suppose, is that the students are over 18 years of age.

Two undergraduates cohabitating while coeducating are Pitzer College sophomores Kayla Eland and Lindon Pronto. Writing about their arrangement for the Los Angeles Times, Larry Gordon reports that they are neither heartthrobs nor homosexuals, just “compatible.” He says they seem to have a “warm brotherly-sisterly friendship,” which includes appearing in front of one another in underwear or even nude while changing clothes. Brotherly-sisterly? Why does this whole scenario make me think of the movie Deliverance?

Whatever the case with young Pronto and Eland, however, I’ll just roll my eyes and let it go. If someone steadfastly claims he’s an anomaly — often done when dangerously bucking reality (e.g., "No, drinking doesn’t affect my driving!") — pointing out the person’s mortal status is often a waste of breath. It’s best just to say: “OK, you may be an exception — but the exception that proves the rule.” And if the rule here escapes one, I suggest he not only has lost his youth, but forgotten it.

In fact, our whole civilization has forgotten much — by design. We have submitted to convenient mass delusion: Up is down, left is right, and right is wrong. Don’t spank children and they won’t learn violence, we say. Then, they become more violent and we warn against even uttering a harsh word, lest we hurt their self-esteem. They then become nastier and hurt each other’s self-esteem, and we prescribe Ritalin. Or, we tell ourselves that our strength lies in our diversity, which is much like saying our intelligence lies in our brain damage. And, doing our best "Cletus meets Caligula," we say that opposite sex youngsters can live in close quarters, unsupervised, without incident. Temptation? What’s that? Sex is a purely cerebral decision, sort of like moving the queen next to the king on a chess board, don’t you know?

It’s this kind of thinking that has placed women aboard naval vessels, which some wags now call “love boats.” No wonder, too, as approximately 10 to 12 percent of “sailorettes” are lost each year due to pregnancy. And, according to a 2005 study, 64 percent of those got pregnant unintentionally, despite the Navy carpet-bombing them with birth control. To make matters worse, the Pentagon has now decided that women may serve aboard submarines as well, with their tight living quarters. I wonder who will be the first baby conceived at 200 fathoms.

Now, prior to the days of delusion, people had a name for all these social experiments: Occasions of sin. Situations in which the temptation to do something you shouldn’t do is great, an example would be a man with a weakness for drink getting a bartending job or a profligate spender becoming a congressman. And there certainly are patterns to man’s behavior. If you hit someone, he’ll likely be tempted to hit you back; if you place a delicacy in front of hungry person, he’ll likely be tempted to eat. If you put 18-, 19-, and 20-something-year-old men and women together alone, in close quarters ... well, you can finish the sentence.

Thus, we should be under no illusions. If we’re willing to accept the consequences of our mixed-sex, mixed-up world — in the name of pleasure seeking or, as some call it, liberation — then we’ve made our decision. But as to what the consequences are there is no debate. The out-of-wedlock birthrate in the pre-pill, pre-sex-education, pre-Alfred Kinsey 1940s hovered around 4 percent; now it’s a staggering 40 percent.

Getting back to mixed-sex dorm rooms, you may wonder what inspired this particular cultural innovation. Was it mercenary colleges’ desire to serve an increasingly libertine market? Do they just want to be on the cutting edge? Actually, Larry Gordon reports that the reason is a bit different, writing, “College officials say the movement began mainly as a way to accommodate gay, bisexual, and transgender students.” He also provided an example: “Harvey Mudd College, next to Pitzer in the Claremont Colleges, began gender-neutral housing last fall mainly as an option for gay and transgender students.” As for Pitzer, Gordon writes that its “housing applications ask whether students prefer a roommate to be woman, man, ‘other,’ or have no preference.” Other? A dog perhaps?

Most notable about these stories, however, is the relativistic thread running through them. The title of Gordon’s piece is “Mixed-gender dorm rooms are gaining acceptance [emphasis mine].” Then, in reference to the debate over the morality of cohabitation, he quotes Kayla Eland as saying, “I definitely think it's generational [emphasis mine again].” Notice, no talk of morality, just acceptability; no talk of general principle, just generations’ preferences. What of moral guidance? If a generation accepted slavery, human sacrifice, and cannibalism — as people most everywhere once did — could moderns truly say it was wrong?

Whatever the case, Eland’s claim of compatibility with her roommate Pronto may have some credibility, as he said of the cohabitation debate: “I think those old-fashioned ways of thinking are kind of dissipating.... Over the years, this division between men and women, which was so big, is slowly closing.” It certainly is. Unfortunately for the Brave New Worlders, however, man’s nature doesn’t change. Ergo, a 40-percent illegitimacy rate, love boats in the Navy, and one-fourth of adult NYC residents infected with herpes.

So what is all this talking about acceptance, things generational and dissipating divisions? Are we to just believe that “values” change with the fashions and music (and, really, values are reflected by them), and there’s no rhyme or reason to it? Is it merely that the old fogies believe certain things — which can’t be as good as what we believe because they’re not us — we believe different things, and our kids will embrace something else still?

Harvey Mudd dean of residential life Guy Gerbick justified his school’s housing policy by saying, “If we are going into a post-gender world, then the regulation of private behavior is just not practical.” The reality is that this academic hasn’t the foggiest darn idea where we’re going or why we’re going there. Why not just cut to the chase and sanction bacchanalian campus orgies? With no vision of Truth as it relates to sexuality, we’ll be there in 40 years, anyway. To claim otherwise is like spreading the idea that there are no rules of human nutrition and that taste can be our only guide as to food choice, and then thinking there will nevertheless be a limit on how bad people’s diets will get.

We have become cultural junk-food junkies. And our diet will continue to worsen until we realize that taste is no substitute for Truth.

Photo: AP Images

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