Milton and Chastity

This past week, I spent
some time reading Milton’s A Masque at Ludlow, often referred to as Milton’s
Comus. The Masque, or short play, was written for John Egerton, and largely
focuses on the virtues of chastity. Some background–Comus is about the Lady
and her two brothers who lose their way in the woods. The Lady becomes quite
tired and her brothers seek food, leaving her alone. While the Lady is alone,
she meets a being disguised as a villager who promises to reunite her with her
brothers, and she willfully follows him. But this being, Comus, captures her
and uses methods of persuasion to entice her to drink from his magical
cup–urging her to cease being coy and to embrace sexual pleasure. The Lady
consistently rebukes Comus’ advances, and argues for the virtues of temperance
and chastity. The Masque continues when her brothers return with the Attendant
Spirit, an almost angelic figure, who saves the Lady from Comus.

What are we to take away
from Comus? First, I want to make a concession: thinking about the role of
chastity in Milton’s Comus seems to be an issue of much debate amongst scholars
far more learned than I. But, Milton does seem to hit on something that’s true
to my experience. When people talk about chastity, they often see it as
limiting one’s ability to make choices (which people often conceive of as
freedom). Aside from reasons to doubt that this is a useful definition of
freedom, Milton shows us just the opposite: the Lady’s temperance and chastity
are liberating, as we’re reminded with the final lines of the piece:


Love Virtue, she alone is

She can teach ye how to

Higher than the sphery

Or, if Virtue feeble were,

Heaven itself would stoop to her. 

“Safe is Sexy”

In the last few days, I’ve been
seeing lots of signs (I’ve attached two of the ones that are posted) across
campus advertising a USG event that happened yesterday entitled
 “Safe is Sexy.”
 Aside from the strangeness of the
USG advertising this event to the entire campus and the mixed messages that
intertwine dating and sex (not to mention cookies and condoms), I’m surprised
that I haven’t heard much mention of the posters/event. It seems as though the
advertisements hypersexualize and almost trivialize important health information.
If the University thinks that STI prevention is really something to be taken
seriously, it seems strange to promote testing with pictures of semi-clad men
and women, free cookies, and offers of more condoms. Condoms, contrary to
popular conception, may reduce risks of contracting STIs (when used correctly),
but aren’t entirely effective at preventing STIs. 

What is Marriage?

For a more complete case against same-sex marriage than is typically offered, take a look at the recent piece by Sherif Girgis, Robert George, and Ryan Anderson (former Anscombe president, and friends of the group respectively):

Once I have a little more time on my hands (read: during break), I’ll look at this a little more closely and parse through some of the arguments as they apply to related issues/look at the responses offered to particular objections.

Pluralistic Ignorance: Sex on College Campuses

A really interesting recent entry by Katie Rodriguez from
Equal Writes draws attention to some posters for freshman class president a few
weeks before Fall Break.  Here’s an
excerpt from the article:

A female freshman student
created business cards for her campaign for class president that featured her
slogan “Looking to have a good time freshman year?” and
 “Don’t be Square, Vote for [redacted]!” On the left side of
the business card is a photograph of a shirtless male on top of a shirtless
(but bra wearing) female. The picture seems to suggest that they are either
about to engage in sex or are already engaging in sex.
out the full article here:

Katie goes on to comment that the ads give people the
impression both that the vast majority of people on campus are sexually active,
but that this is normative. It seems to me pretty important to assure freshmen
who may come to campus unsure of what will be expected of them in college that
there are a large number of people on campus that aren’t sexually active.

Pluralistic ignorance, a term coined by social
psychologists, describes a 
phenomenon where a number of people privately reject a norm but most
people incorrectly think that most others accept it. This seems to be a pretty
accurate description of what’s happening on college campuses. 

