TO LIVE AND LOVE IN LINCOLN
by Sam Sullivan
from HUSTLER Magazine August 2010
WRESTLING WITH OLD-SCHOOL MORALITY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is more than a renowned educational center in the Midwest. Like institutions of higher learning from sea to shining sea, UNL is also a place where the young at heart and eager of mind can strike back at the rigid morality of their forefathers. Two sterling examples: a pair of UNL wrestlers opting to model in the buff for a gay Web site and a Sigma Chi fraternity pledge literally putting his ass on the line.
“When you cleave the meat off the bones of the Midwest, the bones are just as hard,” says Micah Persell, a UNL political science major. Oddly profound wisdom.
Is the University of Nebraska-Lincoln especially depraved? No. But the common conservative vision of the Midwest as a wholesome utopia, free from the burdens of coastal sin, hardly stands up under the evidence. Beneath the illusion of freshly pressed-and-starched piety lies the same kind of sexual indiscretions found in any of the demonized big cities far from Lincoln. Here in the supposedly squeaky-clean capital of Nebraska, a pickup truck has come to be a double entendre, and one of the most popular hangouts for UNL students (especially coeds) is The Q, a gay bar on Ninth Street.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has another interesting distinction: the Scarlet Project, a Web site dedicated to digging up the school’s proverbial dirt. While more like a traditional lowbrow gossip rag, the Scarlet Project broke the gay-porn scandal, which was further sensationalized by the Lincoln Journal Star and ESPN. It turns out that FratmenTV.com paid cold, hard (pun intended) cash to two UNL wrestlers, who were booted off the team after it was revealed they had individually modeled nude for the gay Web site. (It’s worth noting that over the years a litany of Cornhusker jocks have engaged in far more egregious activities without facing dire consequences.)
Regarding the aforementioned Sigma Chi incident, it’s no secret that things often get out of control when fraternities and sororities recruit prospective members and later welcome them into the fold. But there’s something unique about what earned the UNL chapter of Sigma Chi a suspension: hiring a stripper who allegedly used a vibrator to anally penetrate a rush pledge during an initiation ceremony. Yes, those Greeks sure know how to have fun.
Perhaps a modern-day Sinclair Lewis from Nebraska will write a heartwarming tome about the joys of frat house buggery. And maybe, in due time, a political candidate will follow in the footsteps of John McCain and Sarah Palin, vowing to bring the heartland’s cherished values to the rest of America, including free subscriptions to FratmenTV.com.
The Midwest, it might be said, is only depraved by the standards of cultural relativity: A given transgression looks worse because this part of the country is perceived as a bastion of virtue. Helping fortify that notion is neocon Glenn Beck’s The Real America: Messages From the Heart and Heartland. But taking the book as gospel, which many appear to have done, makes it easy to overlook that transgressions abound nationwide, even in the cornfields of the Midwest.
Finally, the University of Nebraska- Lincoln campus is adorned with religious outposts meant in part to bolster the faith of students who, living away from home for the first time, might be tempted to stray from their family-values upbringing. A dual world emerges, one where the bones of the university are laden with meat, and another where they are picked dry not by ravenous vultures but something more insidious: cold, hard facts. While the Midwest is reputed to be the “real America” because of its inhabitants’ virtues, perhaps it deserves that designation because of its inhabitants’ faults.
Sam Sullivan is a University of Nebraska- Lincoln sophomore majoring in general studies with an interest in criminal justice and journalism. In his spare time the Hebron native, who aspires to be a full-time writer, is a “dedicated muckraker” and YouTube contributor.
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