This could be a very long post or it could be very short. I have just broken off a long one, so I could cut to the chase.
(Update: As I generalize more than ever in this post, it would be helpful to know that I am thinking of university students in Canada and the United States.)
Sin is sin. It's either bad or super-bad. If you feel awake and brainy, read all about it here. Sin in itself is pretty stupid, since to choose any created thing over God is stupid.
My excuse (since for a moment I feel like arguing our case to God) for our backsliding is that people try to bang atheistic materialism or various other heresies into our brains all day long. I feel sorry for us. Secularism is a cracker that serves up the philosophy of the bureaucrats, and in the West the bureaucrats are no longer Christians as we understand them but Feel Gooders who seem to think Brave New World was a brilliant self-help book, not a dire warning.
When it comes to sexual sins, non-religious girls [update: who make it to university] have an edge over religious girls in the prudence department. Religious* girls believe sex is something we're not supposed to have** until we are married. Non-religious girls believe sex is something women should have if (and only if) we have thought about it and decided we want it. These are not, by the way, completely contradictory. When it comes to stubbornly defending what we really want, we can learn from the non-religious girls.
Religious girls bolster their faith that God does not want us to have sex before we are married with a zillion fear-based arguments as to why we shouldn't have sex, e.g. pregnancy, disease, loss of reputation, broken hearts. However, non-religious girls think they have those problems solved because they are taught about contraception, abortion "rights", their right to be sexual, and option to "have sex like men"--a libel on many men, incidentally. Not all men can "have sex like men." They too have hearts that can be broken.
Religious girls and non-religious girls go to the same colleges and very often have prickly, if not outright hostile, relationships with each other. Religious girls sometimes put up pro-life posters, and non-religious girls rip them down. Non-religious girls leave brightly wrapped condoms for other girls in washrooms, and religious girls throw them out. Of course, they sometimes do talk together about their differences, and the religious girls are rather shaken by the faith of the non-religious girls in their "sexual rights." When it comes to catechism classes these days, Venus has the edge. Her missionaries are on fire. They seem so confident.
This can lead religious girls to doubt. And it doesn't help our faith when right-on, "progressive" Catholics (and other Christians) tell us that all that stuff in the Bible and tradition against fornication is "man-made law." (I had a Catholic therapist who told me that kind of thing.) These "man-made laws", say our progressive brothers and sisters, were invented by men to control women because men feared female sexuality so much, etc. God wants us to be "happy", etc.
All this can tempt a religious girl to give in. And I mean "give in", not "boldly choose to be a sexual subject" like her non-religious classmates. The religious girl has been trained to submit her will to the will of God, but with enough argument she can be made to submit her will to the will of a man to whom she has an inordinate attachment. That's a very serious and stupid sin.
The non-religious girl has sex because she really wants to. This, outside marriage, is a serious sin, but it is not necessarily a stupid sin. The religious girl sometimes has sex although she doesn't really want to because the man she thinks she is in love with wants to, or because she wants to hang onto the man and thinks this the way to do it. That's very stupid.
The problem may be that a religious girl believes all premarital sexual intercourse is equally sinful, so she might as well be damned for a crush object-sheep as for a fiance-lamb. But a non-religious girl thinks of sex as being safe, safer or unsafe and makes her decisions accordingly.
I think it dangerous that religious girls think they are either pitiable or special because they are not having sex and all the non-religious girls around are. As a matter of fact, the non-religious girls aren't necessarily having sex. The non-religious girls might be, in fact, highly moral and sexually conservative according to their lights. Just because they believe they should have sex when they want to, and tell Catholic you that ten times a day, doesn't mean they are willing to have sex with just anyone or at any time or just because they thinks a man is hot.
The non-religious girl does not ask herself, when confronted with sexual temptation "Is this good?" but "Is this smart?" The religious girl after asking herself "Is this good?", and answering "No, but I'm going to do it anyway" skips over the "Is this smart?" question. That's stupid.
Thus although this is not a category recognized by the Church, Mater et Magistra, and I could not put it in a book and expect a nice bishop or provincial to stamp the MS with "Nihil Obstat", I note a difference in sin and stupid sin. If you have sexual intercourse with your fiance, you are committing a sin. But if you have sexual intercourse with a man who isn't even a dear friend, you are committing a very stupid sin indeed.
The one theologian I can think of who backs me up in the discussion of sin and stupid sin is C.S. Lewis, who said something like (I paraphrase) "A fool is a man who sins and doesn't even enjoy it; he gets neither his bun nor his penny."
What is the solution to the problem of stupid sin? I think it might be the ability to meet the non-religious girls and the "progressive" theologians with more preparation and more charity.
It was a great shock to me when I discovered in university that "sexually active" girls in university were neither miserable nor ashamed nor secretive nor pregnant, like certain girls in my all-girls Catholic school. Religious women should not be that naive about "sexually active" women when we get to university. We might even admire them for their only-when-I-want-it stance. The best should not be the enemy of the good, and their belief in their sovereignty over their bodies is good--to an extent. It certainly beats the "Because I love him, and I'm hoping for the best" rationalization of our dumber fellow Catholics.
What is not good is that they think women have the right to hand the keys to the kingdom to whoever we wish, husband or not. That's where their sense of autonomy goes wrong. However, the idea that women are the keepers of the keys, and that the keys must not be handed over without a lot of careful consideration, is a good start.
Okay, today's combox theme is really good books on the subject of Catholic teaching and sexuality, stuff that would come in really handy in dorm-room debates with very nice, very confident, sexually-active women. And when I say handy, I mean handy for you and your confidence in Catholic teaching about sexuality in the face of their confidence in the soi-disant sexual revolution.
*Meaning, observant to the tenets of your religion and the only religion that I've come across that thinks all consensual sex is just a-okay is Wicca.
**Why do we say sex is something we "have" when it is somthing people do?