The University has student groups for everyone from squirrel enthusiasts to jet engine connoisseurs, but there’s one population of students you won’t find handing out quarter sheets on the Diag – those who choose to remain celibate until marriage.
While pro-abstinence groups at some of the nation’s most prestigious universities have garnered media attention in recent weeks, no such groups exist at the University of Michigan. Students here claim that abstinence groups at other schools have misled students, paying more attention to the negatives of sex rather than the positives of celibacy until marriage.
An article in the New York Times Magazine published last Thursday highlighted a group at Harvard University called True Love Revolution, which brings together students who abstain from sex before marriage.
Harvard student Janie Fredell, the group’s leader, said in the article that her group’s message is especially important in an environment where the “hook up culture” dominates. According to its website, TLR is not religiously affiliated.
An organization at Princeton University, called the Anscombe Society, is similar to TLR in its viewpoints and activities. On Valentine’s Day, the group put an advertisement in the school’s newspaper, listing the group’s reasons for promoting chastity. The group’s success at Princeton inspired an offshoot at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Chinyere Neale, a health educator with the University of Michigan’s Health Services, said she has found that high school students are more likely to make abstinence pledges than college students because they’re told more frequently told not to have sex.
While the group welcomes both males and females, TLR’s message is mostly directed toward women. In addition to viewing abstinence as an “empowering” act for women, the group says there are emotional benefits to waiting to have sex until marriage.
LSA junior Amanda Grigg, an executive board member of the campus feminist group F-Word, said there should be a campus abstinence group, but that it shouldn’t mislead students – something Grigg accuses TLR of doing.
“(Fredell) tried to suggest that it was a means for empowering women. If your goal is to attract men, that’s not empowering,” she said.
Grigg said she disagreed with the way the organization portrayed safe sex as “unhealthy and dirty.” She cited a forum the group is hosting this month called “Smart Sex: Finding Life-Long Love in a Hook-up World.”
“Instead of emphasizing the neutral benefits of abstinence, it’s emphasizing the bad things about sex,” she said.
LSA senior Ashley Wynne, a member of Campus Crusade for Christ, said she thinks a group promoting abstinence would serve campus well by providing an “intellectual perspective” about saving oneself for marriage.
There might not be one on campus already, she said, because students from the Midwest, a region thought to be more religious than the East Coast, are tired of hearing about the negative consequences of premarital sex.
Wynne, who’s been in a committed relationship for more than a year, said she abstains from sex in order to follow the first two of the Ten Commandments, which instruct believers to put God before other objects of worship and to not make false idols.
“Sex could easily become an idol,” she said. “It’s about loving God and showing your love for him by living your life in the way he tells you to.”
Neale said some students choose to remain abstinent for religious reasons like Wynne, but others wait for different reasons.
“A lot of students aren’t ready to be sexually active and it’s not necessarily for religious or moral reasons,” she said.