Reclaiming authentic sexuality in a modern spring break

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Every year in the middle of March, countless college students flee to envied vacation destinations like Miami Beach or South Padre Island with their best friends and breathe a sigh of relief from assignments, papers and midterms.

However, in recent years, spring break has become synonymous with alcohol-induced accidents, injuries and grave cases of sexual assault and misconduct.

In 2017, Magic Lantern Pictures released a documentary called “Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution” in which they followed several college students on spring break and interviewed a group of university professors, scientists and advocates about the phenomenon that is modern spring break culture.

I watched the documentary on Netflix after seeing its promotion on social media by several anti-pornography organizations and was astonished by the reality that was captured on film and the aftermath that followed.

A majority of the film shows the spring breakers in their natural habitat and features their answers to simple question prompts such as, “What is love to you? What is sex to you?”

Both men and women often answered these questions by explaining that sex is just about pleasure — a commodity — and that “love is not real — it’s like this fictitious thing that society invents so you can have sex with someone.”

Although the idea of utilitarianism is not a shock to most people in our community, I started asking myself a lot of questions as I watched these students who were in the same state of life as I am now, seeing how many of these toxic “isms” are impacting our generation.

The documentary depicted story after story of groups of guys competing against each other to see who could hook up with the most girls by the end of the week, women encouraging the type of behavior that fuels rape culture and graphic verbal exchanges between friends of what they did with a stranger the night before.

When asked if he ever intervened during the filming, director Benjamin Nolost answered affirmatively and described the filming environment as being “surrounded by a crowd ready to rape.”

The buzz term “rape culture” brings up different ideas for people. 

I have been skeptical to use it as it communicates to me that a culture exists in which the criminal act of rape is normalized. Last week, the “Should we be feminists?” panel defined it by saying that “men sense they have a right to sex, frequencies in sex crimes and that there are weak legal and social sanctions for rapists.”

I agree with what Gabrielle Nagle pointed out in commentary last week: this definition is adequate but the conclusion they ended up drawing is false.

This documentary depicted several cases of sexual violation, including men boasting about the women they slept with and watching them stumble out of their rooms and back to their friends while laughing about it. We cannot lie to ourselves that rape culture does not seep into spring break.

In Mary Eberstadt’s book “Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution,” she talks about the modern casual sex phenomenon that emerged from the 60s Sexual Revolution and calls out society by saying that “[we’re] being blasé about something [we] really cannot afford to be blasé about.”

In the documentary, Dr. Robert Jensen, former professor of Media Law and Ethics at the University of Texas at Austin, explained that, in his perspective, the reason that modern hook-up culture has grown so powerful is that women are accepting the rules of the game too easily.

Men have always benefited from and driven the idea of sex without consequences, but since society has made it so affordable and available, women have thrown in the towel too quickly.

Where do we go from here?

As the documentary makers and advocates stated, we need to reclaim a “sexuality of empathy and love” by having difficult conversations with our friends and by making difficult decisions that order sexuality in a way which befits proper treatment of persons, especially as we approach spring break.

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