Looking Back on Trinity’s 150th Anniversary

There’s a barber shop in Waxahachie called the White House run by an old barber named Raul who’s been there for decades. I must have visited the place a dozen times to get my hair cut before I mentioned that I attend Trinity University when I’m not back home. Raul stopped clipping and tottered away with half my hair still long and returned from behind a shelf with a stack of old Trinity yearbooks he’d found in estate sales. Atop the stack sat the 1942 Mirage, the last yearbook we printed in Waxahachie before moving to San Antonio. Nestled between a lot of tuxedo portraits and pictures of football players with leather helmets was a letter of appreciation to the city of Waxahachie:

Forty years ago, to be exact, on March 21, 1902, the cornerstone for the Trinity University Administration building was laid in Waxahachie. The following September, Trinity, one of the oldest educational institutions in Texas, in Waxahachie began its thirty-third year, after moving from Tehuacana.

Since that time the institution has advanced itself into one of the most widely recognized schools in the Southwest, not only in size, but in its scholastic achievement, its proven training facilities, and its moral record…

It is with deepest regret that Trinity must depart from its loyal friends, its benevolent helpers, and its unflinching supporters, but it is with the Waxahachie spirit that it will carry to San Antonio. Trinity traditions molded here in Waxahachie will linger as long as Trinity exists…

From page 7 of the 1942 Mirage yearbook. See Mirage archives here.

And so began our exodus to the Alamo City. Those embarkers uprooted themselves and traveled here with the hope that some deeper core went with them, some spirit of the university to which they would stay tethered. There would be new buildings, new classes of students, but the accomplishments and ways of old would surely be kept.

Needless to say, our forebears would hardly recognize Trinity in its current state. Unless we’ve got a gray-haired old historian in the library with bifocals and one of those green visors waiting to blow the dust off a leather-bound volume of Ye Olde Waxahachie Traditions and enlighten us, Trinity students will continue to have no idea what Trinity traditions were molded in Waxahachie.

The university has made some efforts (that at once seem both labored and slapdash) to instill some traditions on the San Antonio campus: dunking people on their birthday, nachos on Wednesday, Christmas on Oakmont, and so forth. These are fun things to do, but they don’t date back to the Waxahachie campus, which has no fountain and is quite a trek away from Oakmont Ct. In the end, that’s no big deal. Fountains and food do not constitute the true symbolism of Trinity. Going through the outward motions isn’t the point—the point is whether or not our identity is tied to some core of principle.

Trinity’s time in San Antonio has been characterized by a mad dash for modernity, especially in recent years. In the past decade, the administration has extensively renovated several buildings on campus, created more and more new full-time positions (like the Director of Diversity and Inclusion), and introduced new First Year Experience courses as an alternative to the original Great Books of the Western World course. The school has let itself fall into the unending cycle of seeking the next big thing, chasing the whims of needy students and the demands of marketing. It is a fruitless ambition that pleases a select few in the moment and even fewer people as time goes on.

As evidenced by the shameful way many of our student leaders treated President Anderson last week, progressives can be insatiable; their demands, rarely concrete, are often bottomless.

Fads so often are like cultural one-night stands. The thrill of the avant-garde dissolves into a sense of regret once we come to our senses. Few laymen prefer brutalism over classical architecture, and I’m sure most of us would rather listen to Bach than Schoenberg or George Crumb. But sticking to the classics is limiting, and experimentation can breed great beauty, like jazz or Impressionism. The difference between passing fads and lasting appreciation is all about motive: the desire to make something good lasts longer than novelty for novelty’s sake.

The trick is to seek new things while sticking to tradition. Tradition is a natural way of solidifying common identity, among citizens of the present and along the timeline. Our juggernaut path to the future is a great way of firing up some people now, but tradition guarantees that when two Trinity graduates meet by happenstance in the world, that connection will mean something. Tradition is what assured our class of ’47 that, though they would necessarily adapt to a new world, the name of Trinity would evoke the same principles of excellence, knowledge, and morality.

Trinity’s 150th Anniversary Signage; photo by Maddie D’iorio.

Change, especially for a college campus, isn’t necessarily good or bad. The merits of progress lie in its goal. Does the administration earnestly want to seek new knowledge, or is it dashing to satisfy a class of ravenous activists and escape lawsuit? Are we renovating our old buildings to make them safer or to catch the attention of prospective students? And, the most important question of all: amidst the remodeling and new courses and searching like mad for a female engineering professor, does the administration care about its moral record?

Considering that the academic consensus in modern anthropology is one of moral and cultural relativism, the answer is probably no. Our university is not tied to any core of principle; our values (Discovery, Excellence, Impact, the Individual, Community) seem hopelessly banal, and remain unenforced and apart from student life. You’ll not find our motto, E Tribus Unum, on any stationary or T-shirts; it is too unavoidably Christian, and too old. It exists only in mosaic in front of Northrup Hall, where we’re jokingly told not to remember it, but step around it, drawing a subtle line between reverence and avoidance.

