It's undeniable: the sounds of love, or, at any rate, lust coupled with affection, are all over campus as we enter the new semester. And the funny thing is, it isn't the whining pitch of a heart-broken girl.
Society cajoles us into believing that women are lovesick romantics and men are horny bastards. But ever since I set foot in New York City, I've had to stop and think twice about these sexual roles. Are our perceptions of the opposite sex correct, or are we operating on the basis of mistaken judgments?
While my girlfriends have quickly let go of their no-sex-without-love rules, my guy friends have become increasingly involved with the girls they hook up with. One of my female friends recently admitted that she masturbated so much that losing her virginity didn't hurt; my buddy across the hall secretly confesses that he can't be with a girl unless he loves her.
These are the kind of everyday discoveries that force you to reassess everything you have ever decided about your sexuality--like the day your high school teacher announced that the perception that men are hornier than women is simply a social convention and not, in fact, a matter of science. Talk about reassessment; no, screw that, talk about massive sexual confusion. At the time I, along with every other 17-year-old I knew, had based everything from my choice of clothing and perfume to flirting and dating on this very perception.
What did this revelation mean for my sex life from then on? If boys weren't naturally hornier than girls, did this mean it was okay, even good, to be as horny as the boys I knew?
I dismissed this confusion, choosing to ignore my teacher's words of wisdom, but my arrival on campus last fall made me reconsider. My buddies claim that all the girls they sleep with are emotionally invested. Yet that doesn't change the fact that one of my guy friends, who was hooking up with another friend of ours, called me every morning after to find out what my friend said about their wild night. She wasn't calling him incessantly and so he exclaimed in wonder that she wasn't "acting like a girl."
Admittedly, there are girls here seeking a relationship, but there are also those who want the sex without the emotional bullshit. And I have seen men step comfortably into typically feminine acts--worrying about their performances in bed or calling three times even when their dinner invites were refused, for example.
This is not to say that I haven't met men who still fall into the horny bastard category, but they are often surprised when I respond with equal sexual enthusiasm. Lying in bed after sex one night, I was chided: "I didn't think it would move this fast with a Columbia girl."
It is almost as if we want the opposite sex to occupy the dictated role; we are uncomfortable when we are able to be honest with each other. Do guys want girls to think they're macho and sex-addicted and want girls to play the sweet, innocent part? Do girls want guys to think they're angelic and demure but to go after them like sick dogs? It is widely accepted that the sweet side of a man always surfaces when he wants a relationship, so why is it so hard to believe that the rough-'n-tough side of a woman surfaces when all she wants is sex?
In the crazy world of our college sex life, where the rules of the game are about as clear as the New York City skyline on a hazy August day, this question is yet another cloud. Every single one of us wants something different--whether it's sex and a football game, sex in a room lit only by candles, or for that matter, a walk in the park and no sex at all. How do we reconcile our perceptions and desires with reality?
The truth is that we may never do so. Or we may get lucky and meet our dream lover on the first shot. Or we might find out what we wanted was, in fact, not what we expected. Massive sexual confusion may persist, but we'll never figure it out unless we try.
Miriam Datskovsky is a Barnard College sophomore.