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You’ve just crossed over into the friendzone

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The splash zone is fun to be in, “The Twilight Zone” is fun to watch, and the subduction zone is something I’m sure natural science students love to learn about. But the zone that no one likes, the zone that makes people cringe, the zone that screams GET OUT is that of (drum roll please) … the friendzone.

We all know what this is. It’s the time when you ask someone if they want to see a movie and they reply with “who else is coming.” Or maybe it’s the time when your high school crush texts you saying “OMG Sasha interrogated me the other day,” and then you reply “TELL ME,” and then he texts you back saying “She’s like are you and Lauren in a relationship or something lol,” and then you ask “What did you say?” He replies “I told her we were just close friends.” That, that right there is an example of a HARDcore friendzone. And I just want to let you know that I scrolled through my texts all the way back to 2015 just to find that.

Friendzoning is an art form that honestly can never be mastered. Picasso himself probably wouldn’t have been able to do it. Neither Van Gogh nor Dali. The only person who maybe could’ve done it was Frida Kahlo because she is awesome. I would have put my money on her, no question about it. But at the end of the day, friendzoning is just awkward. However, there is a spectrum of awkwardness and I, of course, have reached the highest level of it, more than once.

It happened when I was in the 4th grade. I was swinging next to Tommy, the cutest boy

in the whole class who had the bluest eyes and the Justin Bieber hair, making him that much more to die for. The bell rang so he and I started walking back to our classroom. Little did I know that at this moment, my whole life was about to change. I asked Tommy if maybe we could be more than friends. He, or course, replied with, “Best friends?” and I said “No, no something more than that!” At this point anyone, and I mean ANYONE, would’ve known what I was talking about, but not Tommy. No, no, Tommy thought I wanted to be “mega best friends”! And on that day, Tommy slipped through my fingers forever. This is the day I discovered the friendzone.

My embarrassment level was through the roof, and I thought I was incapable of doing that same thing to anyone, but then 6th grade happened. I remember it as if it were yesterday. I walked into my classroom and sat down and found a note folded inside my desk. I opened it and read: “Will you be my girlfriend?” There was a box next to the word “yes” and a box next to the word “no” where I was supposed to mark my answer. First off, there was no name saying who it was from. Second off, what the heck, and third off, THERE WAS NO NAME SAYING WHO IT WAS FROM. Maybe it was from David who definitely never brushed his teeth or Sam who picked and flicked literally every time I looked at him. Or maybe it was Tommy, good lord the things I would’ve done if it were Tommy. Being the idiot I am, I simply folded the note back up and put it in the desk next to me and then that person passed it down until it landed on Mike’s desk. Mike, being the loudest and most obnoxious kid, stood up and yelled asking who put that note in his desk and read the note out loud! Poor Ben, his face got instantly red. I still can’t believe I did that. I am so so so so so so so so so sorry Ben. I hope he and I can one day move past this even though we haven’t talked in seven years.

There is a saying that goes “It’s only awkward if you make it awkward,” and I find this true for friendzoning. The two ingredients to create the best possible friendzoning friendship are communication, and simply being yourself. Don’t avoid a conversation or eye contact, say “hey” when passing, and just be yourself! Mind games are immature so don’t engage, just don’t do it! But for clarification, “hey,” “heyy,” “heyyy,” “heyyyy,” and “heyyyyyyy” do indeed mean different things. “Hey” means “friends,” “heyy” means they think they like you, “heyyy” means “take the hint already,” “heyyyy” means “dtf,” and “heyyyyy” means they are drunk. I repeat, all of that is NOT a mind game.

It is essential to understand that friendzoning is natural and very important, because it represents individuals doing what they want and what is important to them. One is not obligated in any way, shape, or form to give something in return if someone is being nice. People can just simply be friends; in fact, people who are sexually attracted to a certain gender or genders can just be friends with people of that gender(s) — it is very real and very possible! Pop culture portrays friendzoning as such a horrible thing, but it is not! Sure, it may suck to be friendzoned but it is an act greater than simply placing someone in a “no benefits” zone. It is the freedom of choice, individuality, and the use of a voice play an important roles in the “art” of friendzoning. If you are the one being friendzoned, listen to what your friend wants and respect it. Just like what I did with Tommy (written with a heavy heart…still).

Now, if you are trying to friendzone and still want to salvage the relationship, this is what you do.

First, give subtle, yet obvious hints. Drop a “you remind me of my brother/sister.” Or if you are given a compliment, you may just reply with a “thank you.” You are still remaining polite and nice, just not picking up what the other person is putting down.

