25 March 2005
CBN.com - Tom Wolfe's book "I Am
Charlotte Simmons" is an R-rated behind-the-scenes look at
just how wild today's universities have become. Wolfe details
how sex is frequently reduced to heartless hookups and binge drinking,
which leads to many risky, almost-anonymous sexual encounters.
CBN News checked in with students at several top campuses to see
if Wolfe got it right.
Wolfe is known for doing exhaustive research, and for "I
Am Charlotte Simmons" he spent many months interviewing students
and hanging out on campuses, absorbing the atmosphere.
Students that CBN News talked to admit that Wolfe captured a
stark truth: that many college kids throw themselves into soulless
sex, a series of meaningless sexual encounters, often fueled by
almost killer amounts of alcohol.
Wolfe's book has put a spotlight on what many parents might consider
an alarming decadence on many modern American campuses.
Sarah Longwell lectures at dozens of campuses a year, often talking
to students about sex. She read Wolfe’s “I am Charlotte
Simmons,” and said, "If I were a parent and I were
reading this, and I had a child either about to go to college
or in college, I'd say 'that's it; we're home-schooling you until
Dr. Joe McIlhaney of Austin's Medical Institute for Sexual Health
said, "One of the high-level administrators at one of these
universities said, ‘We all know the kids are doing too much
sex, too much drugs and too much alcohol. We just hope to get
them out of here alive.’"
So what is going on behind these walls in universities around
"Alice" (not her real name) just graduated from college,
and said, "Some of my friends like, will wake up in the morning
and go, 'like, who is this person next to me?'"
Student Milton Solorzano of Stanford University said, "There's
definitely a sense that you can get away with a lot more here
than you can at home.”
Amaury Gallais from University of California -Berkeley, remarked,
"On Valentine's, they pass out condoms and little worksheets
on how to have safe sex. What's really outrageous is they address
all the different sexual positions."
Andrea Rasmussen, also of U.C.-Berkeley, said, "They have
naked parties, where they sit out on their lawns and have a picnic
and they're just naked!"
Longwell said that Wolfe’s book actually captured well
"...that students aren't actually seeking out real romantic
connections; that it's more a product of alcohol and a lack of
values that's leading to this hookup culture on campus."
Lindsey Kane is a Christian singer on the rise in the music business.
She is also a recent Texas A & M graduate. She said, "People
are having sex a lot with other people without any commitment.
Now the guys don't have to work as hard. The girls are gung-ho
for it. [Guys] can go to a bar and the chances of them hooking
up with a girl are pretty good."
Longwell commented, "You've sort of got a free-for-all;
everybody acting on every urge that could possibly enter into
Alice, for most of her time at college, gave herself over to
the worst kind of excesses that Wolfe writes about. She said,
"Like, there've been times when I've been so drunk, like,
I have no idea of what's going on, and I wake up in the morning,
and like, 'What just happened? What happened between us?"
She often slept with guys who were just friends. "We met
up at a bar and both were pretty drunk,” Alice recalled.
“And [we] ended up, like, having just a sexual relationship
on top of our friendship. And that's what a lot of people do.”
She added, “Every time I've slept with someone [for] the
first time, it was because I was drinking."
Dr. McIlhaney said, "Most college young people are involved
in sexual activity of some type or the other. At least 75 percent
have been involved in sexual intercourse."
As with many students, one of the major characteristics of Alice's
sexual encounters is that nearly all were induced by liquor, drunk
in stunning amounts.
Longwell said, "Drinking is probably the paramount reason
that there seems to be a different sexual ethos on campus, as
opposed to everywhere else on the planet."
Some students say the atmosphere of "anything goes"
is actually encouraged by what some college administrations allow
Gallais commented, "There is a member of the Berkeley faculty
who specializes in pornography. They have movies we can check
out, and they have a special collection for her class, with pornographic
At the University of California-Davis, student Ryan Clumpner
remarked, "During Generation Sex Week, they do outrageous
things, like they have a fetish fair, they brought in a leather-man
in from Sacramento, they had a sex toys workshop."
The loose atmosphere is also partly the fault of the way some
young women are acting and dressing on campus these days.
U.C.-Berkeley’s Rasmussen said, “I think there's
a big push from the female side, especially in the social aspect,
to make themselves sex objects, because this campus is apparently
known for not having 'hot girls.'
Ben Chapman of U.C.-Berkeley added, "You see a lot of the
girls coming around and they're wearing next to nothing, and it
could be like absolute[ly] frigid in the morning."
Kane wrote a song about a Christian friend of hers who backslid
into heavy sexual sin at college. She said, "One night she
was over at my house and had been drinking, and was very, very
drunk, and she was just crying, because she didn't want it to
be like that."
Why would college kids choose to lead such libertine lifestyles?
Dr. McIlhaney says many literally do not know any better: No adults
ever told them they should, or even can, lead lives of sexual
purity. He says this is as true for Christians as non-believers.
Dr. McIlhaney said, "The Christian church isn't taking this
seriously. Indeed, the rates of promiscuity among Christian young
people are almost as high as those among youthful non-believers.
There's only a four-percent difference in the Christian kids'
sexual activity and the secular kids' sexual activity."
Alice commented, "Like, the guys, a lot of the guys I've
had relationships with are Christians."
Kane said, "If I went to college and I had a whole big group
of Christian friends, I would say half of them stayed on the straight
and narrow, and then I would say half of them fell into the temptations
Kane sang, "Will there ever be a change in this struggle?
This war between darkness and light is waged again..."
She remarked that it's becoming increasingly hard for young people
to keep their sexual purity on today's campuses.
Kane added, "Honestly, but only by the grace of God, I'm
a virgin. There's something about that lifestyle of 'going out,
having fun, let's drink' and then your defenses go down and then
you do things that you wouldn't normally do if you were totally
Now, certainly there are lots of students, like Kane, who decide
to avoid sex in their college years. But for the students who
do mess around, there is apparently an attitude on campus that
they can do whatever crazy acts they want to now, because they
can just leave that all behind when they graduate.
But Dr. McIlhaney says there are many lasting consequences, both
physically and emotionally, of too much sex, too soon. "There's
a significant increase in depression and a significant increase
in attempted suicide," he said.
Some 20 percent of sexually-active adolescents now have herpes,
10 percent have Chlamydia, and 50 percent of the sexually-active
girls have the human papaloma virus.
Parents may feel most of this is none of their business -- their
college-age kids are grownups, old enough to be careful about
sex. But McIlhaney pointed us to recent studies of the brain that
show that the main area that controls decision-making, the pre-frontal
cortex, does not actually mature in most people until they are
in their mid-20s.
"When we take young people to college and shake their hands
or hug them goodbye at the front door when they're 18 years old
and say, 'Well, they're mature now,’ we're making a terrible
mistake,” McIlhaney asserted, “because these kids'
abilities to make good judgment decisions aren't even complete
till they're out of college."
Alice remarked, "I mean, there's a couple of times I was,
like, 'What are you doing?' But for the most part, I was just
like, 'living in the moment.'"
By Paul Strand - Washington Sr. Correspondent
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