Sex consumes us. Or at least most of us. From the time we start puberty, we are largely engineered to immerse ourselves in a physical and mental process of viewing humans as attractive. Most people seek relationships, whether or not they are open or closed, sexual or platonic, serious or casual.
In college, some people jump right into relationships while others experiment in the hookup scene in order to better their sexual performances. Others choose to abstain from sex for a variety of reasons. Still, there's a cultural expectation to hear people cackle and discuss, in sometimes vulgar ways, their sexual experiences.
Recently, three women – two of which wished to remain anonymous – shared their experiences on sex and how it empowers their views through everyday life. The following is a three-day chronology of love, heartbreak, terror and satisfaction. Their interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
This woman, a Northwestern junior who wished to remain anonymous, said high school experience shaped her mentality on sex throughout college. When she was in high school, she engaged in aggressive, non-consensual sex. At first, the anonymous girl didn’t realize that her sexual experiences counted as abuse, but once she came to Northwestern and had new relationships with people, she realized that she had been scarred and hurt from her previous relationship.
On non-consensual sex:
The first real relationship I was in was non-consensual. The guy I was with was in a very influential position in an extracurricular activity that I was in. Everyone in our high school hated him, but then once we went out of our school and socialized with people from other schools, he was worshipped. He was able to get anything he wanted and I was infatuated with his power, but things kind of took a turn for the worse. Rough play turned into coming home covered in bruises, and I didn’t understand that was wrong. I thought it was just an accident. Basically, he kept pressuring me to have sex with him and if I didn’t he would say, ‘I will ruin your reputation.’ He was saying all of this while he was physically on top of me. Eventually I just said yes to get him off of me and to shut him up, but I didn’t realize this was rape at first. I realized it in high school but I had trouble justifying it as rape. I realized in college that rape is not just someone physically forcing themselves on you.
As I went through college, I understood consent and abuse better by having conversations with people and in my gender studies classes I understood what had happened to me as sexual assault. It’s not as black and white as I think we’re taught to believe in high school because, in high school, you don’t talk about abuse – you don’t talk about rape. I didn’t understand how the sexual assault impacted me until I came to college either because it really took me to being in a setting where sex is just thrown out there and talked about so openly to realize that what happened to me really affected me. It made me have my guard on, and it made me become obsessed with power dynamics. I realized that it affected me. I realized that sex isn’t a big production like in high school. I realized in college that once you’re in the bedroom or wherever the fuck you are that that production of sex all goes out the window, and there isn’t a way sex is supposed to look.
On college dating:
I got into a relationship very quickly my first quarter. It was someone who’d I’d already known and already had feelings for.
We were very different people because I’m very social and outgoing, and he was very shy and reserved. I felt like that created a rift and that neither one of us could give the other what we wanted in the relationship. I broke up with him. I downloaded a Tinder 15 minutes after I broke up with him. I just went off the wall and hooked up with everyone. I was literally fucking my way left and right through Northwestern because I could and it was really exciting. There were a lot of one night stands.
Then came Spring Quarter and I met someone. He was completely different than anyone I’d ever hooked up with. He was very sexually open, and that was something that was both refreshing and terrifying to me because he was very open to bisexuality.
My parents always told me that bisexuality doesn't exist. In the environment where I grew up, social status was a very real and talked-about thing. It mattered what country club you went to and what your golf score was.
But now I was completely infatuated and in love with this guy who was from the South Side of Chicago, grew up with no money and was homeschooled. I was able to be myself around him in non-sexual situations. I gained somewhat like 40 pounds my freshman year and that made me feel extremely unconfident. I felt like I couldn’t be attractive or sexy because I wasn’t a size two anymore. I think he showed me what I could be.
He was super sexually open, and I couldn’t get that past me because I still cared so much about that social status kind of thing. People would think it was completely OK if I hooked up with many guys in top tier fraternities, but, because I was doing someone who just wasn’t in that mold, I basically fucked myself over really hard for not staying with him.
Check back tomorrow for the next installment.