The true meaning of Trinity has become indefinable, hazy, a mirage; the administration is forced to retroactively instill a sense of identity among an apathetic, unspirited student body. If Trinity does not stop its mad dash to become the campus of the future, the quality of our schooling will continue to degrade right along with the very meaning of the university itself.

Sexting and Selfishness

Wellness Services of Trinity University raised eyebrows in the first week of the spring semester when students received the latest article from Student Health 101, the online campus wellness magazine, entitled: “Smarter Sexting: Thoughtful and respectful approaches to sexual messages.”

The article itself is nothing particularly groundbreaking. It rightfully warns of the risks of sending nude photos, advises to “leave something to the imagination” for more fun, and mentions a few crafty ways of responding to unsolicited sexual messages. The article also describes sexting as “a common way to flirt and express sexuality” and “a pleasurable part of a healthy sexual encounter.” At first glance, the article seems to be more or less a well-meaning attempt to caution students against the perils of sexting gone wrong.

It comes as no surprise that at a university which hosts a “Sex Week” (which in the past year involved a display table of sex toys in the student center), we discuss sexting as casually as the cafeteria menu. Within the last decade, American college campuses have come to embody a culture of toleration, where ideas of acceptance, inclusion and expression, including sexual expression, are boasted virtues alongside the quality of the academics. Sexuality, gender, and race have become the issues. If it is not at least mentioned, the trend of toleration culture can sometimes frame entire academic disciplines, from sociology to English to philosophy. And unsurprisingly, the constructivist, socially progressive worldview extends to the grave matter of sex—a lesson eagerly consumed by the impressionable on campus.

In an era of readily accessible technology and instant messaging, where Hollywood celebrities and Instagram models earn recognition through sexually suggestive photographs, where media enthusiastically glorifies the pleasures of casual sex, where casual sexual behavior is advocated by professionals as a “healthy form of self-expression,” it should not shock us to find that children are sending dirty messages to each other. And truly they are children—for most of Trinity’s freshman class, a nude photo taken less than a year ago would be considered child pornography under Texas law. These are girls and boys who have not yet grown into their bodies and who are not psychologically mature enough for a sexual encounter and all it entails. Many are driven by hormones and instinct, have no intimate understanding of their own fertility and biology, and have yet to learn what sex is as a meaningful expression of love. Yet the article treats sexting with the same gravity as a student’s exercise or sleeping habits, encouraging the young to view sexual encounters as a matter of personal preference for one’s pleasure rather than a serious physical, psychological, and moral decision, the impact of which is difficult to exaggerate. And most unfortunately, it will be young students, not the university, who will suffer as a result of such a casual public take on sexual ethics.

Selfish pleasure—not love—is at the core of sexting. The purpose of such an act is to derive arousal and excitement from the other, using them as means for one’s own gratification.

Both parties may consent in a sexting exchange, but mutuality and consent are not all that render a relationship healthy and nontoxic—prostitution can be a perfectly consensual and mutual act. In fact, sometimes a loving relationship requires respectful criticism and saying “no” at the right times. Love means willing the good of the other. Entertaining erotic fantasies over text messages and sending “sexy” selfies are hardly that. When we exchange these messages, we don’t begin to learn each other’s quirks, personalities, histories, or any of the traits that make up their personhood. Others simply become objects of pleasure.

Here is a better way to express it: sexting is sexuality expressed at the other rather than with them, and the difference is apparent in the medium of virtual text alone. When someone sends a sexual message, the recipient can postpone their reply or fail to reciprocate the message altogether. In a live, person-to-person interaction, every act and response is immediate, vulnerable and current, requiring both parties to be completely present for everything. The nature of the moment is fleeting and therefore precious; the act has respect for the regular movement of time, and no pictures are saved to be exploited later. (In such a case, these images are inevitably used for arousal and excitement when alone, selfishly disregarding the other from the interaction.) Such a real experience is intimidating but raw, with no ability to doctor one’s image with posing, lighting, or filters.

Here lies that other aspect of love which is void from sexting: a sexual expression founded in love pays less attention to visual appeal. Scars, stretch marks, cellulite, age, or physical deformities matter next to nothing to healthy sexual love, because the focus of the encounter is with the person rather than at their body. And while it is true that both sexting and healthy sexual expressions require a certain level of vulnerability, the people who send nudes and risque texts are not exposing themselves naked like a newborn babe to the mortifying experience of being known and therefore loved. Instead, they render themselves vulnerable in a fundamentally different way, like a hooker for her client—to be subjected to use.

