A couple of weeks ago, I harshed on the Los Angeles Times for its flippant and even silly treatment of the problems that arise from having sex in campus dorms. The hook for the story was that Tufts University enacted a policy forbidding sexual activity if the student's roommate is present. The Times story never dealt with the morality of extra-marital sex or even just the morality of having sex in someone else's unwilling presence or in their shared room. Instead it had a brief discussion of legal implications. There was no feminist angle, nothing about the role of alcohol, nothing of substance about the hook-up culture that leads to this rule change. And, it went without saying, there was no thought given that there could a moral or religious angle to this story. So we didn't learn anything about the sex-in-room policies of Christian schools or whether these policies have anything to do with the significant growth in the Christian college scene in the last decade. And we didn't get any perspective from religious students.
Well, the Washington Post took a whack at the issue on Sunday and it is an improvement. It still treats the issue of sex in dorms in a rather light fashion, but it does a better job of including more perspective across the spectrum. Here's the beginning:
In an era of coed dorms and slackening rules about "overnight guests," a new constituency has emerged on college campuses: the roommate inconvenienced by sex.
Shielding a cohabitant from moments of intimacy is a part of collegiate etiquette as old as the sexual revolution. In the previous generation, a tie or sock hung from a doorknob served as a do-not-disturb sign. Today, the warning is more commonly delivered by text message. At some point, students displaced from their rooms came to be known as "sexiles."
So you see why I had to use the LOL Cat picture again. The story explains the Tufts policy which is giving media outlets a reason to discuss the issue and says that the policy is a "baby-step backward in the decades-long march toward fully coeducational living." That's an interesting angle and I like how it's explored in the piece. It's also less one-sided than the Times piece was. We get quotes from people who think that sex in dorms can cause problems for roommates. But you do have to laugh at this line:
Tufts might be the first college in the nation to make explicit what other schools have only hinted at: It is not cool to have sex in front of your roommate.
It's the ultimate morality judgment: Having sex in front of your housemate isn't wrong so much as uncool.
Anyway, this story managed to include a bit of a religious angle by including the sex-in-dorm policies of local religious schools:
Among local colleges, Georgetown University has come closest to positing a bill of rights for sexiles. The school advises students that "cohabitation, which is defined as overnight visits with a sexual partner, is incompatible both with the Catholic character of the University and with the rights of the roommates."
Other colleges generally head off conflict with rules that require a roommate's permission for overnight guests. A few institutions explicitly forbid sex in the dorms, including Catholic University of America and the U.S. Naval Academy. The University of Maryland advises roommates to "learn to negotiate and open the lines of communication," not just about sex but also hours of study and sleep, television and computer use, and the sharing of clothing and iPods.
I have previously revealed my ignorance about dorm life. I somehow managed to avoid the indignity when I was in college. But I'm actually somewhat surprised to learn that public universities officially permit sex in public dorm rooms. I would have thought it would be officially prohibited even if tolerated.
All in all, however, this story did a better job of including religion and treating concerns over dorm room sex less cavalierly than the previous article. It's a low bar to clear, sure, but credit where credit's due.