Between naked parties and freshman dorm shower sex, the worlds of higher education and Western civilization are crumbling like the walls of Jericho.

Earlier this year, an e-mail was sent to every student at the Yale University Calhoun campus asking them to refrain from “intimate activities” in college showers. The Master, comparable to a GHR here, cited one incident where the showers were flooded, preventing their use for 90 minutes, after the couple finished. The e-mail sparked an article in the Yale daily paper, which was picked up by the Associated Press, New York Times and USA Today.

“In California as in Shower Yale Students Make News,” an article that appeared in the Feb. 11 issue of the New York Times, was preceded by yet another repetitive, mundane article on the infamous naked parties occurring on our nation’s elite college and university campuses. One undergraduate student attributes this craze over college sex to the reputation of college students as “purportedly too Type-A for anybody to leave the library and bone, lest our GPAs would drop like our trousers.” The idea of uptight college kids letting all of their pent up stress and anxiety out in an explosion of sexual energy is extremely appealing to the rest of the world; after all, it was the basis for the entire marketing campaign of the once-successful “Girls Gone Wild” video series.

More often, though, the media stories on our outrageous sex lives are followed by speculation as to the moral leadership qualities we possess as a generation. Writers like Tom Wolfe author juicy, high profile novels on the never-ending drama encapsulated in our little world. Shows like the OC and Laguna Beach serve only to further the notion of people aged 12 through 22 as insatiable sex-maniacs, merged with pre-teen drama queens, who are unable to handle the minor responsibilities of getting to class on time.

“God only knows how you people will survive in the ‘real world,'” my grandmother told me after reading “I Am Charlotte Simmons,” Mr. Wolfe’s latest novel on the college sex scene. In skimming it, I found the book more relatable to an X-rated version of the spoof-comedy “Mean Girls” than to anything I have lived through.

The main character, Charlotte Simmons, is a straight-A student from a poor rural town attending a fictional Ivy League school with a great basketball team and powerful student newspaper. She falls for an infamous frat boy, who only uses her for sex, causing her to spiral into depression until she begins dating the compassionate, loving, nerdy newspaper editor. Sadly, the dream doesn’t last, as the editor is swallowed up in a plagiarism scandal, almost wrecking his entire life, and Charlotte barely passes her first semester classes.

This popular representation of our generation is compounded by the popular online photo-sharing Web sites, like Facebook and MySpace, which spear the Internet with infinite copies of embarrassing photos. Even the most respectable among us can be seen engaging in acts slightly less than admirable.

Despite this problem of perception, it is extremely upsetting that we are judged as the irresponsible, spoiled generation of the last century. It seems in our endless plummet of respectable values, we have zoomed past the bad hair-dos of the ’80s, the drugs and suburban key parties (throwing car keys into a fish bowl where women pick them out to find their partner for the night) of the ’60s and ’70s. We certainly long ago passed the awkward silence of the 1940s and ’50s, while the eras of flappers, alcoholism, prohibition and organized crime that characterized the ’20s and ’30s were the first to go.

Stories of shower sex, naked parties with the Bush twins and binge drinking will always float to the surface of our national consciousness; their shock-effect quality and the attention we lavish on celebrity institutions guarantees it.

To combat dissolution of our reputation and future potential, it is important to be aware of the image we are presenting. The par-for-the-course excuse that everyone else is doing it will not cut it.

Just as part of growing up is enjoying yourself and having a good time, while learning to balance this with ever-increasing amounts of work, we must also learn to shape the public image of how our lives are viewed to the outside world.

Kirstein is a member of the class of 2009.



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