I came to college a virgin. I didn’t stay that way for long. I started dating someone at the end of September, and we broke up when I went abroad junior year. Then I was in another relationship until this past February. I’ve essentially never been single in college. I’d never experienced “the hookup culture.” And now that I have, in this last semester at school, it’s easy to see why so many people hate it.
I’m at a party, and I’m drunk—like really drunk—and I make eye contact with a guy across the room. The next thing I know he’s next to me, behind me, kissing my neck, turning me around. We dance, and make out, and dance, and make out, and finally he says, “Let’s get out of here.” It’s late, around 1:30, and the party is about to get shut down anyway, and my friends are nowhere to be found, so why the fuck not. I had never done this before. But this is what I’m “supposed” to be doing—hooking up with guys, being casual, having “fun.”
We stumble back to his place, and he asks if I want to smoke, and I say no and feel lame and can tell that maybe he thinks I am. He asks if I want to watch TV, and I almost laugh because of course that isn’t what he means, but I say okay because I went home with him, and I’m here. We go to his room, and he takes off his shirt and climbs into bed, and I get into bed too. He turns on “The Office,” and it’s an episode that I saw two days ago, but I don’t say so. We don’t even make it to the intro music before his hand is creeping under my shirt, before he is moving over me and then on top of me. He is urgent, his breathing heavy, and it feels nice to feel how badly he wants me. I try to figure out if I want him too, and I’m disappointed that I don’t really. “Do you want to have sex?” he asks, grazing the ridge of my ear with his teeth. Do I? Probably not. “I don’t think so,” I respond, and feel guilty, and then stupid for feeling guilty. Of course, I can say no; I don’t owe him anything. But, then again, what did I expect when he said to me at the party “Let’s get out of here,” or later, when he asked if I wanted to watch TV? Had I already agreed? Was I backing out of some intangible and unspoken contract? I feel like a prude, childish as he breathes into the side of my neck and grips the backs of my thighs. Why don’t I want this? He asks me “Why not?” and I kiss him in response because I don’t know why. After a while my shirt is off, and then my bra, and he asks again, “Really? You don’t want to?” It’s too hard to say no, not because I’m overwhelmed by passion, but because I can’t think of a reason to give him. The entire time, I want it to stop, and when it does, I want to go home, but he wraps me up from behind, spooning me, and falls asleep almost immediately.
I’m at a party, and I’m drunk—like really drunk—and I make eye contact with a guy across the room, and the next thing I know he’s next to me and smiling at me, leaning in and introducing himself over the music. We dance, and he kisses me, and I kiss him back, and he pulls me off to the side of the dance floor, and we make out against the wall. “Want to leave?” he asks after a while, and I say sure but immediately regret it. Do I want to leave? The party is pretty fun. It’s not that late. Who is this person? But then I’m following him back to his place, and we nearly get hit by a car, and it’s somehow really funny, and I’m kind of happy, to be with this guy, laughing in the middle of the street.
We get back to his place, and he claims he’s “pretty tired” and asks if I wanted to watch some Netflix in bed. I say sure, starting to feel uneasy—I know where this is going: he’s going to want to have sex. And I say to myself, as I follow him up the stairs, that I’m going to say no this time. No matter what. No matter how awkward or obligated or prudish I feel. He turns on an episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and I make a point to really pay attention to the show, to laugh at the jokes. But I can tell he isn’t watching and that my engagement isn’t stopping his hand from gripping the side of my hip, his other arm gently knocking his computer off his stomach, so he can turn towards me. We look at each other, and I almost laugh because he seems so serious, but he kisses me before I laugh, and I smile into his mouth. “What?” he asks, pulling away, still serious. “Nothing,” I say, because I can’t tell him I was laughing at him, and he kisses me again.
Things start to accelerate, both our shirts are off, and at this point I’m just waiting for him to ask me. Finally, he does. “No, is that okay?” I respond. I can feel his disappointment. “Yeah, sure,” he says, moving down to the side of my neck, my collarbone. “Sorry,” I say, and he doesn’t say anything, and all of a sudden I am fighting the urge to cry. Because I shouldn’t have said sorry and because I genuinely am. Eventually, he stops kissing me, and I hear him sigh to himself; I feel him shift so that he is slightly behind me; I feel his arms wrap around my bare stomach, careful to avoid my tits. I bite the inside of my mouth to stop the tears.
And then there’s the consistent hook up—the text that comes in reliably, after 12:30 a.m., the “You up?” I try to remind myself that I am not a piece of meat. That the comfort of another’s body heat, behind you in bed isn’t worth it. I try to remind myself that he is just a boy. I saw him at a party last night, and he asked me if I hated him, and I said, “What?” even though I heard him, and he said it again, “Do you hate me?” And I wanted to say yes, but I didn’t, because I don’t hate him. I should, but I don’t. “Of course not,” I said, trying to act like I didn’t care, but my voice quaked, and I walked away, dipped behind the crowd and then through the front hall and out the door, and I ran home crying.
I let the sadness swallow me, the strange grief over this person that I don’t even know. This person who I invested everything in, pinned everything on. All of my hope that maybe I wouldn’t be alone anymore. It’s shocking how badly it all went. I had started to really like him, and maybe that’s a result of having sex with someone more than once, or maybe it was the way he said, “good morning, darling,” and we would both laugh, but I secretly thought it was sweet. Then there was the text after I asked him to come over because the loneliness was so intense I couldn’t stand it. He said he was unsure of what he wants right now, and I wish it were a better lie. Or maybe I wish that he had just told me that he didn’t want to fuck me anymore, that I was ugly or strange or the sex was bad. Or all those things. Either way, I am broken now and more alone than before. The worst part is how little he cares. How little this all affects him, and how badly it wrecks me. The unevenness of it, the unfairness. That he gets to go through his day like nothing ever happened, and I am left standing in what feels like rubble.
And now still, sometimes, the late-night text comes, and it crushes me. I think about him, and I think about my ex, and I think about the people I’ve slept with in between and after, and then I stop thinking about it, because I can’t. It isn’t fun, it isn’t casual, and as many times as people tell me, or I tell myself, that this is normal, I can’t fight the feeling that maybe this isn’t how things are supposed to be. Why can’t we just say what we want, or rather, what we don’t want? And not just when it comes to sex, but when it comes to any choice, really. My sister told me never to respond to a guy’s text unless it was a question. To never text a guy first, to never act interested. This flippancy, this forced indifference, is dangerous. Because being passive, letting things happen to myself as I do, is a path to a deep and unsettling unhappiness.
Part of the Obvious issue