PRINCETON, N.J. — As college students around the country kick off a new school year, one national organization is working to change prevailing campus attitudes that accept casual sexual encounters as the norm.
Cassandra Hough, founder of the Love and Fidelity Network, explained that, “on the majority of college campuses, there’s a one-sided view” on questions of marriage, family and sexuality, “and there’s a lot of pressure for students to conform.”
“The Love and Fidelity Network looks to balance that conversation and challenge the sexual norms on campus by providing an alternative,” she told CNA.
Hough founded the network in 2007 after helping to start the Anscombe Society, a Princeton University group promoting chastity and sexual integrity on campus.
“It became apparent when I was a student leader at the Anscombe Society that a national organization was needed to provide college student leaders with the resources, arguments, leadership training, support and the network to start student groups and effectively defend marriage, family and sexual integrity on their college campuses,” Hough said.
Since its beginnings, with two student groups on two college campuses, the Love and Fidelity Network has grown in the past six years to have active student groups on 23 campuses nationwide, with 10 additional schools in various stages of forming student groups.
“We have a growing membership” and a continually expanding range of conferences, campaigns and resources for students, Hough said.
Caitlin Seery, director of the Love and Fidelity Network, said that the group’s mission “is to challenge the sexual orthodoxy that has a foothold on American universities.”
The prevailing mindset, she told CNA, “separated sex from any meaning,” and since it was adopted by many members of the university community, it “has had a transforming influence on the rest of the culture.”
Seery said that she is excited about the organization’s growth, and she is looking forward to the coming school year.
The group held a leadership seminar for the first time this past summer, gathering more than 20 student leaders from 15 campuses in order to learn from one another and from scholars in the field about reasons and methods to promote traditional sexual ethics on campus.
“Up until this point, I think people felt connected to us, but not to each other,” Seery stated, adding that after the summer conference, there has been “really a growing sense of a national movement.”
Now, going into the fall semester, she said, “the students are so motivated.” The first nationwide campaign this fall will involve hanging posters during student-orientation sessions to display “a positive message that there is an alternative to the hook-up culture.”
“A lot of people do want more” than casual sexual hook-ups, Seery said, adding that students should be able to “expect more than the message they usually receive during freshman orientation week.”
Other initiatives throughout the year will include a Valentine’s Day poster campaign and the 6th annual National Love and Fidelity Conference this November.
However, even with several annual campaigns and a growing corps of dedicated students, the university setting is a challenging battleground for the organization.
Some ideas that came out of the sexual revolution “really got a foothold in American universities,” Seery said, explaining that this “orthodoxy of the sexual revolution” has permeated the culture in which young people are formed and is supported by established leaders in the academic field.
“We’re dealing with a culture that is becoming a lot more hostile to voices defending marriage as the institution between one man and one woman,” she said. “In some ways, it’s becoming more difficult to promote sexual integrity on campus, because our vision is an all-encompassing one,” including not only abstinence, but also marriage, fidelity and other issues that create controversy on college campuses, Seery added.
Seery said that it is “inspiring” to see students face the challenge of campus dialogue in a respectful yet firm manner.
She added that it is heartening to see the network’s campus groups offering an alternative community and “a uniquely safe space” for students with same-sex attractions whose viewpoints in support of chastity and a traditional understanding of marriage are “discriminated against in other circles.”
“That’s something that our groups offer that no one else does,” Seery said.
Despite the many challenges within university communities today, Seery said that the organization has high hopes. She would like to see colleges “actually help encourage healthy behavior that will help lead to the flourishing of individual students and the student community,” just as they try to promote healthy lifestyles regarding stress, tobacco and alcohol.
Such changes will take time, Seery said. “We know that we’re playing for the long game and that the culture is not going to be changed overnight,” she added.
However, she said, “ideas form culture, and if we change the ideas that are false, but taken for granted at these universities, then we can actually, in the long run, have a meaningful impact on the culture.”