Surely there are enough intrusions into the privacy of your bedroom without my asking yet another boundary crossing question. No reality TV for me, thank you very much. My own life-with which I can barely keep up-entertains me just nicely; I can't imagine trying to stay abreast of what somebody else is doing, thinking, feeling on an uninhabited island or in New Jersey. But at the risk of intruding into your reality, here's a thought experiment: do you think the teenagers and young adults in your life have ever been physically intimate sober?
Stated even more inappropriately: do you think your kids have ever had sex when they weren't drunk or stoned?
If this question is too uncomfortable to think about, consider your next door neighbor's kid rather than your own. Or think about kids in a distant community, but the question remains: are sexually active kids having sex sober?
I'm going to argue that, for the majority of teens and young adults the answer is "No." I'm going to suggest that for many young folks, the only circumstance under which they have sex, especially with a new partner, is when they have been drinking alcohol or smoking pot.
Could they be conceptualizing the process as follows? I don't like the way I look; I'm embarrassed about my body. My whole life, every advert I see insists that I am simultaneously too tall, too short, too fat, too thin and that I smell bad. No way I'm going to live in this skin and in all my anxiety. If I'm drunk, it doesn't count. If I don't want to remember what I did, I can remember what I did any way I want.
Or like this? I have absorbed the message that I'm supposed to be an insensitive hunter without feelings or concerns, but I'm not sure that's who I am. I am going to deaden my feelings to three steps beyond numb so that I don't have to deal with any anxiety or recriminations. "After" I can just pretend nothing happened.
Sober sex, or what a researcher described as "eyes open" sex requires thought and thoughtfulness, communication and reciprocity-qualities not overly abundant in many marriages never mind youthful populations. A sober thought, "Maybe my partner would like this?" can be replaced by a fuzzy grope, "I might like that."
A goodly number of electrons were expended a couple months ago when the New York Times front page detailed the alleged rape of a young girl and the subsequent cover-up by campus police at Hobart and William Smith College. A similar incident at FSU got even bigger headlines although, if possible, an even smaller punishment for the alleged football star perpetrator.
Here is what I'm not going to do:
I'm not going to blame the victim. I'm not going to suggest that the young women were in any way at fault. They weren't provocative, they weren't "asking for it," they weren't "looking for trouble" by being at a fraternity party. They are blameless for the attacks.
These young women have suffered enough: from the vicious attacks during the incidents to the blatantly mishandled subsequent cover-ups. They-and the dozens more like them on campuses every year-don't need more castigating from me.
Here is what I am going to do:
I am going to remind all my young people that the best way not to get in a bar fight is to not go into a bar. I'm going to point out to all young women that yes, you are entitled to go out and listen to music at the venue of your choice and yes, you should be safe on your campuses. But no, "Nothing good happens after midnight." The first way to avoid being the victim of a brutal crime by these thugs is not to be where they are. Yes, the bad guys are everywhere. But the bad guys are especially well represented at fraternity parties where one of them just happened to show up with 300 gallons of alcohol. My advice is NOT to be at these parties. There's nothing good going on at these frats at two in the morning on a Saturday night/Sunday morning. Nothing. Ever. (The beach cleanups and tutoring of economically distressed populations that fraternities use to justify their existences? These activities, if they happen at all, are not happening at two in the morning.) What do these young women expect, that they're going to meet a decent man with whom they are going to have a meaningful romantic tryst? Decent men are less likely to be doing Jello shots and barfing off the balcony.
I am in favor of taking back the streets and speaking truth to power. I am in favor of safe campuses where young women can walk innocently to their dorms after sipping a convivial glass of Chardonnay. I like to believe that the meek shall inherent the earth, but in the meantime, I am not mortgaging the farm to go all-in on the meek. While I'm waiting for the meek to start coming back in the late innings and win some games, I'm going to remember that the best way to get out of trouble is to stay out of trouble. My young women need to focus on finding some sober companions and finding some sober fun. If you want to have sex, do so when you're ready and when you're not totally schnockered. You also may want to consider choosing a partner whom you'd like to see again--preferably when he's not wearing an orange jump suit.