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Sex at Duke: students fulfill 'grad requirements'

On page 3,283 of the blue plastic notebook in the lobby of Perkins Library, a worthy question is posed: "How often do people really have sex in the stacks?"

The answer, provided by the anonymous librarian who responds to all of the questions and comments in the book:

"The same two people rarely do so more than once a day."

Safe response, but hardly illuminating.

Fabian, a senior who asked that his real name be changed, said he has snuck into the stacks on occasion and had more to say.

"Getting caught is a bad idea," Fabian said. "You can mess around, but you don't want to be known as a sex fiend."

"Sex in the stacks" is one of Duke's five widely accepted unofficial graduation requirements, which also include scaling Baldwin Auditorium, driving backwards around the Duke Chapel traffic circle, traversing the East Campus tunnels and having sex-yet again-in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

The students do their best to avoid run-ins with unexpected visitors. Jake, a sophomore using a fake name, said he and his girlfriend of five months try to find locations "as far away from humanity as possible."

Jake reasoned that it would be a much trickier proposition outside of a relationship.

"It's harder to say, 'Would you like to come back to my library-Instead of to my room,'" he said.

Sarah, a junior who requested a pseudonym, said she would definitely go to the library with a boyfriend, but never with a random hookup.

Like Fabian, Sarah was primarily concerned with the greater implications.

"Duke is a small world and a random hookup in the Gardens would be the topic of conversation the next day," she said. "If a girl has sex with a random guy, most people incorrectly perceive her as trashy. When it's not only sex with a random guy, but also sex in the stacks, the trashiness factor increases."

Although both parties presumably decide together to have sex in public, Fabian and Sarah both felt that men and women have different things on the line.

"If a girl tells something to a friend, and if that girl says something that didn't happen, that's slander," Fabian said. "Guys have a lot to lose. We can't risk it."

But Sarah felt girls have more to lose.

"I can think of a number of stories floating around about girls at Duke that have done some crazy things sexually," she said. "When people re-tell the story its always, 'That girl is such a slut' or 'What a whore.'"

And people do tell those stories. The elevator in McClendon Tower. The laundry room in Alspaugh Dormitory. The back of the bus. The Kilgo Quadrangle balcony spanning the West Campus Plaza walkway. Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Class of 1956 tent on Main West Quadrangle during Alumni Weekend. The Chapel.

From time to time, students cash in on pacts to fulfill the requirements together.

"This girl I met sophomore year and I made a pact that if we hadn't had sex in the gardens by senior year, we'd do it together," Fabian said.

But when the time came, they ran into complications.

"The grass was soaking wet and the benches were hard," he said. "If you're going to go, you need to be equipped."

One night while studying abroad in Italy, Fabian and a new female friend snuck away to the bathroom during dinner.

"The people in the restaurant figured it out," he said. "When we came out, they stood up and started clapping."

Sarah spent a summer in Spain and said her attitude toward the public spectacle of sex changed while she was away from Duke.

"The attitude is that what goes on abroad, stays abroad," she said. "There is less stigma because you are never going to see these people again. You get it out of your system."

Some of the reputation concerns reach beyond the Duke social sphere.

In an age of growing privacy concerns-made most evident by websites such as Facebook.com-many students said they are questioning the extent to which their college days might follow them after graduation.

Fabian doesn't have a Facebook profile. He takes time getting to know girls. He's picky, but once he picks, he's casual, he said.

In his long-term relationship, Jake has found that with time, girlfriends become "willing co-conspirators."

At Duke, there are plenty of students who don't have sex at all, whether by choice or by frustrating fate-one query in the "Suggestions Book" called out desperately, "When will I get laid?"

Fabian was quick to take note that despite the hype, sex in the stacks does not occur all that frequently.

"Dating just isn't that common at Duke, and it's something you do typically when you're dating," he said.

As for the graduation requirements, Fabian didn't even know if he had completed them all. They were important as a freshman, but he soon realized that one should care much more about the girls themselves, he said.

Jake felt they were still in the back of everyone's minds.

"It is a shared motivation between both parties," he said.

"Ostensibly, it's not just males graduating from this university," Jake added.

He laughed when he said that.

Fabian grinned when he remembered the wet grass in the Gardens.

And though frustrated by the double-standard for females and promiscuity, Sarah couldn't help but giggle about "spicing things up" with someone she might love in the future.

"Just for fun," she said.

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