Celibate at Harvard

Can true love ever replace campus hook-ups?
By KARA BASKIN  |  October 25, 2007

A year ago, a conservative revolution was born in the throbbing heart of liberal Cambridge: a True Love Revolution (TLR), that is. Harvard couple Sarah Kinsella and Justin Murray embarked on a campus-wide campaign to promote abstinence. Through mailings, ice-cream socials, and editorials in the Crimson, they urged their classmates to wait until marriage to have sex, lest they feel cheapened, objectified, or hurt (blue balls aside). Today, for the more than 100 student members of TLR, love means never having to say, “Your dorm or mine?”

College has always been a petri dish for sexual rebirth. Let’s face it, at a dimly lit kegger, even the most timid soul can fling aside his emo glasses and get lucky. On a national level, 71 percent of college students report being sexually active. These base instincts don’t discriminate: it seems that, when it comes to loin-locking, even the brilliant minds at Harvard turn to horny mush.

According to Justin, Harvard’s sex-ed freshman orientation events cater to the majority, treating sexual activity as a forgone conclusion — on par with hangovers, say, and the freshman fifteen. TLR acknowledges an alternate reality, and its founders practice what they preach. Justin and Sarah, now in Washington, DC, are saving themselves for marriage (and yes, they do hope to marry one another).

This past Valentine’s Day, the TLR crowd made themselves known with greetings stuffed in student mailboxes. “Why wait?” the cards read. “Because you’re worth it. Yours, True Love Revolution.” The flip side to being “worth it” is, of course, being “worthless.” Students took exception to the implication. Undergraduate Rachel Singh editorialized in the Crimson: “It’s a symptom of that culture we have that values a woman on her purity. It’s a relic.” People took sides online and at overcrowded dinner debates, and eventually the couple was even accompanied on a date by the New York Times.

Leo Keliher ’10 and Janie Fredell ’09 — a purely platonic duo — took the helm this year, and, heathen that I am, I didn’t know quite what to expect as I scurried across Harvard Square to meet them at Za. Bible-thumping dwarves wielding chastity belts? I took great care to dress appropriately — sensible button-down, pressed jeans, wholesome smile — but I just knew they’d smell impurity on me, the way dogs can smell fear. I straightened my posture and stepped inside, where I came face to face with two smiling, texting undergrads.

Janie is a slight, bubbly person; Leo’s a brooding chap with a boyish face. “I looked around campus, and it seemed like people were so lonely,” Janie tells me as we sit down to tea. “And the correlation between loneliness and being instrumentalized, not knowing how to care about someone else — like, truly in a relationship — like, seeing yourself as a physical entity as opposed to an entire person, that’s really what compelled me to be active — actively abstinent.”

She’s in a long-distance relationship; her boyfriend, who is “so supportive,” goes to Georgetown. Leo is single, but he speaks with the world-weary tone of a guy who’s been around the block.

1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |   next >
Related: Review: The Freebie, 38. Lang Lang, Poetic ecstasy, More more >
  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Culture and Lifestyle, Health and Fitness, Education,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   NAVIGATING THE BARROOM BREAKUP  |  December 06, 2012
    It's pointless to plunge into the holiday bacchanalia with dead weight — namely, an insignificant other who doesn't need to meet nosy Auntie Gertrude at the family potluck.
  •   RETURN TO SENDER  |  March 22, 2010
    Sure, we've all gotten an unwelcome fruitcake or fluorescent sweater in the mail, usually from a well-meaning and slightly out-of-touch relative. But few New England Jews could have been prepared for the surprise "gift" that recently arrived on their doorsteps courtesy of Georgia-based messianic former businessman Sid Roth.
  •   FIELD GUIDE TO FACEBOOK  |  September 04, 2009
    Recently, CNN ran a short piece listing common Facebook personas. CNN ? After our collective jaws dropped, we asked the rhetorical question, "How instructive is the funeral-parlor-stopover of undead zombies like Lou Dobbs and Larry King going to be to the Facebookers of today?"
  •   LIVING BEYOND THEIR MEANS?  |  June 17, 2009
    I'm at Bond on a Thursday night, and it's simmering with testosterone and possibility. Spaghetti-legged cocktail waitresses coo at businessmen. Tables spill forth with bejeweled women speaking too loudly and young couples sipping Champagne. 
  •   NERVOUS, STRESSED, AND DEPRESSED, LLC  |  April 30, 2009
    Twenty-seven-year-old Jesse White is a temporary staff attorney at a domestic-violence nonprofit in the South End.

 See all articles by: KARA BASKIN