The destructive tendencies of the “hook-up” campus culture caused Cassandra DeBenedetto, a 2007 Princeton University graduate, to found the Love and Fidelity Network, which promotes a healthy view of family, marriage and sexuality.
Register correspondent Stephen Vincent talked with her after the first Love and Fidelity conference, held in November on the Princeton campus.
How did the Love and Fidelity Network come about?
The history of the Love and Fidelity Network reaches back to the founding of the Anscombe Society, a Princeton student organization, which my classmates and I founded in 2005 to provide a voice on campus defending marriage, family and chastity, and to provide a community for those who held these values. We started the group for a few reasons.
First, we observed that university programs and events were often one-sided in their presentation of sexual norms and morals, where more casual attitudes toward sex and relationships were given preference. Second, we observed that reasons supporting chastity, abstinence and the institution of marriage were largely misunderstood or dismissed, sometimes within the classroom as well as outside it. Third, we observed much distress, brokenness, regret and bitterness among peers who engaged in the “hook-up, anything goes” sexual culture. Students [as well as faculty and staff] needed to know that there was a viable alternative to the hook-up culture, and they needed support in pursuing and understanding these alternatives.
Once the Anscombe Society got national attention, we received dozens of requests from students across the country wanting to start similar initiatives on their own campuses. I started the Love and Fidelity Network to meet this need. We seek to present a confident and intelligent voice on campuses supporting the institution of marriage and the important role of the family, as well as supporting an ethic of sexual integrity that opposes the “hook-up” sexual culture. The Love and Fidelity Network has already been featured by numerous media outlets, including The New York Times, the Associated Press, Teen Vogue, “The Glenn Beck Show,” EWTN’s “Life on the Rock,” and Bill Bennett’s radio show “Morning in America.”
Why the name Love and Fidelity?
I wanted the name of the organization to explicitly and clearly express the vision for human love and sexuality that the organization promotes — namely, a love that expresses itself through sexual fidelity to one’s spouse if married and sexual fidelity to one’s future spouse [through abstinence and chastity] if not married. The word “fidelity” accurately communicates the type of loving faithfulness that is so central to preparing for, building and maintaining strong marriages and families.
We aim to build a network that will become the nucleus of an articulate and effective new generation of leaders who will advocate for marriage, family, love and fidelity on college campuses and in the public square.
How has the message been received on campuses?
The greatest social-cultural phenomenon challenging the message of the Love and Fidelity Network is the breakdown of and redefining of marriage that is occurring in this country. Children do best — psychologically, socially, emotionally, academically and physically — when raised by a mother and a father who are lovingly committed to them and to each other. Furthermore, young men and women are more likely to delay sexual activity when raised in a stable, intact family, thereby reducing their risk for emotional distress, health problems and future marital instability. It is in the best interest of the children, families and society that we reserve a special place for the institution of marriage as the union between one man and one woman.
Tell us about the conference at Princeton on the topic “Sexuality, Integrity, and the University.”
We had about 130 participants, with students from 18 different universities and colleges, including Brown, Brigham Young, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Fordham, George Washington University, Harvard, Princeton, UMass-Amherst, University of Toronto, University of Virginia, Villanova, William and Mary and Yale. Already, I have received many requests from students to bring the resources of the Love and Fidelity Network to their campuses.
The speakers included Princeton’s Robert George and Sara McLanahan, Mary Eberstadt of the Hoover Institution, W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia, Laura Garcia of Boston College, Christopher Tollefsen of the University of South Carolina, author Maggie Gallagher and Miriam Grossman, M.D., of the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute.
What are your plans for the network?
The Love and Fidelity Network offers three essential services: conferences and seminars, personalized campus direction and online resources.
We plan to make the conference an annual event. The Love and Fidelity Network will also offer two types of seminars: one for the student leaders of these groups and another for the faculty advisors. We will seek to support student leaders and faculty advisors in their particular roles and to provide them with additional opportunities for training, discussion and collaboration.
We also offer personalized campus direction, working with students directly to help them communicate their values and commitments in the most effective way for their college environment. Some of the activities students may choose to offer on campus include public talks and panel discussions, social events and outings, discussion and reading groups, dinners or receptions with faculty advisers and community supporters, film forums and awareness displays and information tables.
For each of these activities, the Love and Fidelity Network coaches student leaders on the best topics, materials and speakers to use, as well as on the most effective means of advertising and executing such events. We also connect university students to local youth programs, groups and schools looking for young role models to speak on matters of sex and sexuality. The Anscombe Society at Princeton has already been successful in arranging a handful of these talks.
In addition, a website for the Love and Fidelity Network is up and running with conference information and links to resources on abstinence education, chastity and the hook-up culture, dating and courtship, feminism, gender and sex differences, marriage and sex, modesty, pornography and same-sex “marriage.” We plan to expand the website to offer more research and current events on marriage, family and sexuality; helpful organizations and their resources and services; a speakers’ list with bios and lecture topics; and a “Campus Updates” section, listing the initiatives and projects of students at different universities.
Who is helping you run the group?
The Love and Fidelity Network is a program of the Collegiate Cultural Foundation. Founded by a group of alumni and parents of students at Princeton University, the foundation’s mission is to support pro-family and pro-life activities and education on college campuses. In April 2007, the board of the Collegiate Cultural Foundation accepted a proposal to support the Love and Fidelity Network.
Our board of directors and advisory council both offer invaluable guidance and assistance. Over the past year, I have employed part-time help for various projects, and I will be looking for additional full-time help in the near future to meet the growing needs of the network.
Stephen Vincent writes
from Wallingford, Connecticut.