No Sex Talk, Please—This is Harvard

Harvard’s men’s cross-country team has been put on probation because members of the 2014 team made strong judgments on the sexual attractiveness of members of the women’s cross-country team.


We wonder if male college students anywhere else have ever engaged in this kind of behavior—noticing that females often differ in their degree of attractiveness, thus generating male commentary, some of it tacky, even smarmy and probably not in the language that the commenters might use in speaking to their mothers.

Our guess is yes, other young men, perhaps even at Harvard, have concluded that sexual appeal is unevenly spread throughout the female population, and they have not always refrained from speaking out on the matter. Another guess of ours is that only at Harvard would men write down these sometimes crude, offhand judgments and file them away on spreadsheets for detractors to find.

Indeed, some of those detractors are descending on Harvard’s men’s sports teams with the grim zest of PTA mommies eager to deal with the pigtail-pulling behavior of eighth-grade boys. Pigtail-pulling of some sort is likely involved in other mommy interventions at Harvard, including the cancellation of this season’s men’s soccer team, not to mention the campaign to punish the mostly male members of various clubs and fraternities that have variously irritated large numbers of campus mommies, who are mysteriously determined to prove something or other.

Mommy spokespeople say the comments by the current cross-country team are not so bad, but comments by the 2014 team were horrible, though hard to punish since most of those team members are gone and unavailable for punishment. But current members will have to suffer training by the much-feared mommies of Title IX, plus another trainer, maybe even a male, who will help the errant cross-countrymen to shed as much maleness as possible. Apparently, this has already been accomplished at the Harvard Crimson, whose editors have expressed no reservations about all this.


  • John Leo

    John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

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3 thoughts on “No Sex Talk, Please—This is Harvard

  1. Shocked! Shocked! OMG — sophomoric boys exchange sophomoric thoughts about the sexual desirability of sophomoric girls!??? ! The horror!!

    Unsurprised, however, to learn — once again — that even our so-called best & brightest are unable to anticipate and avoid the tizzy-making witch-hunt which ALWAYS follows the discovery (WHAT? Someone looked under my mattress????) that males spend time thinking of females in sexually objectifying ways.

    How can they do such horrible things??? The very idea: thinking sexual thoughts about sexually attractive Others???

    Perhaps some saltpeter in the cafeteria’s mashed taters would help?? And, of course, there’s always the Ludovico Technique.

    But most surprising of all is this demonstration, yet again, that Feminism has been rejected entirely by the very gender it was intended to liberate.

    It seems so long ago. The marching and demonstrations — the determined voices proclaiming, “Women are NOT 2nd Class Citizens!” They can speak for themselves…act in their own best interests….succeed in the adult world as adults, completely capable of making adult decisions and accepting adult accountability…even in the face of opposition, indifference, objectification, & rejection. Our body, ourselves,” we were told. “We own our own sexuality…and we can make our own fully accountable sexual choices!”

    But no. We have now returned to some strange, 21st century version of fainting Victorianism. We are told that women can not be held accountable for their actions or decisions if they’ve had something to drink, been subject to male persuasion or psychological pressure. We are told that these delicate creatures can withdraw consent at any time but are under no compulsion to reveal that ‘withdrawal’ (it is up to the man to discern, through careful and gentle inquiry (which generates proof) whether or not a sexual act can proceed without becoming assault). Woman now as shrinking violet; Friedan, Greer, Jong, Paglia — they all would be ashamed.

    And as ridiculous as all that is — we hear it in the plaintive, weepy voices of the Harvard Women’s Soccer Team:
    “We feel hopeless because men who are supposed to be our brothers degrade us like this,”
    “Having considered members of this team our close friends for the past four years, we are beyond hurt to realize these individuals could encourage, silently observe or participate in this kind of behavior, and for more than four years have neglected to apologize.”
    “The actions and words displayed by members of the 2012 men’s soccer team have deeply hurt us. They were careless, disgusting, and appalling… an aberrant display of misogyny ”

    No — they were none of these things. The stolen words & ‘player’ ratings were actually nothing more or less than a glimpse into the contents of a private ‘diary’ which sat on the top shelf of a locked closet in a teenager’s bedroom. That adolescence cast the sexual hunger so revealed into particularly rude & crude forms is and should be entirely expected. Sexual desire objectifies…. to be human is to objectify.

    The Offended tell us: ““Locker room talk” is not an excuse because this is not limited to athletic teams. The whole world is the locker room.”

    And they are right. More right, actually, than they know.

    Call it a locker room; call it life; call it reality. Adults interact with adults in an infinite variety of ways. And as much as some of the more immature among us might like to think that our conscious and public interactions (which may, in fact, be quite Miss Mannerly — particularly in certain, well-controlled & monitored environments) will match entirely our private perspectives, dreams, and desires (please no bad thoughts here!). They do not and will not. Thank God we do not yet live in Stepford.

    And when we look beneath the metaphorical mattress — when some prissy fool who’s been offended (or simply wants to hurt someone) reveals the dirty magazines otherwise reserved for private viewing — how can anyone be surprised or appalled to discover that another’s private thoughts might not fit our objectifying preconceptions about what they really SHOULD BE.

    Now where did we put those smelling salts!?

  2. Does anyone consider that women may also make comments among themselves about the relative attractiveness of males they know? Heaven forbid they might even use raunchy terms to discuss various male attributes.

    A friend had an interesting conversation with a woman he knows about the election who said she voted for Trump. He asked her if she had been put off by Trumps comments about women. Her answer was basically that you would be surprised about the way women talk about men, including anatomical details.

    The election of Donald Trump will not end the conflict with a small but very extreme group of individuals trying to control our words and thoughts but it will prevent such totalitarians from having access to government levers of power. Without radical extremist control of the education and justice departments, the Title IX tyrants will be de-fanged.

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