Privilege is everywhere. Privilege is the word of the day. And it’s just the accident of birth that leaves you on the right or the wrong side of privilege. And, really, whether it’s privilege related to class, race, economic status, gender, looks, or even intelligence, there is a right or a wrong side. If you don’t believe it, think to yourself about whether or not you’d feel afraid of walking home after going to buy some Skittles because you might be shot through the heart. That’s the world we live in right now, where the ability to walk in your own neighborhood without fearing assault is a privilege. And, you know, fuck that. Fuck that, but don’t deny what the reality is. There are people who are born into power, and there are people who have to fight for it, every step of the way.
But so, sex. This past weekend, the New York Times ran an article addressing the stunning new revelation that college girls like to have sex. Which, ha ha, New York Times. Pretty funny to publish a seven-page article on the topic of women’s bodies and sexuality which deals with, among other things, date rape and sexual violence and put it in the Fashion & Styles section. I guess everything having to do with women is just automatically shunted into Fashion? Cool. Good to know.
Within the scope of the article, however, was something that was far more notable than the young woman who sees sex as something with a concrete “cost-benefit” ratio or the fact that there is apparently a thing now called “difmo” or “dance floor make-out.” I guess what I’m trying to say is, alarming as the acronym “difmo” is (which, VERY alarming), there was actually an interesting element to the piece that isn’t even worth mocking. At one point in the article, which concerns the sexual proclivities of female undergrads at the University of Pennsylvania, author Kate Taylor, notes that “campuses are not sexual free-for-alls” and speaks with “Mercedes, a junior at Penn who is on financial aid.” Mercedes comes from a “mostly Latino public high school in California” where she says “it was the troubled and unmotivated students who drank and hooked up, while the honors students who wanted to go to college kept away from those things.” Now at Penn, Mercedes “was surprised to see her elite classmates drinking, but even more surprised by the casual making out.” Taylor further illuminates that “[Mercedes’s} unease was common among students from relatively modest backgrounds…women from wealthier backgrounds were much more likely to hook up, more interested in postponing adult responsibilities and warier of serious romantic commitment than their less-affluent classmates.”
So this is interesting, right? What reason does Taylor give for there being such a disparity between the wealthier students and those who are less economically privileged? Well, she doesn’t really give any. Instead she allows Mercedes to claim, “Nothing is stopping me from rebelling. I just didn’t rebel.” And then Taylor moves on. But wait. Not to take anything away from Mercedes and the choice she has made, but, well, it isn’t really much of a choice when you come from an economically disadvantaged background, is it? When Mercedes recalls that it was the “troubled” students at her high school who had the most sex and were frequent partiers, what she’s leaving unmentioned is that those students are seen as troubled because they very publicly pay the consequences of casual sex, namely, they get pregnant and don’t have the same types of options afforded to them that their wealthier, better connected peers do.