First, and most importantly!, a correspondent tells me that Yale's focus on extracurrics and relative insouciance about course/section hours is not nearly as exotic as I'd thought. Go find out if this is true at your campus!
THIS IS THE ONLY STORY I WILL EVER BE ABLE TO TELL: And second, keep in mind that all of my opinions about everything were forged in a genuine philosophical community. I don't promote underage drinking because I think the usual dance-and-vomits or DKE watch-your-drink parties have anything to recommend them. When I talk about drinking, I always and only mean drinking in the company of people who are dedicated to philosophy, to pursuit of the femme fatale Truth. Wine (and by wine, I mean cheap vodka) is one of the easiest recruits for the philosophers' army, and so I praise her, but if you don't follow Sophia's flag you should probably just stay sober.
This same context applies to my comments about chastity. What I'm saying makes sense in a community where leadership, and its erotics, serves to seduce freshmen into philosophy--where Diotima's ladder is as boringly obvious as the transition from sophomore year to junior. I don't know that I can make claims about how eros and education interact in contexts and campuses where they're estranged.
COURSE CREDIT IN THE STRAIGHT WORLD: On reflection I think that gay guys tended to have quite a bit more a) volatility in self-concept (less willingness to think of themselves as Good People/rational actors in a rational sexual arena/totally ethical and responsible and your parents will love me) and b) self-awareness, than most sexually-active straight people I knew in college.
B) is a huge part of why sex strikes me as different from other possible realms of cognitive dissonance. The point is not merely, "Some religions say sex out of wedlock is wrong!" The point is more, "There's a whole philosophical and cultural apparatus designed to promote the belief that sex out of wedlock is morally neutral, said apparatus would help you feel good, and this belief is so all-pervasive that you can swim in it like a fish in water, never even noticing the degree to which it may be shaping or constraining your own beliefs."
It doesn't help that the prevailing philosophical/cultural apparatus supporting "sex is morally neutral!" is based on a deeply banal understanding of sex and the body.
My guess is that the coming-out process forces a sense of the contingency of prevailing cultural norms around sex, and thus perhaps made the gay guys I knew a lot less complacent, a lot more willing to state forthrightly the ways in which their sexual activities had affected their worldviews, rather than--like so many straight undergrads--defensively denying that their sexual activity was in any way philosophically interesting or meaningful. The straights tended to seem so entitled about sex!--and so heavily invested in their own self-images as rational, responsible actors.
YOU WILL NOTE THE SAMPLE SIZE PROBLEM HERE. *g* I think I'm talking about, like, maybe six guys at this point! And again, all but one of them were POR members, thus within that eros/education model. AND, too, sexually-active POR members may be disproportionately likely to be libertarians, hence already prone to complacency and overinvestment in their own rationality!
...And, too, I may be bitter. Wouldn't be the first time! And yeah, I do realize that my judgments of other 20-year-olds are not the best examples of humility, or self-overhearing. My advice is always worth exactly what you paid for it!
SADDLE UP THE LLAMA, I'M GOING IN!: And finally, a reader writes (quite acutely):
Your comment "the cruel intensifying of drama I associated with sex really only took place in heterosexual couples" seems exactly right (to this straight guy at least). It raised this thought: the standard heterosexual relationship is morally problematic in a way the standard homosexual relationship is not. And this difference explains why ethical systems have an institution of marriage.
Heterosexual relationships are often, indeed typically, characterized by massive disparities -- differences in physical strength, level of and frequency of sexual desire, degree of emotional involvement, and, of course, the ultimate differential risk of pregnancy. We have ethical norms like marriage, like chivalry -- intensely powerful, civilization-shaping norms -- precisely because this relationship is a disaster waiting to happen. Leave aside any practical consequences (who takes care of the kids, etc.) these norms are essential for reliable moral behavior. Without them, people just inflict endless injustices and cruelties on each other. Homosexual relationships simply do not pose analogous problems. No one ever created 'homosexual marriage' or homosexual chivalry, because, by and large, no such institutions were needed.
a) At least one strand of opposition to gay marriage (I am a supporter, FWIW) should be "it's not you, it's us." You don't need these powerful norms -- you'll do just fine! Using a jackhammer to crush a walnut inevitably degrades the performance of the jackhammer. Can't we please find some other way to officially validate your lifestyle!
b) absent a teleology of the human body, we should admit that an active homosexual lifestyle is less morally problematic than an active heterosexual lifestyle. No risk of pregnancy. Lower average asymmetries in power, expectation, and emotional investment. Less likelihood of accidental deception. Better fit with contractual liberal models all around.
All for now! Write more, pumpkins!