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Missing the ball on ND gender relations

| Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Her Campus took off this year on the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s campuses. It is a website where female authors contribute content that mainly serves to inform and entertain a female audience. The article links are spread all over social media, and I often take a gander at the articles. Recently, I read one written by Emma Terhaar (“ND’s Fabulous Gender Relations: How to Help All the Bruised Male Egos out There,” Jan. 28), which was positioned next to a great article about the March for Life, and addressed the issue of gender relations on Notre Dame’s campus. (Editor’s note: Terhaar is a writer for The Observer’s Scene section.) Specifically, Terhaar reacted to apparent complaints by her male friends that they don’t have enough sex at Notre Dame, compared with their friends in fraternities at other universities. To be honest, I wish I could have laughed at the article like I did when I saw most of the trashy “I’m Shmacked” videos filmed at SEC and state schools. Although it read like something out of The Onion and I assume the author meant some of it to be funny, I just could not bring myself to laugh.

I acted as a point person for the “One is Too Many” student government campaign that promotes awareness and prevention of sexual assault. I did this for two reasons: I have had friends that were sexually assaulted on Notre Dame’s campus and because as an involved student, I know the unique culture at Notre Dame is different than most schools when it comes to gender relations. Our uniqueness and strong convictions about the sanctity of one’s sexuality, however, is what leads me to believe Notre Dame could become a campus where sexual violence is eradicated, not just one where virginity needs to be eradicated (as Terhaar suggests). I believe the former is a much more valiant goal.

Terhaar’s article on Her Campus proposed a solution to the “awkwardness” of gender relations on Notre Dame’s campus: “less male virgins.” Whether this was meant as a joke or not, it is still appalling. Unfortunately, I have heard the case for a more relaxed sexual culture on campus before. Students often complain sexual language is unfairly viewed as taboo or single-sex dorms prevent normal sexual behavior. Without an unpopular trip into the realm of what constitutes normal sexual behavior for unmarried college students, I would like to clear the air around what is most definitely not the solution for gender relations at Notre Dame. Terhaar’s article went as far as to suggest a “virgin slayer” go from male dorm to male dorm and have sex with Notre Dame’s male virgins. Most of you probably just started laughing, and rightfully so. It is in the theater of the absurd to suggest such a thing, but even as a joke, it is out of line. Relaxed sexual culture will not lead to less “awkward” sexual interaction, just more sexual interaction. Education and responsibility is what leads to proper sexual interaction, which is to be desired.

As one of the many Notre Dame students that attended this University because of its conservative, Catholic roots (all 20 of you outspoken liberals just rolled over in your lofts), I found Terhaar’s article to be an abomination. The scarier part is that it is representative of a minority attitude running through campus like a rat in a New York City subway tunnel: unnatural and unsettling. I have often written that dissenters of Our Lady’s University’s conservative, Catholic culture should simply leave or accept it, and I continue to feel this way, along with a large, underrepresented majority of students here. For Terhaar to feel “SO bad” and “guilty” for her male friends who weren’t able to find female students looking for a one-night stand speaks horribly of our school’s female population, as well. I have spoken to an equal number of girls and guys who are embarrassed and disgusted by this type of writing and do not have sympathy for men who want to use them for sexual behavior. According to Terhaar, Notre Dame students’ regret of unsatisfactory hookups results from being “improperly fondled by the cold hands of a clumsy virgin.” Any person who judges the quality of their interaction with another human being by their sexual performance or experience is deserving only of the regret of their own behavior and morality.

Among these ridiculous claims, Terhaar takes stabs at the University’s high graduate employment rate and accuses the student body of being homophobic. The University of Notre Dame is seen as one of the premier undergraduate universities in the world and prepares its students for real careers. Additionally, I have never seen anyone run away from a homosexual student while screaming, therefore, the student body could not be considered scared of homosexuals. I personally oppose gay marriage but have never been afraid of homosexual students. All of these claims in the Her Campus article lead me to conclude one thing: Emma Terhaar represents an extremely distorted view of all things having to do with Notre Dame, and it has been my goal here to clarify for the masses. Students’ respect for their own bodies is something to be applauded. Their traditional views are what make this University attractive to many, myself included. When I toured Notre Dame, I asked about dorm life, career recruiting, but forgot to inquire about how easy it would be for me to have sex with female students. That’s because I didn’t come here to let my morals slide, and I know Notre Dame’s gender relations won’t be made less awkward by others letting theirs slide either. Have some respect for yourself, and stay classy Notre Dame.

Mark Gianfalla is a junior
studying finance and a resident of Morrissey Manor. He can be reached at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not
necessarily those of The Observer.


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