Behind the green door -- love and sex at Dartmouth
This article contains sexually explicit material. If this type of material offends you, you should not read this piece.
After headlines like the New York Post's "'Animal House' in porn shocker," the world suddenly seems to think that Dartmouth students spend all of their time guzzling alcohol and shagging each other.
In reality, however, seven anonymous student interviews conducted by The Dartmouth reveal that students' sexual experiences vary significantly more than the school's media stereotypes indicate. Students run the gamut from 22-year-old virgins to women who have participated in threesomes, and for every student obsessed with drunken "hookups," another happily brags of a committed relationship.
Additionally, a 1997 survey conducted by The Dartmouth involving 283 students showed that only 16.4 percent of students have intercourse on a weekly basis and 54.3 percent said it is not acceptable to have intercourse with someone with whom you do not love. One-fifth of those surveyed said they have sex "virtually never."
Over the past week, The Dartmouth conducted anonymous interviews of seven students -- four men and three women -- to learn the intricate details of their sex lives. The names have been changed to protect the students' identities, but the stories are completely real. Any one of the people profiled below could be your neighbor, your lab partner, your most recent sexual conquest or even your boyfriend or girlfriend.
Profile: A 22-year-old virgin, Brad has been involved in seven relationships, but said none of them were serious. His sexual experience has been limited only to kissing because his Catholic faith encourages him to wait for the right person. Despite this, he rates his sexual confidence a four because thinks he would make a good sexual partner when he finds "the one."
Profile: Jason had a few sexual encounters with his current upperclassman girlfriend before they decided to commit to each other. When he was a sophomore in high school, he turned down a senior girl who wanted to have sex with him because of a losing-your-virginity stigma he thought existed at the time.
Orientation: Homosexual but has had encounters with men
Profile: Mia has had relationships with 3 men and 3 women but has only had sexual contact with her current girlfriend, a high-school student from her hometown whose parents hate Mia and think she "made their daughter gay" and "lead her down a path to hell."
Orientation: Heterosexual but has had encounters with women
Profile: 21 years old, Nikki has never had a serious boyfriend, but she considers herself very sexually experienced. She has had sexual encounters with over 100 people at Dartmouth and she frequently takes part in threesomes and orgies sometimes involving six people.
Profile: A Greek-affiliated student, Tyler has had three emotionally serious relationships but has only been in love with one woman who no longer talks to him and currently dates another man. He said he is compelled to "hookup with girls because it's an affirmation of [his] own desirability," which results in his 20 sexual partners. He rates his sexual confidence a 3.5 because he has never gotten to know a woman well enough to have intimate conversation about what she enjoys.
Profile: An attractive 18-year-old freshman, Sarah has had three relationships including one that lasted two years with her high school sweetheart. She said she does not believe in taking part in casual sex.
Orientation: Homosexual but has had encounters with women
Profile: Sean dislikes dating Dartmouth students and prefers to date older men from Dartmouth's surrounding area. He considers himself very well endowed but said, "The novelty quickly wears off and can sometimes lead to [discomfort] in particular positions."
While not every interviewee said they have taken part in a sexual encounter, everyone said they have been involved in a relationship (on average, about 6 relationships).
Although Brad, a senior, has never had a sexual encounter, he said he loves romantic relationships. "Relationships are nice, you know?" he said. "Having a relationship with a girl is a lot different than having one with one of your friends: going on dates, hanging out, talking about things you don't talk about with your guy friends."
In contrast, Mia has been dating her current girlfriend -- currently a senior in high school -- for two years. When they started dating, Mia said they lost some friends who disapproved of their homosexuality, and her girlfriend's parents thought Mia "made their daughter gay" and "led her down a path to hell." Mia and her girlfriend spent a lot of time in high school "sneaking around and crawling out of windows," and her girlfriend is forbidden to visit Dartmouth.
According to Mia, the two are "madly" in love with each other and so committed that she "can't see [herself] waking up next to anyone else." They have discussed traditionally adult, marital issues such as the future of their health insurance.
Tyler said he also enjoys romantic relationships, but has not had much luck with them. Of the one woman he fell in love with, he said, "I would have done anything for her, and we had great times of very passionate time together. [But] a lot of time we spent fighting because we were so emotionally wired." He said that part of his difficulty with relationships was due to Dartmouth's D-plan and the social discontinuity that it causes.
With his first serious boyfriend, Sean said he had several conversations about not using the phrase "I love you" lightly. But one day, he said he was thinking about something else and the three words slipped out. Suddenly, he realized, "Whoa, I do," he said. "It's quite possible that because I was trying not to fall in love with him, I fell in love with him."
