In January, we put out a sex and relationship survey for Columbia and Barnard students. The survey collected 216 student responses: 93 from Barnard and 123 from Columbia (79 from CC, 22 from SEAS, 22 from GS). This is a sample size and is in no way an accurate, scientific representation of the Columbia/Barnard student body, but we hope that it might give you a glimpse into how some of your peers feel about sex and relationships.
We asked a series of questions in which students wrote about their experiences and added any suggestions for what Columbia/Barnard could be doing better regarding sexual health. Below each question are selected responses that reflect the variety of sentiments offered by those surveyed.
In what ways could Columbia be better at encouraging sexual health?
“Actually having good consent events… [since] the type of consent taught through Columbia’s programming is very simple minded.”
“Create [an] ad campaign to destigmatize STIs, and make sure every student during orientation knows about free STI/HIV testing, contraception, Plan B, and other services.”
“Some sort of ‘incentivized’ activities for sexual education (I know at other schools they’ll have raffles, sex educator talks, concerts, etc).”
“Ask Alice has a really great archive of Q and A’s that should be publicized more.”
“Encourage healthy relationships in regards to power dynamics, expectations, age gaps, intoxication levels, etc.”
“More free condoms and make other forms of birth control more widely available.”
Most survey respondents whose significant others do not go to Columbia or Barnard seem to have started their relationships before college.
Respondents who attend Barnard appear less likely to have met their significant others at Columbia.
How has coming to Columbia/Barnard impacted your sex life?
“Too stressed to seek out and enjoy sex.”
“Lots of work, not so much time for sex/intensely passionate relationships.”
“I grew up in a couple/relationship led culture; coming to Columbia was a change.”
About 78% of those surveyed think at least half of Columbia/Barnard students are sexually active.
Also, although people are getting it on, this should serve as a reminder that it is completely normal to not have sex regularly (42% of respondents said they never have sex, or rarely do).
From our very unscientific and qualitative survey, we can see that respondents say their sex lives are affected by stress culture. From the looks of it, stress culture intertwined with a hookup culture (that we all know to be pretty… unique) can make it difficult for students at Columbia/Barnard to establish long-term, meaningful relationships and to have consistently active, stress-free sex lives.
What, in your opinion, are the biggest challenges in maintaining a healthy relationship and/or sex life at Columbia/Barnard?
“Competitiveness, lack of empathy among some students who are interested in hookup culture.”
“The stress culture makes people not want true relationships but rather hook-ups, which ultimately are unfulfilling. Unfulfillment then leads to an increased desire to do *something* but never to relationships and the cycle never [gets solved].”
“The workload and stress make it difficult to have sex regularly if you are not in a relationship.”
“We have a highly individualistic culture here which makes it hard to form exclusive relationships and, more broadly, [to] trust people enough to become emotionally intimate with them.”
“The culture of hooking up/going out in order to hook up really feeds into that problem.”
“Everyone is so stressed no one has anytime for anything but themselves and their résumé.”
“For people from religious backgrounds/backgrounds where having sex as a teen wasn’t an option, it’s easy to feel somewhat ‘behind the game’ so to speak [because] the active hookup culture makes it seem like everyone else has been having sex for ages and is really good at it, therefore making it very daunting to start having sex as a student on campus due to nervousness or inexperience.”
“Separation between Barnard and Columbia. Lack of friendliness among student body and overall discomfort talking to others.”