The naked truth on campus

Posted: Nov 28, 2005 12:05 AM

College has always been about pranks, the more bizarre the better. Swallowing goldfish shocked the home folks in Grandpa's day. Panty raids scandalized generations that followed, and then came stuffing a half-dozen co-eds, as the young women were once quaintly called, into a telephone booth. (Ain't we got fun?)

 Stealing panties is hardly shocking when boys and girls live together, sharing bedrooms, bathrooms, closets and everything else, no doubt occasionally even panties. Animal-rights fanatics would shut down the campus now if someone even suggested snacking on a goldfish. Everybody's got a cell phone, and no one can remember a telephone booth.

 Nevertheless, Joe College and Carolyn Campus must find something dumb enough to shock the grown-ups who pay the bills. The difference is that pranksters on the contemporary campus take the prank seriously, mixing political perversity with sexual exhibitionism. Or is it mixing sexual perversity with political exhibitionism? Students at Columbia University, for example, ape contemporaries at Yale and Brown with a bash with only one rule, that everything you wear to the party has to be left at the door.

  "Compadres," reads the invitation obtained by the New York Sun, "join us in refusing to comply with a culture that tells us to hide our [sic] body, to be ashamed of its scents, secretions, curves, and hair, to conceal those parts that have been dealt sexual connotations." It demands ending the bondage known as "clothing" in exchange for partying "like the savages we really are."

 The young scholars are in dead earnest, and signal that even though Columbia University has not abandoned its core curriculum, remaining one of the few elite schools to require study in Western civilization, the folks on Morningside Heights are just as hip as the kids in Harvard Yard. They pride themselves on challenging the status quo, which is difficult, since it's almost impossible to find a quo to challenge.

 The only authentic challenge to a campus quo might be dressing modestly, in clean clothes and leather shoes, dancing to a waltz and sipping Earl Grey from a china cup. Behavior this shocking would have deprived a certain Yale student of the learning experience of interaction with law and order. He pleaded "no contest" to fourth-degree sexual assault after a young woman accused him of drugging and attacking her at a party where clothing was not optional.

 What's not optional on campus is the straitjacket of conformity dictated by the politically correct culture, which imposes a vulgarization of just about everything between men and women. Feminism, which set out to empower women, now deconstructs them to the sum of their specific body parts. In "The Second Sex," which is required reading in most women's studies courses, Simone de Beauvoir describes a pregnant women as merely an incubator with eggs.

 But that's the Old Testament of the bible of feminism. New Testament feminism is captured in Eve Ensler's play, "The Vagina Monologues." Although it purports to be a tract against violence against women, the play actually reduces women to the sexual object it sets out to liberate, offering explicit and voyeuristic descriptions of child rape, lesbian sex, and even a 6-year-old describing the vagina she probably didn't know she had. Eve Ensler says she was inspired by being sexually abused by her father.

  "The Vagina Monologues" has become so popular on campus that on many campuses, "V-Day" has replaced St. Valentine's Day, with romance replaced by a "celebration" of female body parts, with recitations such as "My Angry Vagina" and "Reclaiming [Most Intimate Body Part]." Participants are encouraged to shout the four-letter word that women have always regarded as the vilest of all four-letter words. On one campus, the actress Glenn Close exhorts 2,500 young men and women to stand up and chant the word; Wesleyan University has established a "[vile word] workshop"; Roseanne Barr, who redefines the meaning of vile, performs in her underwear, discussing certain bodily scents, for an audience of 2,000. Devotees can buy the body part of the hour sculpted in glass, lollipops and lamps.

 The Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, which is dedicated to mentoring and training conservative women leaders on campus, has received so many complaints about V-Day that it recruits speakers to articulate alternative values, to talk about marriage, motherhood, and the accomplishments of women in professions other than exhibitionism.
 "The Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute," says its president, Michelle Easton, "sets out to reclaim the romance and beauty of Valentine's Day, to celebrate the intellect, strength, integrity, and spirit of the modern American woman, and promote respect in a way to honor -- rather than debase and degrade women." If the message is not shocking enough, the women speak fully clothed.