College welcome week has just come and gone, replaced with the responsibilities of classes and club sports, papers and calling home. To many, the past week has become synonymous with debauchery: wild frat parties with copious amounts of alcohol, random hookups with freshman whose names you’ll never remember the next morning, and LOTS of free food.
I think welcome week was also part of the genesis of the “Lesbian Until Graduation” myth, and similar cultural tropes about sexual exploration in college. I feel like this storyline has crossed most people’s minds: in your sleep-deprived, overly-intoxicated freshman haze, you somehow find yourself in bed with an equally drunk senior Women’s studies major who opens you up to the incredible, life-altering world of lesbian sex, so that, the next morning, you declare to all of your friends that you are firmly and absolutely a lesbian. You follow this Women’s studies major for half the year, when she finally confronts you about stalking her and sends you packing. In despair, you sleep with every available woman on campus, until you finally realize, upon graduation, that you never really liked women that much to begin with, settle down with the hunky star of the swim team (with his incredibly built shoulders and pecs) and start cranking out babies like a normal heterosexual.
Either way, this trope makes about as much sense as Charlie Sheen, and yet the idea of college promoting sexual experimentation persists. (I don’t like it to begin with, because it involves alcohol, which makes consent impossible, and this is not a point I can stress enough!)
Moreover, I’m not one to use personal experience for or against this argument- I’ve never been to a frat party, never “hooked up” with anyone in college, and all the girls I know on the women’s rugby team are straight. However, this article from the New York Times breaks down the sexual experimentation myth into both statistical reality and conjectures about the origin of the sexual experimentation myth.
“The popular stereotype of college campuses as a hive of same-sex experimentation for young women may be all wrong...according to the new study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on 13,500 responses, almost 10 percent of women ages 22 to 44 with a bachelor’s degree said they had had a same-sex experience, compared with 15 percent of those with no high school diploma. ”
The most interesting question raised by their initial finding is the difference between this data (collected between 2006-2008), and the data of 2002, which showed almost no correlation between education level and same-sex sexual activity. The article doesn’t really address why this is, but I suspect it has to do with the growth and accessibility of lesbian-friendly dating sites and the greater prominence of display in lesbian sexual identity online (think about how easily you can check someone’s facebook to see who they’re “interested in”), which makes it easier for working-class (sometimes socially isolated) lesbians to find others. But that is just a shot in the dark on my end.
The rest of the article is a little scatter-brained, dabbling in questions of sexual fluidity, white middle-class stereotypes, and the gender gap in homosexuality, but it’s essence boils down to this: far from being exclusively a phenomenon of the crazed experimentation of college students finally liberated from their parents’ watchful eye, lesbian sex happens in the real world, where working class people, ethnic minorities, professionals, day laborers, and everyone in between coexist.
And as for welcome week? I guess there aren’t that many hot girls hooking up with each other after all. You should probably go fix that. But keep it safe, keep it sober, and keep it consensual.
Welcome back to college everyone.