“Sex and the College Girl” Circa 1957

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From The Atlantic Monthly, via Crooked Timber. Below is an excerpt:

… Since so many of us are going to college, a great many of our decisions about our lives have been and are being made on the campuses, and our behavior in college is inevitably in for some comment. Two criticisms rise above the rest: people in college are promiscuous, for one thing, and, for another, they are getting married and having children too early. These are interesting observations because they contradict each other. The phenomena of pinning, going steady, and being monogamous-minded do not suggest sexual promiscuity. Quite the contrary:they are symptoms of our inclination to play it safe.

Promiscuity, on the other hand, demands a certain amount of nerve. It might be misdirected nerve, or neurotic nerve, or a nerve born of defiance or ignorance or of an intellectual disregard of social mores, but that’s what it takes. Sleeping around is a risky business, emotionally, physically, and morally, and this is no light undertaking. I have never really understood why it is considered to be so easy for girls to say yes, particularly to four different men over a period of two weeks. On the other hand, it is very easy to go steady. Everybody is doing it. During my first two weeks at Smith I felt rather like a display in a shop window. Boys from Amherst, Yale, Williams, and Dartmouth swarmed over the campus in groups, looking over the new freshmen for one girl that they could tie up for the next eight Saturday nights, the spring prom, and a house party in July. What a feeling of safety not to have to worry about a date for months ahead! A boy might even get around to falling in love at some point, and that would solve the problem of marriage too. … [Emphasis added.]

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