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December 08, 2021 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily

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Let’s unpack that: How and why we talk about sex in college

If you walk into my house after 11 p.m., know

that you will be talked about when you leave.

Every morning after a night out, my roommates

and I follow the same sacred ritual: the debrief.

All 12 of us — and any male guests who have

dared to stay past 9 a.m. — squeeze together on the
couch to recap the night before. Over cups of cof-
fee and pieces of dry toast, we rehash everything
from who was talking to who at Rick’s to who got
too drunk and had to go home early to which guys
were being stand-offish. No one is spared.

Each person in the circle goes around and has

their own 15 minutes of fame to tell their version
of the night, frequently ending in who they went
home with, what they chatted about, how the sex
was and whether they’d do it again. Everything is
dramatized to the fullest extent. My house actually
bought a karaoke machine to add to the fanfare.

An informal Q&A follows with questions rang-

ing from “Was there cuddling after?” to “Did
you come?” We laugh at mishaps and awkward
moments, talk about positions and scrutinize
potential red flags. I rarely venture stories of my
own, probably due to the fact that I have a boyfriend
more than anything else. So, instead, I throw out
questions and give unsolicited advice, half jealous
of their random hookup stories and half grateful
that I’m not in their position.

Inevitably, someone’s story will outshine the

others, like the time, not one, but two of my room-
mates brought boys home just to make them watch
the entirety of “Lemonade Mouth” and then quick-
ly sent them packing.

Of course, we have much more serious conversa-

tions about sex at other times of day — conversations

about hookup culture and consent and safety — but
there’s something so enthralling and even empow-
ering about talking about sex in a way that’s entirely
carefree, light-hearted and non-judgmental.

The morning recap is hardly a universal expe-

rience, but many female survey respondents and
people who I interviewed (who will be referred to
by fake names to protect their privacy) recounted
similar experiences.

“We all kind of wake up and slowly migrate into

the living room one at a time, but eventually we all
just kind of talk about how everyone’s night was,”
LSA senior Sarah said. “Not just sex-related but like,
‘I lost you here, where did you go? What did you do?’ ”

The first time my boyfriend sat in on the debrief,

he was surprised how formal it was, like a “morn-
ing support group” he said. I’ve always assumed
that’s because the morning recap is a gendered
phenomenon, and to some extent, it is.

When asked on The Daily’s 2021 Sex Survey,

about 65% of male respondents said they either
agree or strongly agree with the statement “I feel
comfortable talking to my friends about sex.” In
comparison, almost 80% of women said they agree
or strongly agree with the same statement.

Even if men are comfortable talking about sex,

they do it at much lower rates than women. Eighty-
five percent of females said that they discuss sex
with their friends “often” or “sometimes,” whereas
the majority of men — 75% — said they discuss sex
with their friends “sometimes,” “rarely” or “never.”

There’s also a huge gap in terms of what we

share. Over half of women said they share every-
thing or almost everything about their sexual
encounters with their closest friends. Another
third said it depends on the circumstances (which
friends they’re talking to and who they had sex
with) and only 15% said they rarely, if ever, share
details with friends.

On the other hand, two-thirds of men said they

share little to no information with their friends.
Many responded to the question saying “I don’t kiss
and tell.” The other third either said they share a lot
of details or are open to sharing details when asked
by friends.

Sarah shares virtually everything about her sex

life with her friends.

Still, our sexual experiences seem to be very

similar. Men and women gave comparable descrip-
tions of their typical one night stand: meet someone
at a bar, go home with them, have mediocre sex and
never see each other again.

They also cited similar reasons for having sex,

the top answers being pleasure, love and to feel
wanted. So, if our experiences are so similar, why
do we talk about sex so differently?

There’s the biological answer, that women are

more socialized to communicate verbally than
men. While men bond through activity, women
tend to bond through sharing — a phenomenon
particularly pertinent within heterosexual rela-

“Men are socialized to use language to assert a

hierarchy and their place in a hierarchy,” Cynthia
Gabriel, Women’s and Gender Studies professor,
said. “So they have less practice using talk to establish
intimacy and rapport, and so it makes sense that they
would talk to their friends less often about it.”

LSA senior Lauren feels comfortable sharing vir-

tually everything about her sex life with her friends
because she says they have nothing to hide from each
other. She sees their morning recaps as a fun, com-
fortable space that may even bring them closer.

But maybe it’s also a function of hookup culture.

Some social circles (I’m looking at you, Greek life)
set very different sexual expectations for men and
women. While men are free, even encouraged,
to sleep around, the same behavior for women is
looked down upon. Obviously, this leads to very dif-
ferent sexual behavior.

As Marcus, a recent Michigan graduate, said,

men spend their first few years of college “racking
up as many bodies” as possible, while women rarely
do the same.

Marcus felt like his friends talked about sex less

frequency as college went on, a facet he thinks of
the diminishing novelty of sex for men. Most of
his male friends came into college relatively sexu-
ally inexperienced, so when they started rushing a
fraternity, were exposed to an entirely new culture.

He remembers late-night recaps from his fresh-

man year that bear a striking resemblance to my
morning debriefs. But, once the novelty of sex was
lost, the experiences became a bit more routine, and
he found there wasn’t much to discuss. It wasn’t
that sex got boring or was any less enjoyable, but
sex was just sex.

“One thing that I noticed is that guys like gossip

just as much as girls,” Marcus said.

“I think it’s just that (sex) as a point of gossip is

just not really as disclosed. I don’t really know. It’s
definitely true that details are gone over, particu-
larly when things are new, when you’re a freshman,
and the whole hookup culture and sex scene is just
new. You’re just getting with all different types of
girls and things like that. So you’re addressing, you
know, ‘This girl was like this, that girl was like that.’
But, then when you get older, people don’t want to
hear the same old, same old.”

But, for women, there really is no “same old,

same old.” Regardless of hookup culture, the
physical act of sex for heterosexual women is more
nuanced than it is for men, particularly because the
vast majority of heterosexual encounters end when
the man finishes. The orgasm gap, the idea that het-
erosexual men reach orgasm 40% more frequently
than their heterosexual female partners, creates
more variety in the female sexual experience.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021 // The Statement — 2



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