By Stephanie McFeeters ’15
Sex is not an uncommon topic on college campuses. But the speakers and attendees at the Love & Fidelity Network’s Fifth Annual Conference approached the topic with a unique standpoint, and spoke of sex with an attitude of respect that seems to be lacking among most university students today.
From November 2– 3, Fr. Chris Saliga, Robert Smith ’14, and I joined students from schools across the country at Princeton University to take part in a discussion about chastity and the significance of marriage. Citing social science data and drawing on natural law, experts presented arguments in support of the institution of marriage, the important societal role of the family, and the principle of sexual integrity.
Dr. Robert George, who spoke at the conference, sympathized with students and acknowledged that chastity can be a difficult value to uphold in today’s “if it feels good, do it” world. But sex has an intrinsic value, and doesn’t simply play an instrumental role, he said. Supporters of sexual integrity believe that sex should be cherished in the context of marriage. “We’re not anti-sex, we’re about restoring its beauty,” he said.
Author of On the Meaning of Sex Professor J. Budziszewski also spoke at the conference, making the argument that humans are not designed for hooking up. Sex has two purposes: procreation and union, he said. According to him, one’s subjective intention does not change the objective meaning of an action; therefore using protection to prevent childbirth does not change the fact that sex is about the creation of new life. It is important to think of sexual purity as an active endeavor, rather than a passive choice, he said.
Numerous speakers described the importance of marriage as a social and economic institution. Dr. Patrick Fagan explained that the current withdrawal from marriage is having a negative impact on our economy. The median income in the U.S. is highest for families headed by a married couple, he said, and unfortunately, less than 50 percent of 17-year-olds in the U.S. are currently in such intact married families. Growing up in an intact married household provides significant benefits to children: those growing up with married parents typically have higher GPAs and are less likely to be incarcerated than children in other family situations. Sadly, today 40 percent of children in the U.S. are born out of wedlock.
Students attending the conference represented universities ranging from Stanford to BYU to the University of Pittsburgh to Yale, and each brought a different perspective on the subjects of chastity and marriage. The conference provided a valuable forum for discussion and gave students the chance to share strategies for discussing sexual integrity with peers.