Like a Virgin

Find a different confidence booster than making fun of celibate peers

A few days ago in a house dining hall I overheard a rather troubling conversation that has echoed throughout our campus like a hollow, unfunny joke.

One of the most outspoken advocates for The True Love Revolution (TLR) was walking past a table of four boys, and when he was beyond earshot one of them started snickering. The four then devolved into a fit of manly and obviously overcompensating laughter at the “virgin” who had just walked by.

I was startled, not so much at their immature behavior, but because I am pretty sure that at least two of those boys are still virgins themselves. And the way one of the virgin hecklers was sloppily scarfing his meal—well, it was clear that he’s no Casanova. But apparently, even at a place like Harvard, where most students get less ass than the dingy toilets in the fourth floor of Sever Hall, virginity is still something one must mock.

Beyond this one incident, I have seen other instances in which The True Love Revolution is derided in a silly and pointless manner. On several yard kiosks their posters were shredded, or intentionally covered up by the “Stewie Griffin’s Sexy Party” posters advertising Winthrop’s “Debauchery.”

And when several members of the True Love Revolution were flyering in front of the Science Center leading up to their semester’s introductory meeting, I overheard countless conversations that were gratuitously hostile. What ever happened to crumpling up flyers and throwing them into the trash (or recycling bin, for the environmentally-conscious)? Did “The 40 Year-Old Virgin” scare our campus so badly that we must now resort to this infantile manner of derision toward abstinent peers?

For those unfamiliar with The True Love Revolution, it was started last year by two Harvard undergraduates to promote abstinence as a lifestyle choice. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day the group took on a campaign to educate Harvard students about the benefits of chastity (hence the plurality of pink posters around campus with the heading “Sex: Why Wait”).

According to their website, the TLR has a good reason for promoting abstinence at Harvard: “Saving sex for marriage, we believe, can contribute positively to your physical and emotional health and improve the quality of your current and future relationships.” Most of their platform contains an abundance of “happy” words that make it really seem that abstaining from sex is just a positive state of being.

While I do not profess to believe in many of the tenets promoted by the TLR, I respect their existence. To me it’s encouraging that a large number of students have publicly proclaimed their commitment to a value that is important to them. And their current campaign is not at all heavy-handed. In fact, I don’t understand why several students feel it necessary to make fun of a campaign they could just as easily ignore. There are certainly more obnoxious campaigns that the TLR could have produced to get your attention.

They could have operated under an Alcoholics Anonymous precedent, with the introductory meeting consisting of a series of confessions in which everybody went around the room and declared whether or not they were authentic virgins (remember, it is never too late to declare one’s virginity). After all, this is Harvard—they could have gone ahead and assumed that the most nookie anyone has received in a while was a brush up against a thigh…on a shuttle.

Or, they could have ditched the “secular” façade they are operating under and literally scared the Hell into people–brought in guest speaker Jerry Falwell for a frank discussion on Sodom and Gomorrah and extended an invitation to Mel Gibson to come tell everyone about the (virginal) passion of Christ. A ritualistic burning of “The DaVinci Code” could have followed.

Lastly, they could have undertaken a campaign about how awful sex can be. I bet that pictures of herpes would frighten anyone back into chastity.

But, instead, our campus is stuck with the current civilized and unobnoxious campaign for the True Love Revolution. Ho hum.

Amidst the ridicule, I have not yet figured out why so many students have fixated on an unassuming student group. This situation really reflects a larger issue of tolerance. The TLR takes their campaign seriously, so perhaps instead of making fun of their ideas, try suppressing your childish impulse to mock what you disagree with.

If your self-esteem is bolstered by disparaging peers who are proud of their celibacy, consider finding a new way to gain personal confidence. When you learned the phrase “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” in kindergarten, you were really learning an important life lesson that rings all the more true when you’re on the receiving end of an unfunny joke.

So to those four boys—one of whom also needs to learn how to eat properly—and anyone else who has made a point of mocking the True Love Revolution, find something better to do with your time than needlessly make fun of someone’s lifestyle.

Jessica C. Coggins ’08 is a women, gender, and sexuality studies concentrator in Cabot House. Her column appears on alternate Thursdays.