Last night, over at my alma mater—the University of Virginia—jurors came to a verdict in the George Huguely case after nine hours of deliberation. Huguely, who played lacrosse for the University, was convicted of second-degree murder and faces 26 years in prison for the 2010 beating death of his former girlfriend, Yeardley Love.
The murder and the trial revealed the extent to which domestic abuse—i.e. serious physical violence—is a reality for too many students, obscured by a pervasive culture of silence.
Keep this in mind as you read this column from Washington Post blogger Alexandra Petri, who uses George Huguely to bemoan “hook-up culture” and alcohol use:
This is a story of growing up in a world where people sand off life’s edges on your behalf. Where parents and institutions exist not to protect you from mistakes, but from their consequences. […]
The setting is a character on its own: the college campus, where hook-up culture runs rampant and you are expected to drink four times a week, where you can sleep with someone and he can come to the stand and say that you were just friends, and it can be true. It’s a no-man’s land in which everyone wants to have fun without consequence. Where people are just mature enough to act immaturely. [Emphasis mine]
Petri mentions hook-ups twice, and complains that students don’t study enough, but I’m not even sure what she’s trying to say. That Yeardley Love would have been alive had she enjoyed chaste friendships and monogamous relationships? That college drinking—which does have its own set of problems—leaves everyone morally suspect? Or is it that—in a line which sounds very familiar given the recent controversies over birth control—college students shouldn’t be able to have fun and enjoy the freedom of youth without “consequences?”
I'm not being facetious. I genuinely don’t know what Petri is arguing here. What I do know is that thousands of college students drink and have sex without beating their partners to death. Yeardley Love’s death wasn’t about ”immaturity" or the privilege that pervades a place like UVA (even if it is very problematic). George Huguely—like countless other abusers—is the natural outcome of a culture that continues to present women as objects to be used by men. If Petri wants to rail against something, she should rail against that.
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