Everyone's first times are different. The average age that the interviewed students had their first sexual experience was 15, and the average age that they lost their virginity was 17.7.
When Jason was 15, he had his first sexual encounter at a party in one of the bedrooms. "She just started going down on me, and I was sort of surprised but I went with the flow," he said. "Afterwards, I sort of tried to return the favor but I definitely didn't do it. I knew what I was supposed to do, but once I was doing it, I felt like I wasn't doing a good job, so I aborted it and went back to kissing."
Brad first kissed his girlfriend in high school. "It was great," he said. "Except for once, I feel like [my first kisses] have all been good, because I waited for the right time. Once I rushed things a little bit."
When she was 15, Nikki became attracted to a lifeguard at her local swimming pool. One night, they visited an elementary school playground and began kissing on a "wooden toy thing." Soon after, they began petting each other while lying in the grass: "I remember it being fun; it was kind of odd," she said. "I got a lot of bug bites and that was annoying."
Nikki wanted to wait for the right man to lose her virginity, but she finally gave up after turning 20. After getting drunk, she had intercourse with a Dartmouth man and was not nervous at all.
"It was definitely time for me to have sex," she said. "I regret not having sex with people before that; [other] people might have made a better first person."
Sean said the first sexual experience he remembers was at age seven when he and a female friend "humped while [they] were supposed to be taking a nap." After the "nap," they went down stairs and he announced to his female friend in earshot of his babysitter, "No more humping when we [go] back upstairs!"
Later, Sean lost his virginity (by way of anal intercourse) at age 17, when he and a "closeted football jock" at his high school ended up working at the same movie theater. He said the first time was difficult for his partner due to his penis size, but things eventually worked out and they often "had sex many times after that in various places in the theater."
Mia lost her "technical virginity" --"I feel like if you're doing something that is intended to make the other person have an orgasm, then it's sex," she said -- at age 16. After her girlfriend snuck over to her house, they "were both lying on [her] bed making out Eventually, [Mia] reached for the button on her [girlfriend's] pants and we took our pants off and proceeded to have sex." On the first day, they only used their hands, but the next day, they were ready for oral sex.
Sarah lost her virginity at age 16 to her high school boyfriend, while Tyler lost his when he was 19 to a three-night stand. "This extremely pretty girl was into me, and I just went with it," he said. He said he felt guilty about it at first because he had wanted to wait for someone he was in love with, but later decided that it "worked out well."
Both Tyler and Jason estimated that the women they have sexual contact with orgasm during 75 percent of their encounters. But Nikki said she never orgasms during intercourse (except when using a vibrator), orgasms five percent of the time during oral sex, and 100 percent of the time when she masturbates. Sarah also said she almost never orgasms during sex but orgasms about 90 percent of the time when she receives oral sex.
Tyler, who has had about 20 sexual partners, said he normally avoids giving a woman oral sex, because he thinks "it's a sign of love." Although he rated his skill at giving oral sex at only a 3 (on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the highest), he said he enjoys it and also said he thinks that in general, oral sex is more personal than intercourse.
Sarah said she rarely performs oral sex on men because she hates it, and she rated herself a 2 because she rarely practices. She said that her boyfriends have not seemed to mind, and they still perform oral sex on her because she enjoys it as much as intercourse.
In contrast, Nikki said she enjoys "going down on guys because it's kind of a power thing. I like to be able to make a guy have an orgasm." She first performed oral sex at age 17 and rated herself a 4.5. Nikki was the only person interviewed who said she uses sex toys such as vibrators during sexual encounters (40 percent of the time, she said), although both Mia and Sarah have tied their partners to the bed during encounters.
Nikki also was the only person interviewed who said she frequently has sexual encounters with multiple partners. "I think if you have a one-on-one, even if it [seems like] it's just about sex, there's some sort of attachment," she said. "When it's a group thing, it's just about sex." She said she has had threesomes and encounters that have involved three men and three women.
Sean first performed oral sex when he was 14 and rates his skill at 5. He also said that he is good at receiving oral sex. "There are certain things you can do to the person providing fun to ensure that it's pleasurable for the person performing," he said. Sean said that if he is in an intimate, homosexual relationship, he thinks oral sex and anal sex should compliment each other.
Mia rated herself a 5 at performing oral sex, but said that she does not "think sex is really good the first couple times until you learn each other's bodies You kind of figure out what to do and then all of a sudden, it gets really, really good."
