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Posted at 11:43 AM ET, 03/ 4/2011

Sex surveys, honor, and Brandon Davies's girlfriend

By Alexandra Petri

With a level of fanfare traditionally reserved for European monarchs and fallen pop princesses, we all now know that Brandon Davies, former star basketball player at Brigham Young University, has - well - violated the honor code. That's to say, done it. I thought not getting any was only an implicit condition of attending Brigham Young University, but it turns out that it's an explicit condition, as well. Sex is like a box of alcoholic chocolates - you aren't allowed to have it at Brigham Young.

Still, I find it refreshing that we're putting this level of focus on a man's honor, for once.

The rest of the world has exploded in an orgy of Brandon-congratulation. "You scored!" they announced. "You got game! You put the proverbial basketball in the proverbial basket! You put the proverbial hockey puck in the proverbial hockey goal! You the man now, dawg! Now send us pics! Pics or it didn't happen!"

But in Brandon's community, what -- or whom -- he did has consequences. He's off the team and faces expulsion for failing to uphold the code of honor.

So there's a reason people are still frenetically Googling, "Brandon Davies girlfriend." They want to know if it was worth it. Sex and consequences? For men, this is a novel idea, and so everyone's scrambling for pictures. If she looks like an angry tuber, they will be startled and probably disappointed. It reminds me of all the frantic Googling that happened after Natalie Portman announced that she would be winning Oscars for two from now on. "Who is this Benjamin Millepied?" everyone demanded. "Was it worth it?"

Usually, this honor concept is all about the ladies.

People don't wander about reverently talking about Justin Bieber's virginity in the same way they did about Miley Cyrus's. You never see men saying how worried they are about their sons' going out with women and being led astray. I'd love to say that if I wandered out of my cubicle this very instant and obtained carnal knowledge of up to forty men, people would give me high-fives and a book contract. But in all probability they would try to sedate me.

There are complex chemical reasons for this - there's something called oxytocin that women are hardwired to churn out so we bond with whatever happens to be nearby, so that we can FORM A STABLE FAMILY UNIT BY GOLLY IN CASE THE WILDEBEESTS COME. This tendency to wake up and bond to whatever is lying nearby also explains a lot of the plot of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which also shows why applying it to everyone would be confusing.

But the flip-side of really caring about women's "honor" and considering notches on the bedpost to be a badge of men's honor is results like those in the most recent Sexual Behavior survey. The survey, "Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction, and Sexual Identity in the United States: Data from the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth," does contain some surprises. For instance, the study reported that 27 percent of young men and 29 percent of young women ages 15-24 say they've never had a sexual encounter. But if men and women are to be believed, well - men aren't to be believed. The median number of lifetime partners men report over time is slightly over 5. For women, it's just over 3. Maybe a select group of women need to be high-fived, or urged to rethink their lives, or given enforced bed-rest, or something in between. But more possibly, men tend to over-report it.

After all, who's doing all this? There's a transitive property involved, after all. ("There's a transitive property involved, after all," she says, wondering why she hasn't had more dating success lately.)

Otherwise, the explanations are a bit odd. The survey notes, dryly:

[M]en on average report higher numbers of opposite-sex sexual partners than do women of the same age range... Several explanations for this ubiquitous finding have been suggested...:

The possibility that survey respondents are reporting sexual partners outside the sample frame ...such as:
•Partners outside the age range of 15-44, which would be quite plausible given typical age gaps between sexual partners or spouses
Partners outside the general U.S. household population (e.g., prison, military, homeless, commercial sex workers, partners in other countries) "

Actually?

Here I am saving myself for the general U.S. household population, and they're running off with homeless convict sex workers? Possibly in Thailand?

At least Brandon Davies wasn't doing that.

So what is honor? Well, it used to mean avoiding doing the easy and tempting thing because you were upholding some sort of more overarching self-concept. Honor used to imply restraint. Now it just implies the first name of the woman who played Pussy Galore.

Yes, Brigham Young University is a bizarre environment. No drinking, no sex, no drugs, lots of devotion - are they sure this is college?

Sure, honor might be an antiquated word, and the code might be an antiquated code. But sex does have consequences. That's why the concept of honor was invented in the first place -- and it's a unisex concept. These days, as we run around frantically copulating and overreporting, we tend to forget that.

By Alexandra Petri  | March 4, 2011; 11:43 AM ET
Categories:  Big Deals, Petri, That's awkward  | Tags:  Sex Survey, honor, oops, sex  
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Next: Charlie Sheen and the anatomy of winning

Comments

"I like to watch". Cordially, 'Chance' Gardener.

Posted by: deepthroat21 | March 4, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

The issue here is not who Mr. Davies had sex with, but rather that his behavior violated his school's honor code.

It's not relevant what behaviors the code includes (no matter how unrealistic we may believe them to be), the student chose to go to a school with this institutional culture and agreed to the terms outlined in the honor code. In signign the code, he or she also acknowledges the consequences of breaking such a contract.

For the code to be effective, the students must trust the university will live up to its side of the agreement and universally enforce it, even if that means losing tournament.

While some may feel this practice is antiquated, it provides young adults with valuable social education. It introduces them to the idea that their word means something, that their actions have real consequences and that they will be evaluated on the strength of their characer. I attended a college with an honor code and these lessons continue to influence my personal and professional decisions, and, in turn, my reputation.

Posted by: abkogut | March 4, 2011 5:14 PM | Report abuse

The wildebeasts are coming? I don't have a clue what to do.

Posted by: jimward21 | March 5, 2011 8:15 PM | Report abuse

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