Editor's note appended.
If you’ve ever wondered whether you or someone else is doing the right thing, I, the Everyday Ethicist am here to help. Sure, you could call EARS and have a tedious conversation with some awkward freshman, or you could e-mail your ethical dilemmas to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Dear Everyday Ethicist,
I’m dating a guy who goes to a different school. He always talks about how much he loves me, and we’re in a relationship on Facebook, but I’ve heard from more than one mutual friend at his school that he hooks up with other girls at his frat’s parties and mixers. But when I ask him what’s going on, he swears he never even talks to other girls. I don’t want to break up with him, because we always have such a great time when we’re together and I feel like I really do love him. Plus, I wouldn’t mind him hooking up with other people if I could do the same. Since I know what he’s been up to, it would be totally ethical for me to indulge, right?
— Lonely and Confused
When you date someone who goes to a different school (a different university, not Human Ecology), it’s natural to feel a little estranged. However, this guy takes long distance to an extreme. If the two of you are indeed exclusive, as you make it sound, neither of you should be hooking up with other people. Even if he makes the first move, it’s not ethical for you to do the same. You know the saying about two wrongs not making a right? Well, two cheating partners don’t make a healthy relationship. If you want to do the ethical thing, call him up on Skype — so you can make sure there’s no other girl in the room — and have a long heart-to-heart about your future. If he really wants to be with you, then why is he being dishonest? (And if both of you are fine with an open relationship, then why not include this information on your Facebook profiles as a courtesy to others who might be interested?)
Dear Everyday Ethicist,
I have recently been struggling with my sexuality. I think I’m a lesbian, but I’m not ready to come out. However, I live in a sorority house where a lot of the girls walk around in skimpy clothes, bathing suits, etc. Is it ethical for me to pretend to be straight? I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, but I feel bad living a lie, especially because if the other girls knew, their opinions of me would undoubtedly change.
— Nervous Katy Perry Fan
Everyone has secrets. Your roommate might not know how to put in a tampon, or the skinniest girl on campus might have secret Twinkie binges every night. But these secrets don’t affect anyone else, while yours does. Some girls might have chosen to live in the sorority house because they don’t want to live with guys who could be checking them out, and even if you don’t have a crush on any specific girl, you’re right that your sexual orientation would make them uncomfortable. It would be just as unethical for you to “pretend to be straight” to avoid discomfort as it would be for a guy to get breast implants in order to land a sweet single in Balch. No matter what the motivation, placing your roommates in a situation that could potentially make them very uncomfortable if they knew the truth is just not ethical.
It’s not fair to you, either. You’re wasting time worrying about what they might think of you, when for all you know they might not care at all about your sexuality. Telling the truth might seem stressful now, but it’ll save you a lot of hardship later. The other girls might not mind a gay roommate; a dishonest gay roommate, on the other hand, would be harder to stomach.
Editor's note, appended Sept. 2, 2010: Like all columns, the views and advice in this column do not represent the views or opinions of The Cornell Daily Sun. Cornellians seeking advice on gender, sexuality and identity should refer to Haven, which "seeks to enrich Cornell University by supporting its diverse array of sexual and gender identities and expressions. Through education, outreach, and service, [they] promote understanding and the development of inclusive communities."
Elisabeth Rosen is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be consulted at email@example.com for all ethical dilemmas, sticky situations, faux pas’ and pickles. The Everyday Ethicist appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.