Academics have bravely tried to pin all kinds of meaning on Jaws. (My favorite theory, found in a Web search, ventures that the shark is the embodiment of the vagina dentata myth). But the moral (and morality) of Jaws seems pretty straightforward: The preppies are gonna get it. They've been sitting out the 1970s, Benchley is saying, practicing free love on Long Island when they should have been marching with protesters in Harlem. ("Nothing touched them—not race riots … not police corruption.") The shark—like a thousand horror villains before and after—is nature's revenge for their carefree debauchery, their unwillingness to get with the program of equality and universalism. "People who are sexual outside of marriage get punished," says Stefan Fleischer, a professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo who teaches Benchley's novel. "And if it's society as a whole that has loose morals, it'll get eaten up by a shark."