You've come a long way from puritanism, baby. The appreciably sexualized ethos that pervades the campus is a far cry from the ministerial asceticism taught here during Harvard's first two centuries. But don't mistake the current eroticism of daily life for the free love of the 1960s. No, Harvard is far from free, and far from lovely, in its complex of psycho-sexual mores.
Symptom Number One: The Grille. This past weekend I had occasion to venture down JFK St. for a pitcher of Red Dog. The crowd before midnight was a smattering of Harvard jocks, the Harvard women who love them and innumerable girls from Boston College who would like to. The Grille serves as a convenient hangout for them because of its easy accessibility to men and, it seems, open-door policy for women. Besides, it has cheap beer, the preferred drink of the "sporting set."
Despite the Grille's fraternity-like decor, the college bar isn't your Rockwellian image of sentimental Americana. Like the students on this campus, the bar's aesthetic hides its real purpose. While the students are, generally, a national brain trust, the Grille is actually the representation of the institutional objectification of women. After midnight, drunken final club boys start carousing intimately with the women who surround them, absorbed as they are in the myth of immediate gratification. Having taken on a life of its own, this so-very-American notion of instant recompense, having directly transferred from the consumer sphere, now dominates the sexual mores of American men. Because sports men at Harvard are more like white-bread Americans than their peers, they are particularly given to this sort of pleasure-seeking.
Establishments like the Grille are respected by society, through pop culture appreciation. They are tolerated by the State, which seldomly enforces the drinking age. As victims of these larger social trends, women are forced to enter into this distinctly male domain. Female consent to sexual advance is all but assumed, often by cohorts of both sexes. (Why else would they be at the Grille?) College women therefore show no shame in hooking up with their male peers, in public or in private. What do the men offer in return? Some beer. A cheap Sea Breeze, perhaps. And with a high five to their drinking buddies, and their friend guarding the front door, they escape back to the houses for some amoral fornication.
Perhaps it isn't the act of hollow sex which itself is so base. Perhaps it is the notion of it, even at Harvard, as an act that calls forth pride enough to don a pin and strut like a peacock. The celebratory reception of sexual conquest in the drinking culture is quite barbaric. Can men's sexual indulgence represent anything more than a pillage of females given their propensity to speak of in it terms of booty? Obviously, sex has no meaning to them beside its pleasurable one.
Such a conclusion should come as no surprise. Notions of self-control and abstinence are absolutely foreign to this generation, and are fought against by it as repressive measures of a reactionary regime. Truthfully, there have never been reasonable arguments against immediate sexual gratification--besides fear of AIDS--presented to us either in secondary school or on this campus. The Sexual Revolution screwed morality. By affecting a morally neutral pretense with respect to sex on campus, Harvard furthers the reign of hedonism in the social sphere.
This objectification of sex has effected incalculable damage on the mental psyche of American youth. The sexual realm is one of youth's most formative experiences; it becomes value neutral along with sexual practice. Could such a black hole of morality be the cause behind a return to religion at Harvard? Most definitely; students have become overwhelmed by the nebulous and ultimately unsatisfactory state of momentary knowledge. They are searching for greater, more absolute truths and moralities that fall precisely within the realm of the University. Yet Harvard remains aloof in the debate over a value-less world. The disturbing scene at the Grille is the result of such a moral void.