Quantity or Quality?

by Courtney Henning | 5/6/98 5:00am

Occasionally, I find myself sucked into a conversation that needs to be immortalized in a movie. A couple of Saturdays ago, I found myself drawn into one of these conversations, but since I'm not about to stay up nights slaving away on a screenplay, I'll just have to preserve the experience in a D column.

My roommate Kelly and I were returning to our dorm, unaware of the crowd of guys gathered on the Morton couches. We walked in out of the cold, and before the door had slammed shut, a Mortonian guy shouted, "Courtney! Kelly! Quantity or quality?" Kelly looked to me, and I asked, "In regards to what?" In response to this, one of the guys assured me, "It doesn't matter what, just answer the question: quantity or quality?"

Now I fully realized that Kelly and I had walked in on a sex discussion, but being a fan of random analogies, I answered, "Well, I'd rather have one really good potato than a bunch of sour potatoes." I don't think I will every again invent an analogy that generates so much disbelieving laughter. I acknowledged that potatoes are a lame example and continued, "OK, I'd rather have a piece of really good chocolate cake than a stale" -- but before I could even finish, Alex was roaring, "Look! You see? You see?" and I believe someone or another quipped, "Now that's a whole other stereotype." Yet nobody was interested in pursuing the chocolate issue; no, the men were intent on interrogating us on sex, hook-ups and other such fun stuff.

The three girls in the lounge (including myself) and the four or five guys continued bickering about which is more important, quantity or quality. The men gathered were devout believers in quantity, while the women present insisted upon quality. The arguments were fairly basic and common sense -- who wants something that you don't even like? But what if nothing you like is available?

After every argument had been presented at least twice, Nate observed, "So, basically, it's a question of how low your standards are." This makes sense. If you have relatively low standards, then it should follow that you get a little more quantity. But if you have ridiculous standards (i.e. Matt Damon), then your chances of attaining quantity are low to nonexistent. Everyone smiled and agreed that maybe quality, quantity and gender aren't relevant issues; it just so happened that all the males present had low standards and all the women's were high.

Then, just as the conversation threatened to perish, someone asked, "Hey, how many times has everyone hooked up since coming to Dartmouth? I don't mean that you, you know," (at which point, this guy clapped his hands together), "but who's hooked up?" This question was answered with silence. Then the girls answered: "Zero," "Never," "Zero" and "Once, very drunk, and on a frat floor." The guys all shook their heads, frustrated with our adherence to quality.

Then they answered: "Once," "Twice," and the third guy couldn't quite remember. He tried tallying up on his fingers, but we received no definite response. At this point in all the laughing, another Mortonian innocently walked into the lounge and was instantly assaulted. "Hey! How many times have you randomly hooked up since coming here?" The guy looked puzzled, settled himself into a chair and asked, "What's in a number?" Nate instantly responded, "Your manhood." The newcomer frowned and continued, "Well, it all depends what you consider a hook-up to be," at which point another guy quipped, "Conversation doesn't count." (This was one of the funniest things I have ever heard, but alas, I don't think the humor translates into print.)

As the conversation proceeded, I realized how easy I have it being a girl. Oh I know, there's that whole sexism thing which irritates me to no end, but thank God I'm a woman. My dignity doesn't depend on whether or not I've hooked up with someone. But for the guys present in the Morton lounge that Saturday night, I know that none of them wanted to admit, "Actually, I haven't been with a woman since coming here." And that's pressure that I just don't need. I don't feel like any less of a woman since I haven't hooked up with anyone since coming here, but I doubt many guys would willingly have that information published.

Maybe gender differences in regards to the quality vs. quantity debate stem from social pressures. Guys have to publicly side with quantity since their peers demand it. But when I was later talking with a close guy friend in private, and I brought up the conversation I've been sharing, he said, "That's all a bunch of BS. I don't go for quantity. Too much of anything is always a bad thing." Especially if you're considering a bunch of sour potatoes.