On Thursday, Oct. 1, instead of meeting with QPOC+ (Queer People of Color and Allies) in the LGBTQ Center, I decided, along with the rest of the people coming that day, that we would go to a small discussion about drugs, alcohol and the purported “hook-up” culture at colleges. This was to be at Coffee Grounds and held the promise of free baked goods, so the decision wasn’t that difficult. Plus, it’s nice to do inter-club stuff sometimes.
The discussion was co-led by CC Curtis, director of student wellness and alcohol/drug education, and Darcie Folsom (a campus celebrity in her own right), the director of sexual assault prevention and advocacy. I know both CC and Darcie through various events, Orientation and run-ins at the College Center. The setup of the discussion was pretty simple: notecards went around and anyone could put in a question if they wished. This was done for the sake of anonymity — something most of us greatly appreciated. Prompted by the question, we’d freeform into answering that question through the lens of our own experiences, and CC and Darcie were there to help us with their more professional experience, as well as a bunch of the research they’d conducted or were aware of.
One of my most vivid memories from Orientation is Darcie’s talk on sexual violence prevention. Despite the complexity and heaviness of the talk, it actually started off pretty funny: How many sexual partners do you think a college student has in a year? Most of us put down four or five. The answer was one or two. The trend continued for a variety of questions — minutes being spent on what exactly a sexual partner means. Surely, one can have a sexual partner and not, you know, have sex with them. Totally possible. The kind of openness that was generated from — gasp — someone in the administration towards students was surprising to me at that time.
In Coffee Grounds, present day, I was used to it.
I’ve often felt like college campuses have this toxic mixture of promoting unrealistic expectations of sex, all while slut-shaming individuals who are open about their sex lives. As ardently said by a friend during the discussion, “Screw that.” Hooking up means many things to many people; the underlying assumptions about someone going home with someone else for the night being inherently dangerous for women and inherently prideful for men are bogus.
On the other hand, people who don’t like “hooking up” exist — and they spoke up during the talk. Asexual people exist. People who need a deep connection to someone before physical intimacy exist. So to perpetuate a myth that we’re all having sex all the time is damaging to a large part of the campus population. But so is the belief that we should be all hidden about it. I mean, we’re all products of sex. We should probably get over it.
On the other other hand, we’re a campus that talks about this. I mean, considering how (excuse my bluntness) puritanical most of the world still is about sex, it’s refreshing to hear people you know — staff, students who are seniors and students who are first years, sometimes faculty — talk about sex, perceptions of sex and research on sex so openly is formative, healthy and important.