All of those interviewed endorsed cuddling after a sexual encounter, although Mia said she "cuddles or dresses very quickly," depending on whether her girlfriend's parents are returning to the house. Tyler said he thinks "sleeping with a girl is extremely personal so, if it's a girl I like, then I really, really enjoy that."
While almost all of the interviewees have used both alcohol and marijuana, most agreed that neither drug enhances their sexual experiences and alcohol tends to detract from it. However, Jason said his girlfriend enjoys it when he drinks alcohol before sex because he lasts longer. He was the only person interviewed who had used hallucinogenic mushrooms.
While Nikki said she has used alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy, and cocaine (once), she said that she found that only marijuana enhances her experience by making it easier for her to have orgasms. She said ecstasy lowers her sex drive and when a person become too drunk, intercourse becomes undesirable.
Brad said he drinks sometimes "just to loosen up a bit and go out and not be afraid to ask a girl to dance and have fun."
Tyler said he drinks before a sexual encounter about 75 percent of the time, but he attributes this to his tendency to meet women in club, bars or at fraternity parties.
Master of your domain
Only Sean said he enjoys masturbating more than he enjoys sexual encounters with a partner. Most agreed that they enjoy it, although Brad masturbates only twice per term ("It's kind of lost its novelty.") and Sarah masturbates only once per month ("It just feels unnatural to me; there should be someone else there.").
Everyone said that when they masturbate they do it in bed, and Nikki was the only interviewee who mentioned using a vibrator while masturbating.
Nikki said her sexual reputation is not important to her. "I think you really can't control what people say about you and it's not worth worrying about," she said. "What I do is okay for a guy. Guys just blend."
Brad said he plans to wait for the right person before having sex, partly due to his Catholic religion. "I'm not an instant gratification type of guy," he said. Brad continued to say that no one at Dartmouth knows he is a virgin because he doesn't "want to be marked by that."
Tyler said that he cares what other people think, but he said that most of the girls he has had sexual contact with do not seem to care much about his sexual reputation.
Jason said that the Dartmouth community is big enough that he does not "feel like people have a repuatation." He also complained "girls are a lot more critical of each other than guys are of girls."
The Dartmouth scene
Most of those interviewed agreed that Dartmouth's dating scene matched common wisdom that students are either "married" or "hooking up" and Dartmouth has little casual dating.
But Brad said that he thinks the Dartmouth dating scene works for him and can work for anyone as long as they put effort into it.
"If you just play a few games of pong and head to a frat party, it's easy," he said. But "you have to be willing to ask a girl to a dance or to movies." He said that by putting in more effort, real relationships can be formed.
Brad said that his lack of sexual contact is partly due to the heavy workload at Dartmouth. "I work a lot and have extracurriculars," he said. "I've dated quite a bit but the relationships haven't gotten serious enough for me."
Tyler said he agreed. "I think it's what you make out of it," he said. "If I want to have a girl to date, or I want to have a girl I want to hook up with, I can do both." Tyler said that when he has a one-night stand with a woman, the woman generally is looking for the same type of encounter.
"There's a lot of girls that I'm friends with that we have sexually charged relationships, and we'll hook up and then we'll be friends," he said.
Mia said that not much casual lesbian dating exists on campus, and both Sean and Mia said most homosexuals seek partners from the surrounding area. Both said that Dartmouth is a "closeted school," and both said the biggest problem with homosexual relationships at Dartmouth is that people find themselves in relationships with someone who will not acknowledge that they are dating.
"There's a lot of closeted people in the athletic and [sorority] system," Mia said. "You hear a lot about [homosexuals] dating closeted girls and some of them end really badly."
"It's a place where people don't feel comfortable being out, particularly in the Greek system," Sean said. "I'm not willing to make the effort to be with someone who is not open."
Sean said he also tends to date off-campus men because he does not "like the personalities of most Dartmouth students."
"White men who have been privileged tend to have a different outlook on life," he said. Sean also complained that he has "often encountered men who were not interested in [him] simply because of his [African-American] race."
Obviously, students' sex lives vary drastically, and although some said that women and men think differently about sex, Sarah pointed out that, regardless, both men and women enjoy sex, but societally constructed double standards do exist. "It works both ways. Nobody wants to say they're a 22-year-old virgin ... at the same time, you don't want to be perceived as a slut," she said.
"If you're confident in yourself and you really don't care, then that's awesome," she said. "I wish I was more confident about myself."