What Sitcoms Tells Us About the Family

David Brooks, in an art-reflects-life take on sitcoms,
suggests that recent trends favor comedies about groups of friends rather than
about families. He suggests, 

“the change also reflects something deeper
about the patterns of friendship in society. With people delaying marriage
and childbearing into their 30s, young people now spend long periods of their
lives outside of traditional families, living among diverse friendship

 He even worries that these sorts of living situations suggest
people are trading “flexibility and convenience for true commitment.”
 There was a recent response in the Atlantic suggesting that we
could make a similar point by looking at work-related sitcoms, that
overwhelmingly out-number the friendship sitcoms Brooks mentions. Though it’s important to note that lots of these work sitcoms show at least “intermittent unease” with
characters who substitute work lives for family lives (think Michael from The Office).

Tyler Clementi, Tragedy, and the Media Response

In the wave of the recent
death of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers student who committed suicide after his
roommate broadcasted Clementi’s sexual activities on the internet, I was
thinking about the response to the suicide.

Before I go any further, I
should comment on a few things. First, I think it goes without saying that
Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, and his friend Molly Wei, were wrong to
publicize Clementi’s encounters on the internet. It was a breach of privacy and
is contrary to basic norms of civility and decency. I’d like to echo the
sentiments by all who were similarly bothered by the activities of Ravi and
Wei. Secondly, Clementi’s death was tragic. He was clearly in an emotionally
fragile state after the broadcast, and felt that there were no resources to
assist him such that he resorted to suicide. It is great to see other people
shaken into action – as they seek to provide resources for students in similar
situations such that these vulnerable students don’t turn to such desperate
actions. And, of course, it goes without saying that this is a reminder that we
should affirm the dignity of all people–regardless of race, religion, political
ideology, or sexual orientation.

Given all of this, I was
intrigued by an editorial published in the Rutger’s student newspaper, The
Daily Targum, concerning the reaction to Clementi’s reaction that argues people
were insensitive to his death by using it as a cause:

Continue reading

Most Conservative Ivy?

Join me and a pretty impressive list of Anscombe alums at today’s event at 7:30 pm in East Pyne 010. 

A panel of recent Princeton alumni candidly discuss life
at Princeton and beyond for students questioning the
more liberal opinions on campus.

Daniel Mark ’03, Current Ph.D. Candidate in Politics at Princeton University
Christian Sahner ’07, former Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, Current Ph.D. Candidate in History at Princeton University
Stefan McDaniel ’08, Current Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania
Jose Joel Alicea ’10, Current student at Harvard Law School
Shivani Radhakrishnan ’11

Marriage and the State’s Interest

 Federal Judge Vaughn Walker ruled on Wednesday that
Proposition 8, the rejection of same-sex marriage, a proposition voted for by
California voters earlier in the year, unreasonably discriminates against gay
men and women.  Let’s look at some
of Walker’s claims and discuss what the future may bring.

 Given that the trial is based on the Equal Protection
Clause, it’s interesting to note that Judge Walker used the lowest standard of
scrutiny he could: rational basis scrutiny. Choosing this lower level of scrutiny
is considered a safe move, given that higher courts may be unlikely to apply
intermediate or strict scrutiny to the legislation in question.

 The rational basis test, in practice, is seldom lethal to a
piece of legislation. When applying the rational basis test, the burden is on
the plaintiffs to show that the law in question (in this case, Proposition 8)
is not rationally related to a legitimate state interest. Now, that’s a pretty
large burden–if the defendants could show some legitimate state interest that
Proposition 8 intended to preserve, and could further show that Proposition 8
was in some way rationally related to this interest, Proposition 8 would be
upheld. Knowing this, the fact that Judge Walker found that Proposition 8
failed the rational basis test is pretty surprising.

Judge Walker wrote in his opinion, “Proposition 8 cannot
withstand any level of scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause. Excluding
same-sex couples from marriage is simply not rationally related to a legitimate
state interest.” But Judge Walker went wrong in failing to acknowledge what
proponents of Prop 8 argue is the legitimate state interest at stake: the
rearing of the next generation of citizens. 

As to what this means for the legality and constitutionality
of same-sex marriage, most agree that this decision won’t be the final word.