Reading Harvey C. Mansfield’s review of Donna Freitas’s “Sex and the Soul”, I was struck by the foolishness of young people who (assuming Freitas is right) make the most personal sexual decisions according to a herd mentality.

…college students today enter a low hook-up culture when they leave the classroom. In case you don’t know, a hook-up is a brief sexual encounter between two partners who don’t necessarily know each other before and who don’t necessarily want to know each other after. And it’s free. The sort of transient sex that once was available to men only for money can now be had, without paying, from college women – as long as the man is a fellow student and minimally artful about his approach. If he is thwarted in one overture, he may try another with a reasonable prospect of success.
No doubt lurid anecdote and popular myth cause us to exaggerate the actual frequency of campus hook-ups: Most college students do not share in these delights. But most students also believe that “everyone does it,” even if the individual student, for some reason, cannot locate a partner. Thus an active minority sets the tone and makes hooking up a “culture.” When there are no sexual boundaries, either official or informal, the standard becomes the extreme, and all students feel the pressure to appear more promiscuous than they are. The traditional double standard of sexual conduct – more restrictive for women than for men – has been replaced by the single standard of the predatory male.

OK, leaving aside the question of whether the male sex drive is inherently predatory in nature, when I read that, I have to admit I found myself feeling some revulsion towards such apparently mindless followers. I don’t think individual sexual desires — or individual sexuality — should be dictated by peers or by a peer-driven culture. I hated that stuff in high school (seriously, it stands out as a huge factor in my adolescent rebellion), and I was delighted that when I began college as a freshman at the huge UC Berkeley campus, there were no peers I felt in any way obligated to follow. That may be because there were tens of thousands of students, and no discernable herd, but in any case, I was on my own. I suppose if I wanted peers to follow I could have found them, but I was more interested in finding friends. True friends, in my view, do not mess with you on that intimate level. (Unless they are lovers, but that’s not the same as peers.)
So my first reaction was to decry the apparent lack of individualism in the students as portrayed in the Freitas book. If they’re that way about sex, little wonder they accept uncritically the postmodernist nonsense spouted by leftist professors.
It was downright depressing. Anyway, I kept reading, hoping that someone, somewhere (either on the campus, in the book, or in the review) would remember that the right to do something includes the right to not do it, and that the right to say yes of necessity includes the right to say no. Contrary to what some believe, freedom is license. But license is a different issue than judgment and responsibility, and these things vary from individual to individual.
Since when is the right to do something stupid a duty to do something stupid?
Anyway, I found little talk of encouraging individuality. I did, however, find some advocacy of replacing peer pressure with peer pressure:

Ms. Freitas does not celebrate this state of affairs, but neither does she spend most of her prose denouncing it. Instead she wants to understand how the hook-up culture functions and what forces might be at odds with it. Rather than confine her interviews to secular colleges, she visits religious ones, both Catholic and evangelical. The Catholic colleges, she finds, are little different from their secular counterparts; they seem “more adept at creating lapsed Catholics than anything else.”
But evangelical colleges make an effort to oppose the hook-up culture with a “purity culture,” asking a level of sexual restraint that would seem, for most young people today, all but impossible. One is inclined to admire the students who attempt to meet the purity culture’s strict demands. But it is clear that such students often suffer deep anxiety in their search for a mate. The boys find it troublingly difficult to put off sex, and the girls are fearful that they will have failed in college if they do not get a “ring by spring” (of their senior year). While students in the hook-up culture appear more promiscuous than they are, purity students appear more virtuous than they are.

I realize that appearances are often influenced by what other people think; otherwise we would not wear clothes. But I’m not sure what is meant by the appearance of promiscuity or the appearance of purity. Is it dressing like a slut as opposed to dressing like a prude? Not to sound sexist or anything, but I think most guys would have a harder time pulling off such a “look” either way. Unless he’s an obvious gay slut, how does a guy dress promiscuously? Can you tell by looking whether a guy is a virgin?
Or is it that these kids are merely lying about their sex lives or lack thereof? Are virgins claiming to be studs and sluts, while sluts and studs are claiming to be chaste? So they can fit in with their respective peer pressure groups?
I don’t know, but college sounds like an awful place.
I’m glad I don’t have kids, because I wouldn’t want to have to pay money for indoctrinating my kids on how to be followers.
We hear a lot about “choice,” and we tend to think of it as an individual thing. At least, I’ve always thought of it that way. I’d hate to think that choice is being redefined as a choice of herds.
The promiscuous herd? Or the purity herd?
Another question which occurred to me is why religion keeps getting juxtaposed against promiscuous sex, as if it’s one or the other, and the purpose of the former is to combat the latter. (Is the implication that atheists are sluts, while Christians are pure? Why?)
I’d almost swear this begins to resemble identity politics. (Which is “choice” masquerading as the antithesis of choice.)
UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, especially for quoting from this post, and a warm welcome to all!
Comments invited — agree or disagree.