Basketball, Sex, and Honor Codes

March 18, 2011

March Madness has started. This is, of course, the informal name for the annual NCAA basketball tournament—a tournament that results in thousands of betting pools, typically won by the person least knowledgeable about basketball in your group.

But if you are a student at Brigham Young University, you had better not plunk your dollar down to play in a pool.  After all, these pools, although widely regarded as innocuous fun, constitute a form of gambling, and gambling is expressly prohibited under BYU’s strict honor code .

BYU’s honor code also requires students to be chaste and to refrain from “sexual misconduct,” as Brandon Davies, the star forward on BYU’s nationally ranked team, was recently reminded. As just about everybody who follows sports knows, Davies was suspended from the team earlier this month, reportedly for fornicating .  It is possible he will eventually be expelled from the university.

I’m not privy to the factors BYU officials use in deciding whether expulsion is appropriate. I do note, however, that drinking coffee and tea are also honor code violations. One can only hope that Davies didn’t meet his date at Starbuck’s.

Many commentators have praised BYU for doing the supposedly courageous thing—that is, adhering to the demands of the honor code even though suspending Davies from the team may cost BYU a national championship. 

Permit me to dissent from the parade of plaudits.  It is not that I have any great sympathy for Davies.  He voluntarily decided to attend BYU and he knowingly pledged to adhere to its code.  That said, I do not see why BYU deserves accolades for enforcing an archaic code that punishes students for engaging in pleasurable activity that harms no one.  Granted, we do not know all the details of Davies’s actions (Was it really “sex”? Perhaps Bill Clinton should be called in for a consultation.), but I am assuming the conduct involved two consenting adults, albeit young adults, and that no force or intimidation was involved. 

Let me go out on a limb here:  All other things being equal, sex between consenting adults is a good thing. (You heard it here first.) The conduct of billions seems to confirm the accuracy of this assessment. 

One wonders whether masturbation is also prohibited under the BYU code.  If it is not, one may legitimately ask why solitary sex is favored over sex with a partner.  If it is, human experience and numerous scientific studies inform us that the vast majority of the student body has engaged in conduct meriting expulsion.  BYU’s basketball team should be restricted to those who are comatose or who continually engage in self-flagellation to suppress sinful desires. 

But hypocrisy and sex have always been inseparable companions, so don’t expect BYU to enforce its code consistently.

By the way, I did not choose this topic for my blog because I picked BYU in an office pool and I’m annoyed by its decision to bench Davies. I don’t do basketball pools. If I gamble, I prefer horse racing. It’s less likely the horses will be disqualified for violating an honor code.

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