College has longtime been hailed as the “best time of our lives.” Teachers say it, parents say it and alumni won’t shut up about it. Perhaps one of the reasons why college is considered such a fun time is the new sexual possibilities that seem to be available to us once we leave high school.
In college, we can find a range of students. Some stick to the norm – typical sex and dating, whatever that means – but many test their skills at things they would not normally try. Students experiment with having threesomes, dating several people at once, dabbling in a little homosexual behavior, having sex in unique locations and other sexual acts that seem to stray far from their usual paths.
However, the widely held belief that students tend to sexually experiment more in college could be a little exaggerated, according to Professor of Psychology at New York University Patrick E. Shrout.
“People might think experimenting in college is typical…[However,] most people think what they’re doing is more normal than is actually the case,” said Shrout. “Biases exist that make people think they are following the norm, but it is not always true.”
Still, sexual experimentation does occur in college, even if it’s not as frequent as we like to believe.
“In October of last year, I had sex with my girlfriend at the time in the church on campus on the piano bench,” revealed Bard College sophomore Cassidy H. “It was really bad because not only were we having sex in a church, but we were having gay sex in a church.”
Emerson College junior Emma S. admitted that she was involved in a threesome with a man and a woman at a college party. “I would never dream of having a threesome under normal circumstances, but some of my friends had pressured me. So I just braved it and started making out with this one guy. Then a girl joined and before I knew it, we were all having sex. I gave the girl oral and I even had anal [sex]. And I’m straight so that was weird for me.”
According to Paula England, a Professor of Sociology at Stanford University and a visiting Professor of Sociology at New York University, it is common for college students to engage in sexual activity with the same gender even if they’re straight. England also believes that some students, especially women, will use college experimenting as a way to act on their curiosity about homosexuality.
“Sometimes operating in a heterosexual context allows women to ‘under the radar’ experiment with a sexual interest in women that they may later follow up on,” said England.
So there seems to be no question that sexual experimentation in college occurs, but is this a bad thing?
“Experimentation in college can put [students] at risk of being forcibly coerced into something they don’t want to do,” said Shrout.
Yet the positives here can also balance out the negatives as long as students experiment in a safe way.
“In young adults, sexual activity is important to their well being and having positive thoughts about themselves,” said Shrout. “Experimenting can also be physically and intellectually exciting.”
Shrout’s advice for anyone thinking of walking on the wild side: “Research what [you] think [you] already know about different sexual activities because what [you] already ‘know’ might not actually be correct. Learn the facts before putting yourself into any unfamiliar situations.”
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