By Jason Whitlock
Special to Page 2

We might as well call the Northwestern women's soccer hazing "scandal" exactly what it is: another step forward in the gender equality movement, a natural and positive byproduct of Title IX.

There's really no other non-sexist way to view it or describe it. The fact that in some quarters this dustup is being labeled a "scandal" just exposes how narrow-minded and hypocritical some people are.

You'll never convince me that similar pictures of the Northwestern men's soccer team -- sans the same-sex kissing and groping -- would make national news. Hazing is a rite of passage on college campuses and with sports teams. I'm not condoning it. I'm just saying there's no reason to act shocked that the women of Northwestern participate in it.

The suspension of the entire soccer team is a gigantic overreaction to the whole affair, and, just like the Duke lacrosse overreaction, sets a precedent that will soon bite some well-meaning school president in his bottom line.

Oh, it's easy to play tough cop on the morality beat when you're working non-revenue suburbs. But what's going to happen at Duke or Northwestern when their basketball or football players get busted for partaking in the same kind of activities that landed lacrosse and soccer players in trouble?

Funny how Colorado's football program survived multiple rape allegations and the employment of recruiting prostitutes without missing one regular-season contest, but two escorts with little credibility and a shaky story shut down the country's No. 2 lacrosse team and photos of college women drinking beer and kissing in their underwear halted a soccer squad.

Again, I'm not condoning underage drinking, the hiring of strippers and simulated girl-on-girl sex. What I'm saying is that universities better be careful how they police it. Underage drinking is rampant on college campuses, particularly with athletes, and so is sexual misconduct.

The biggest differences between now and when I was a college student in the late 1980s and early 1990s are that everyone walks around with a camera photographing everything, everyone shares their photos on or Facebook and girl-on-girl sexual expression is socially acceptable and promoted.

The Web site dug up "initiation" (hazing) photo albums for at least a dozen university teams. The Web site claims it could dig up an endless supply of hazing photos.

Have kids gone wild? Not really. There is just far more easy-to-obtain proof of their wildness than when we were in college. Advanced technology is a curse and a blessing. Going out and getting drunk is no fun unless you have the pictures to prove it. Having sex is no fun unless you lay the deed down on camcorder and can share it with your friends.

That's the way young people think these days.

If you can't land a reality TV deal, you might as well capture your personal life on digital film or DVD and release it to a limited audience.

We can act shocked by the young people's reality. But is their reality much different from ours? And, more important, is their reality really all that shocking when you consider the course we set them on?

In the name of social equality and righting past injustice, we've told young women to aspire to behave like men. We've exaggerated the virtues of sports participation and minimized the games' many pitfalls.

Men on sports teams have been gathering, getting drunk, hazing and expressing their desire for female flesh for a couple hundred years. Why shouldn't we celebrate the fact that the Northwestern women's soccer team is doing the same thing?

I'm serious. Why isn't this seen as progress? Women in large groups now behave just as poorly as men.

One of the Northwestern players told the Chicago Sun-Times that they were "just having fun" and that no one was forced to do anything they didn't want to do. The site shows a female athletic team having a great time with a couple of male strippers.

Maybe the solution is for everyone to put their cameras away and save the pictures for weddings, family reunions and baby births. That system worked quite well in my day.

Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for The Kansas City Star. His newspaper is celebrating his 10 years as a columnist with the publishing of Jason's first book, "Love Him, Hate Him: 10 Years of Sports, Passion and Kansas City." It's a collection of Jason's most memorable, thought-provoking and funny columns over the past decade. You can purchase the book at Jason can be reached by e-mail at Sound off to Page 2 here.