[By Alice Owens]
Of course, back then, just like today, partying in college goes hand in hand with hooking up. In my moody teen days I never had a boyfriend, and all my sexual education came from porn. In other words, I was inexperienced when it came to real people.
When I did enter the real world, sexually speaking, I found that sex on campus sucks. I didn’t arrive at college looking to engage in a crash course of Bedroom 101, but it soon became clear that sex and hookups were happening all around me. I felt pressured to fit in, and I wondered what all the fuss was about. Everyone seemed to be enjoying exercising their sexual freedom, and I was on board with the sexual revolution’s idea of putting women in the driver’s seat. I had just turned eighteen, and my life was ahead of me. What better time than now to experiment? What could go wrong?
Now, years later, I see things differently. I look back on my college sexual experiences and I can see how, overall, they influenced me for the worse. Those years hurt me—in the sexual arena, in interpersonal relationships, and in terms of my self-confidence. Even as I actively seek to heal from them with therapy and self-care, I still have a long way to go. The repercussions of my campus sexcapades continue to haunt me to this day.
To get to the point, I’m not just angstful after a couple of less-than-dreamy rendezvous. I was date-raped with a tranquilizing drug. It’s not just that one incident that makes me chalk up my college years as a bust. Rather, it’s because I feel that the culture on campus gradually wore down my defenses, making me more vulnerable to that violating experience.
Allow me to state the necessary disclaimers. I told nobody back then, and I’ve told hardly anybody even now. I’m not seeking self-aggrandizement or to “bring any men down.” I have literally no incentive to make this up, as I pen this pseudonymous story.
Ever since Rolling Stone falsely reported in 2014 on a frat rape at the University of Virginia, news outlets have been whirring with questions: When a woman says she was raped, how can we know she’s telling the truth, especially when the incident isn’t reported immediately? I can’t answer that question, but my story may offer some insight into why some women don’t always report rape right away. For me, at least, it was because—like a frog in slowly heating water—my sense of self-possession in sexual encounters had been gradually dying. By the time the rape happened, my radar was gone. I could hardly distinguish it from any other sexual encounter I had on campus, much less report it as rape.
So what do I mean when I say the college sex scene was fertile ground for my rape to take place? I saw disturbing trends that I believe were conducive to unhealthy views of sexuality, especially for women. For one, there was a palpable sense that men expected and deserved sexual pleasure from women. I can’t tell you how many encounters and near encounters my girlfriends and I had after getting a look from a guy that meant, You’re going to follow the script, right? In other words, Get busy pleasing me. My college experience led me to embrace a worldview that male pleasure is king and a woman’s sexual pleasure was peripheral at best. Tied up as it is with emotion and patient mood-building, female sexual pleasure (often elusive for those who’ve never been in a long-term monogamous relationship) was rare in hookups.
Furthermore, as soon as word got out that you’d had a sexual encounter with a guy, you’d be perceived as being “available” to all his friends. The experience didn’t even have to involve actually having sex for his friends to think they were entitled to sleep with you. Early freshman year, I had a sexual experience with a guy a couple of years older than me. For the next few years, all of his friends tried to chum up to me, as if they were expecting to be next in line. I became a walking billboard for solicitation. That sense of expectation affects you over time, and I gradually lost perspective on my own feelings. Surely this couldn’t be the sexual freedom everyone was talking about?
[This is the second of two excerpts from Good Catholic Girl: The Harm of Hookup Culture and How One Woman Transcended It, by Alice Owens. This ebook is available for just $0.99 on Amazon. Your purchase and Amazon review could help this eye-opening critique of the hookup culture reach more readers.]
(Image: finwal, istockphoto.com)