Opinion | Column

Let's talk about sex, baby

As a retired sex kitten, I understand the appeal: The echo of a pounding beat in a dimly lit room, the triumph of a dry hump, the print of rosy lipstick on a frat guy's cigarette and the sound and fury of college life, a la Old School and Animal House. It's almost irresistible. until about midway through college.

When it comes to sex, Duke women don't have much of a choice. It's either hookup or bust. Duke is not a sexually predatory campus, but in the words of Donna Lisker, director of the Women's Center, men set Duke's social rules.

Although the hookup culture is painted as full of sexual agency, it's not. Women are free to participate in the culture but not to make any demands-or to attempt to change it.

The Campus Culture Initiative findings, published last week, had little to say about the infamous sex lives of Duke's undergraduate women, or the heralded concept of female sexual agency. This column will attempt to delineate what the CCI left out.

The problem with the hookup culture is two-fold: Many Duke women are lying to themselves about what they really want out of a hookup; and furthermore, many of them are not having satisfying sexual experiences with Duke men.

Despite the fact that sex culture on college campuses-and at Duke especially-now supports the idea that a woman can have sex like a man, women themselves still feel alienated from their libidos.

In a popular Sex and the City episode, Carrie posits that having sex like a man implies having sex and then feeling nothing afterward. Although as women, we claim to be taking our sexuality by the horns and running with it, at the end of the sexual encounter, do we really feel nothing? Or are we constantly convincing ourselves that we should be feeling nothing?

To quote a friend: "Why should women want to have sex like a guy? I tried it for about a year and realized I was just fooling myself."

I'd like to think that most of the time, a woman initiates sex because she really, truly is aroused and because that sexual encounter is going to somehow scratch the itch. But as this column (past and present) has attempted to show, this isn't always the case. As prevalent as the discussion on hookup culture has been during my time as an undergraduate, the women of my generation still don't want sex for sex.

To quote another friend: "I'm not sure I've ever had sex like a man. Regardless of what the context is, having sex is still letting someone be really, really close to you. It takes a connection that's more than just physical attraction. I don't want to have sex with a stranger."

It is important for us to ask, in the aftermath of "sex and scandal" at Duke, what does sexual agency at Duke look like? Is sexual agency the sound of clanking heels and the work of sorority women post-Jungle Juice? Is it the confused ramblings of a sex activist who dances on tables? Is it both? Or is it neither? Does sexual agency even exist? Or is it a long-lost dream we once had?

Four years into the hookup culture, I'm still a woman who loves her stiletto heels and at least the notion of sexual liberation. I'm just not convinced it works. And I'm not convinced that, upon graduation, I will be able to say that I've had many fulfilling sexual experiences or that my sexual agency was as strong as I claimed it to be.

At Duke, there seems to be a fine line between being sexually liberated and sexually used, and many Duke women-myself included-do not know how to maneuver that line. Forget emotional satisfaction; the sex itself isn't good. Most sexual encounters at Duke, despite the great opportunity for female sexual agency, still end up being about the man and about male pleasure. We dance in foam. We wrestle in KY Jelly. We ride the Shooters' mechanical bull. And we do it all for the voyeuristic pleasure of Duke men.

As women, we might not be as sexually liberated as we think. Our sexual mantras may be strong, but our sexual experiences are not; and what we really want out of a hookup still remains unexpressed. Until our experiences and desires catch up with our heavy words, it's a man's hookup world. We're just living in it.

Shadee Malaklou is a Trinity senior. Her column runs every other Wednesday.


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