Hooking up, in the silence -- Part I

The girls thought they were "hooking up" with some fraternity brothers.

But the guys called it "Showtime at the Apollo." The game went like this, said one of Vigen Guroian's students, describing in a class assignment what went on at her boyfriend's fraternity at another college. A boy would bring a girl home, then leave the curtain parted on the glass door onto the dual-access balcony. Then his fraternity brothers in the next room could sit outside and watch.

"Now my boyfriend's defense of his brothers is that any girl who will allow you to sleep with her on the first night, and doesn't leave after you begin to do such degrading sexual acts, deserves it," wrote the student. The bottom line: "You only treat a girl like a slut, if she is a slut."

What did the girls think they were doing, auditioning for suburban siren roles in American Pie 3? It's even more sobering to ponder the roles played by the colleges, said Guroian, professor of theology at Loyola College in Baltimore.

"The failure of America's institutions of higher education -- especially that of Christian schools -- is not merely administrative. It is a failure of vision and religious and educational mission," he wrote, at www.Wilberforce.org. "When students are learning all the wrong habits in their daily college life, how can a truly humanistic higher learning occur?

"How can I teach Christian ethics with force and effect in the classroom when my college will not address or remedy the degrading living conditions my students have described?"

Every fall, millions of students go to college. Every fall, faculty, administrators and the parents who pay the bills have another chance to ask: "Do we really want to know what's going on?"

The feisty Independent Women's Forum recently offered an unnerving glimpse into the moral and sexual challenges facing co-eds in a report called "Hooking Up, Hanging Out and Hoping for Mr. Right." It was based on interviews with 62 women on 11 campuses, backed with follow-up telephone work with 1,000 young women.

Courtship is dead and dating is on life support. What has emerged is "hooking up," which most defined as "when a girl and guy get together for a sexual encounter and don't necessarily expect anything further." For young women, this intentionally vague term can refer to anything from kissing to heavy foreplay, from oral sex to intercourse.

More than 90 percent of the women said "hooking up" was common and 40 percent said they had experienced this phenomenon. Some said this made them feel desirable and helped them compete for males in today's overwhelmingly female campus scene. Others said "hooking up" made them feel awkward, ashamed and used. Yet 83 percent said, "Being married is very important to me" and 63 percent expected to meet their mate at college.

Washington Post columnist William Raspberry's reaction was blunt: "These women are out of their minds, and the adults who should be teaching them better ... have pretty much walked away from the job."

Political philosopher J. Budziszewski has watched this trend at the University of Texas and, writing as the fictional "Prof. M.E. Theophilus," he also addresses campus moral dilemmas for www.Boundless.org. Several parts of this study rang true for him, especially the pivotal role that faith played for the women who were trying to live chaste and modest lives.

But no matter what choices they had made, almost all -- 87 percent - stressed that they thought it was wrong to pass judgment on the sexual behavior of anyone, even males who were "hooking up" with scores of women. Many also said they could not lean on their parents. Nearly 40 percent of the girls from homes rocked by divorce reported "hooking up" more than six times, compared with about 20 percent of those from intact homes.

"They have been taught that they must not judge," said Budziszewski. "So when they are hurt, they have no one to blame but themselves. They can't even say the guy is a rat. Young women can't even speak the truth to each other and help protect each other."