What involves panting, sweating, and the occasional “Yes!” after an especially good move? I know what you’re thinking: Frisbee, of course! (and you’re right!). But brothers and sisters, colleagues and friends, beloved professors and Alain Lescart, have we ever stopped to wonder why Nazarenes are so into frisbee? Before we examine perhaps the most popular sport on campus, let us take a look at the way in Nazarenes view sex (or how they try their hardest not to).
While it’s rumored that Loman Deans in the 70s and 80s waited outside theaters to punish students that attended risqué films, it is concrete knowledge that dancing was explicitly outlawed at PLNU until recently. Footloose could’ve been shot documentary-style at PLNU when it was released during the year of 1984–a date associated with another authoritarian work. I know what you’re thinking: But it’s 2017! I thought we, like David 3000 years ago, can finally dance?! And the answer to that is yes … kind of. PLNU’s outdated website still tells visiting guests under the Personal Conduct page that the following activities are strictly prohibited on campus: “public dancing; fireworks, explosives, and/or highly flammable materials; profanity and/or excessive noise; gambling; food fights; [and] skateboarding” (or, as Mary Paul calls it, a casual Tuesday night in).
Adding to the complications of dance-acceptability is a LomaBeat article from 2013 that includes quotes from then-ASB Director of Activities, Kristi South, who mentions the need for “supervision” at the Glow with the Flow Dance to prevent twerking. The more advanced (and physically strenuous) variant of “wall-twerking” wasn’t addressed by South, so I assume that it was okay. The church’s relationship with dancing almost feels like a parent begrudgingly surrender a longer curfew to a teenager, and an old joke probably summarizes it best: “Nazarenes aren’t allowed to have sex because it might lead to dancing.” Though the prohibition on dancing has stopped, open hours, and “both feet on the ground”–where a student’s guest can’t lay down for any reason–rules are still in full swing (forgive the dance idiom). So if explicit action is banned by the covenant, and other ways of flirting are a no-no, is it that crazy to hypothesize that the frisbee field is the place where students’ repressed sexual drives are released?
This week I caught up with PLNU psychology professor Dr. Kendra Oakes Mueller, who also teaches a “Human Sexuality” course. In between classes I ran my theory by her and asked about its validity, to which she responded, “I really don’t know how to answer that.” She then told me there likely wouldn’t be any research out there due to my theory’s dependence on the specific Nazarene denomination, and that she wasn’t even aware of frisbee’s popularity, (which isn’t surprising, as she is married). Dr. Oakes Mueller ultimately seemed to disagree with me, but did finally say “Well maybe Freud would agree with you, in regards to sublimation.” I nodded, “Ah yes, of course, sublimation!”
After bidding her farewell, I immediately googled “sublimation,” which trusty source Wikipedia describes as “a mature type of defense mechanism where socially unacceptable impulses”–like the topic of sex at PLNU–“or idealizations are unconsciously transformed into socially acceptable actions or behavior”–like frisbee. It went on (quoting Dr. Carol Tavis and Dr. Carol Wade) to say that sublimation is “when displacement serves a higher cultural or socially useful purpose, as in the creation of art or inventions.” Aha! Ethos! And if you don’t think frisbee is art, then you clearly haven’t seen Austin Holmes throw a perfectly spinning “hammer” in a game of casual intramural frisbee.
To prove my point further, allow me to share some names of intramural frisbee teams in the last few years: “DTF: Dream Team Frisbee,” “Disk in a Box.” Of course the names are so overtly sexually charged that it becomes comedic, but, as the adage goes, there’s truth in every joke.
Ultimate Frisbee is a physical sport in which the frisbee catcher receives ten seconds of attention and defense. Oftentimes, if a player is lazy, they are shouted at to “give harder defense!” (often abbreviated to “D”). It is usually played during the night, which allows a degree of socialization combined with anonymity. Furthermore, all halls–Flex included–contain limited open hours, making frisbee (and I suppose other, lesser sports) the only unmonitored bastion of co-ed freedom and fraternizing still allowed on campus.
During the weekend, relaxed and social frisbee games abound. Instead of shouting “ULTIMATE!” during throw-off, cheeky students opt for “INTIMATE!” Even during the devil’s hour of 11:15 p.m., men and women students can be seen in the dark, talking, joking, flirting, and playing frisbee on the central field.
While anonymous social trends of expression like YikYak or Instagram Meme-accounts may come and go, it seems that the sexual haven of frisbee shall remain, well, ultimate. At the end of the day we’ll find students at the field, where they can keep scoring, but without guilt.