In a review for First Things, Helen Rittelmeyer has an amusing take on the sexual culture at elite universites. Students at places like Yale, she argues, are prolific in their hooking up not because they're hedonists, but because they want to be the best at sex the same way they're the best at everything else:
It would be more accurate to say that Yale students treat sex as one more arena in which to excel, an opportunity not just to connect but to impress. Every amateur sonneteer secretly believes his verse to be as good as the United States poet laureateís, and every undergraduate programmer suspects his code rivals the best in Silicon Valley. Itís not very different for Yale students to say that, if pornography is the gold standard of sexual prowess, then that is the standard to which they must aspire.
The book Rittelmeyer is reviewing has a different take. In Sex and God at Yale, alum Nathan Harden finds his former classmates to be just plain lascivious. Rittelmeyer thinks this view misses the basic point that high-striving kids today are more about excellence than eros. This raises the question: If prudishness were in vogue, would Yalies be famously chaste?
Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
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Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.