Students usually have fascinating reactions to Millay's "I, being born a woman." Some students totally read their expectations into the poem--the speaker's in love and she really wants him--and don't get beyond that. Some still want to think that the speaker's a male, at least for a while.
But this semester, I had a bunch of students who blamed the speaker for not taking responsibility for the "relationship."
It's as if they've never had carnal thoughts about someone they didn't want to have a relationship with. Or they've never admitted even to themselves that they've had carnal thoughts. Or sex.
And yet, evidence suggests that students today do have sex, just as students in my generation did. And in the generation before. Sex among students wasn't invented in 1967, but it didn't end in 1980, either.
It's a rough reminder that I, too, was a prude at 18. I probably would have thought that this speaker should keep her pants zipped. (Though I wouldn't at least have idealized the idea that she should get married as a "need.")
Perhaps this one should be up there with Austen as something people should reread after 30?