This hardly touches upon the devastating consequences that come from such use and misuse. Beside the irreparable damage that can happen to one’s reputation if he or she trusts the wrong person, there are the subconscious teachings they absorb. Girls learn how to use the power of their bodies to please a man’s sexual appetites, then mistake that for being loved. Boys learn that viewing pornography and confronting women sexually is acceptable so long as she says she consents, regardless if either party is mentally prepared. In every case, a lewd sexual dynamic is misunderstood as necessary in a loving relationship—possibly becoming what a romantic relationship means. Sincere love is conflated with desire.

As these persons grow and mature, they learn better and more efficient ways to use one another to achieve the same “high,” falsely believing that such expressions are part of “identity” and “freedom of self-expression.” They use apps like Tinder and become serial monogamists (or sometimes date multiple people at once), flirt meaninglessly with a rotating circle of people, mistake gestures of kindness for sexual advances, and spend exorbitant amounts of time on the Internet with people they have never met in the flesh. There are clubs and crowded, sexually-charged parties filled with people dancing at one another, simulating sexual acts and advertising their body as the object of erotic fantasy.

Unsurprisingly, these habits will develop into porn addictions. More than that, they warp what it means to date a person—rather than investing in a person with hope for a future together, people become hobbies with sex as a number on their to-do list. Sex itself is no longer intimate, but routine. The goal? Certainly not concern for the other’s dignity, or helping one another to live good, healthy lives, but personal satisfaction at the other’s expense. Having so harmfully misused their sexuality for pleasure rather than love, the same people find themselves struggling to bond with their future spouse, tolerating borderline toxic or abusive behavior, or resorting to riskier, thrilling yet dangerous sexual acts to regain their sensation for what sexual excitement used to be. And when someone commits a far more heinous crime of use, an act of sexual assault, we wonder where they ever got the notion it was acceptable to use another human being.

It used to be that casual sexual behavior like sexting was embarrassing and shameful. It certainly was not always sponsored by universities as normal behavior or “healthy” expressions of self. But now such habits are not only discussed openly, but they are unabashedly celebrated. The article from Trinity’s Wellness Services is only a microcosm of the culture at large, where the subject of “self” has become an idol, consequently justifying a hedonist morality based primarily on pleasing the self. Like art, the measured value of sex is no longer rooted in its true loveliness, but instead what it relatively means as self-expression. It is not about creating something beautiful, but how it serves oneself personally. Persons commit sacrilege with their bodies, the good and beauty of sex becomes void of its original sacredness, and selfishness becomes virtue. One can only hope that the young will see through such a lie before all dignity, respect, and love is lost completely.

We Wanted to be Surprised by #MeToo

This article was co-written by Luke Ayers

When the stories of sexual assault, harassment, and general impropriety began to surface, often with #MeToo, neither of us were particularly surprised. We really, really wanted to be. We wanted to be shocked that figures representing films and television series we enjoyed could be guilty of such horrendous offenses, but we weren’t, not in the slightest.

It’s difficult to be surprised about #MeToo when we are living in a culture which does not encourage a respect for human dignity in sexuality. A culture which is saturated with things such as pornography and casual sex, diminishing the value of intimate relationships. This has led to people, especially men in positions of power, believing that they have the right to sexually take advantage of women without repercussions. If we don’t expect people to stand for human dignity in public, why should we expect them to do so in private?

By this point, if you’re someone who consumes pornography or has casual sexual relationships, or at least don’t think there’s anything wrong with these, you’re probably getting a little peeved (at the very least) and thinking we’re a couple of prudes who need to get our minds out of the 1300’s. While you aren’t entirely wrong on our preferred century, the problems with the attitudes that accompany a flippant use of pornography or consistent participation in casual sex are well documented. The harmful effects of pornography in particular are well documented by psychologists and behavioural scientists.

In case you’re doubting the truthfulness of this claim, we’ve selected just three of the worst effects that pornography has been shown to have. There are many, many more to be found.

1. Even non-violent porn makes men more likely to use violence, drugs, and alcohol to coerce women into having sex with them.

2. Porn is addictive in the same way that drugs are, because of the release of dopamine in the brain, sending users on a destructive path towards more and more dehumanizing porn to satisfy their addiction.

3. Porn contributes heavily to the sex trafficking business, with even many of the women who do consent often being coerced into doing things they don’t feel comfortable doing.*

These numbers do not represent fringe research. In light of this growing body of research, four states (Utah, South Dakota, Arkansas and Tennessee) have declared pornography a public health crisis, and Florida has similar legislation introduced at the moment. Virginia has passed a resolution recognizing porn as having harmful effects. Similar efforts are being discussed in Texas and other states.

