Sunday, December 08, 2013

The Age of Innocence is Relative

As I was preparing coffee the other morning, I found myself unexpectedly thinking about the x-rated movies that played at Neeb Hall on the campus of Arizona State University when I was an undergraduate student (circa 1979). I don’t remember how many played in the course of a year, nor how long that genre continued playing there, but I know for sure x-rated movies were shown on campus. Several of us from Hayden Hall’s third floor actually attended one of those skin flicks too. It was the first x-rated movie I ever viewed. Most memorable was the funny, almost embarrassing feeling that came over me when the lights came up after it ended and I could see who was attending—and (gulp) they could see who was attending. I don’t remember wondering if other schools had the same kind of movies, and if someone had asked, I would have suspected that was the case almost anywhere. For the record, I don’t think ASU was ever known for any kind of radical behavior or activities back then. In fact, I think it was considered a fairly conservative school when it came to the country’s larger campuses.

For the record here, I’ll have you know that nothing became of this experience. We didn’t go out and attempt a rape, and none of us to my knowledge became involved in the porn industry or addicted to it. As college students, our reaction/response was probably typical—we giggled, laughed at how unrealistic it was (at least to us), felt a bit awkward, and then moved on. Further, of all the memories of my graduate years at ASU, going to that movie surely wasn’t one of those, “Hey guys, remember that time we…”

On a related note…

As a football cheerleader, we travelled to Stanford once. The day before the big game, we took in the campus. Amongst the beautiful architecture I remember most vividly the fragrance of marijuana in the air as students were smoking on the campus mall between their classes. I was a bit taken back as I never saw anything like this at my ASU (even if x-rated movies were shown there). Yet, after that trip, none of us on the cheerleading squad returned to ASU to initiate a movement for pot-smoking on campus. It was one of those, “Hmm, how about that. Yet another crazy thing attributed to Stanford; they smoke pot on campus and no one seems to care.”

And so, there I was pondering all of this over a cup of joe at 6:30 in the morning. I projected such activities to the Wyoming junior college where I work. I couldn’t imagine such activities permitted on our little pollyanna campus. But, then I wondered: are there still campuses that offer/tolerate such “atrocious” behavior today? Are things still the same in Palo Alto? Am I in such an isolated place that I don’t realize what is happening beyond this high desert, or are such campus escapades a thing of the past? And if they are something of the past, how did that come to be? When did it all shift to something more like the 1950s and Leave It To Beaver?

I mentioned all of this to a friend, and his answer was simply, “Reagan… President Ronald Reagan.”

A few other colleagues chimed in as well. When it comes to pornography, some thought that because the Internet provides a sense of privacy, we will never see it in such everyday public settings (like a major university). And as the legalization of marijuana becomes more widespread, a couple of them thought a day will come when we will see students having a toke or two between classes—assuming they are the same campuses where alcohol is permitted.

As I sit here thinking about all of this, I still wonder: What was that part of my past all about? For the most part, it’s not unusual to consider the things we do and experience today as stupendous in light of our past, especially when technology is factored in. Yet, here is something that was incidental back then that comes across as monumental today. Although I don’t have any hard and fast explanations, it is truly fascinating.

1 comment:

Dave said...

I've always felt that higher education and higher thinking should go hand in hand. Browntown there is clearly a place were alternative lifestyles and lascivious proclivities are suppressed–and we all know that suppression leads to depression (and that's why farts are funny). At least you've seen both ends of the spectrum.