The second attitude that contributes to the acceptability of sexual offenses like those highlighted by #MeToo is the prevalence of hookup culture and an assumption that sex can or should be casual. Admittedly, some of our issues with extramarital sex are religious in nature, and to hide that would be disingenuous. However, even allowing for sex outside the context of marriage, the fact remains that hookup culture approaches a person as a mere means to an end. It degrades a human person to simply a tool that provides sexual pleasure. While these fleeting relationships do have the important aspect of consent, no amount of consent to an activity can change the attitude with which one or both parties approach it.

There is a whole host of issues that come with our generation’s hookup culture, in which 80% of today’s college students take part. According to the Kinsey Institute, having a high amount of previous sexual partners is one of the top five factors leading to infidelity in adults. It also increases your chances of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, which is one of the reasons that 23% of American adults have some form of HPV. Consequences of having casual sex spill out into your emotional life as well—as a study from Durham University shows that 80% of men had overall positive feelings the morning after a one night stand, while only 54% of women felt satisfied.

By participating in this culture, young men and women open themselves up to brokenness and falling away from the original purpose of sex. “Lust and sin increase the rupture between body and spirit. When we use our own and others bodies as objects for pleasure or to fill the emptiness inside us, there is an increased break,” says Katrina Zero, who is the coordinator of the John Paul II Resource Center for Theology of the Body and Culture.

It is for this reason that hookup culture has frankly eroded the morals of our generation. It has created an environment in which one night stands are not only viewed as normal but also as healthy, as was shown in a popular article from babe.net, an up and coming young women’s lifestyle site. The same site that, ironically, that posted the non-sexual assault story about Aziz Ansari. It is true cognitive dissonance that a publication can discuss the negative consequences of a poorly thought out hookup, while at the same time lauding casual sex as a necessary and positive thing for women.

Rape and other violations of a person’s bodily autonomy ultimately originate because the perpetrator does not truly believe in the dignity of the person they are attacking. This is not to say that everyone who uses porn or has casual sex will be a rapist—neither logic nor the statistics supports this. However, the prevalence of these two things, among our age group and in society as a whole, certainly do not help decrease the number of these violations. Moreover, the statistics surrounding the higher propensity towards a lack of concern for consent among men who use porn, and the commodification of the human person that occurs with pornography and hookups make it clear how someone could go down the road to justifying more and more egregious offenses against the individual.

Offenses against the dignity of one person are offenses against the dignity of all—we should all take issue with the way that women and men are portrayed as mere vehicles of sexual pleasure, if we wish to truly be a society that cares about the rights of each person. One of our country’s founding values is individual liberty, which means that respecting the basic human decency of our fellow man is paramount to who we are as Americans. This must extend to our culture in regards to casual sex and pornography, as these are the things that are holding us back from eradicating the problems of sexual abuse and harassment in the times of #MeToo.

*Sources for Pornography Statistics:

  • Boeringer, S. B. (1994). Pornography and Sexual Aggression: Associations of Violent and Nonviolent Depictions with Rape and Rape Proclivity. Deviant Behavior 15, 3: 289–304
  • Check, J. and Guloien, T. (1989). The Effects of Repeated Exposure to Sexually Violent Pornography, Nonviolent Dehumanizing Pornography, and Erotica. In D. Zillmann and J. Bryant (Eds.) Pornography: Research Advances and Policy Considerations (pp. 159–84). Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
  • Hald, G. M., Malamuth, N. M., and Yuen, C. (2010). Pornography and Attitudes Supporting Violence Against Women: Revisiting the Relationship in Nonexperimental Studies. Aggression and Behavior 36, 1: 14–20
  • Berridge, K. C., & Robinson, T. E. (2016). Liking, Wanting, And The Incentive-Sensitization Theory Of Addiction. American Psychologist, 71(8), 670-679. Doi:10.1037/Amp0000059; Hilton, D. L. (2013). Pornography Addiction—A Supranormal Stimulus Considered In The Context Of Neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 3, 20767. Doi:10.3402/Snp.V3i0.20767; Pitchers, K. K., Et Al. (2013). Natural And Drug Rewards Act On Common Neural Plasticity Mechanisms With DeltaFosB As A Key Mediator. Journal Of Neuroscience, 33(8) 3434-3442. Doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4881-12.2013; Salamone, J. D., & Correa, M. (2012). The Mysterious Motivational Functions Of Mesolimbic Dopamine. Neuron, 76, 470-485. Doi:10.1016/J.Neuron.2012.10.021
  • Peters, R. W., Lederer, L. J., and Kelly, S. (2012). The Slave and the Porn Star: Sexual Trafficking and Pornography. In M. Mattar and J. Braunmiller (Eds.) Journal of Human Rights and Civil Society 5: 1-21.
  • U.S. Department of Justice. (2012). Two Men Sentenced to Multiple Life Sentences for Enticing Women to South Florida to Engage in Commercial Sex Acts and Distributing Date Rape Pills. Press Release, Feb. 17.