Second, always suggest group hangouts, ALWAYS. If you like spending time with that person but do not want to give the wrong idea, invite friends! Show that person that you only like hanging out with them in a friend-environment, not so much one-on-one.

Third, don’t ignore, but don’t lead the person on. My 6th grade boyfriend broke up with me by ignoring me even though we were neighbors, which honestly made life that much more awkward (thank god I moved). So, don’t ignore.

And lastly, be completely and utterly honest. Voice your opinion and your wants in a respectful manner. It’s helpful and important to voice your opinion, wants, and desires when trying to salvage and maintain a relationship.

Friendzoning is something that is normally out of everyone’s comfort zone, but welcome to life. So, what is the moral of this article, you may ask? Don’t have friends. Don’t talk to anyone, don’t look at anyone, and don’t breathe on anyone. Just get a dog, because they are really good friends, almost on Tommy’s and my “mega best friend” level. Just kidding. Do what you have to do, and move on, that’s the moral of this article. Actually, kidding again. I still love Tommy, that’s the moral of this article.

 

Go for the O

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People from afar and people from near, sit down with this paper and read something that you most definitely need to hear. This thing that I am about to say requires at least one hand and two fingers on deck. Females orgasm too, and they are awesome as heck.

Last Thursday, Swarthmore was visited by Dorian Scott, the co-author of I Love Female Orgasm: An Extraordinary Orgasm Guide, and Connor Timmons, who is the Program Director of the organization Common Ground Center, that offers family camp programs. I walked into Upper Tarble not really knowing what to expect. But I have to say, I was very surprised to see so many men there! Thank you for coming boys and helping the world become a better place one orgasm at a time. The presentation started with this line of pure, genius creativity: “People normally say to silence your cell phones during talks and presentations, but we like to be more reasonable. So please set your phones to vibrate.” As soon as I heard this, I knew I was in for a real, good treat.

The big O. That is what we are talking about today — the big, bad, beautiful, banging O. Orgasms are experienced by all genders, but the I <3 Female Orgasm talk focused on women’s experience with orgasms, hence the name of the presentation. It was emphasized that night that masturbating makes sex better because people become more comfortable with the pleasure and feeling of what’s going on down there. When I heard this, the first thing I thought of was Hailee Steinfeld’s songLove Myself” in which she says, “I know how to scream my own name … Gonna love myself, no, I don’t need anybody else … Anytime, day or night.” Physical self love is important as it helps people feel more comfortable with themselves and their sexuality. Masturbating, especially done by women, is not something that is discussed, let alone encouraged, and it is this lack of attention that stigmatizes the idea of women masturbating. So if and when someone goes up to you and asks if you masturbate (raise your hand right now if this has ever happened to you, even if you’re in class, raise your hand), and if you do, I want you to say, “Hell yeah!” For example, if my mom asks me if I masturbate I will say, “Hell yeah I do mom, and so does Hailee Steinfeld!” Then whip and get the heck out of there.

Something else that this presentation emphasized was the fact that it takes 20 to 30 minutes, on average, for women to experience an orgasm. Also, not all women feel pleasure in the same spot — for some it may be the G-spot and for others it may be the clitoris. But, we are in luck because you can purchase fun, little toys to help figure out where your spot or your girlfriend’s spot is. For example, the infamous Nimbus 3000. When I saw Dorian Scott whip this bad boy out during the talk, I thought they were giving it away so I literally jumped out of my seat to try and claim the prize. I mean come on, whose lifelong dream isn’t to own a Nimbus 3000? Little did I know that this Nimbus 3000 was not only made for kids to think that they could fly, but also made them feel pretty fly. From its magical vibration powers, this battery-powered broom stick will make any kid want to catch the golden snitch, feel the golden snitch, and experience THE golden snitch (if you’re picking up what I’m putting down). Here are some reviews of the Nimbus 300 that Scott and Timmons kindly shared with us:

“I recently bought this for my son. He’s a HUGE Harry Potter fan. Seen the movie 32 times (in the theaters) and made the paper. This toy gives him the ability to fly around the house zapping things. My only problem I see with the toy is the batteries drain too fast and his sister fights him over it, so now I need to buy her another one.” -Amazon.com Reviewer

Hmmm, the batteries drain too quickly. I wonder why that is…

Or how about this one:

“When my 12 year old daughter asked for this for her birthday, I kind of wondered if she was too old for it, but she seems to LOVE it. Her friends love it too! They play for hours in her bedroom with this great toy. They really seem to like the special effects it offers (the sound effects and vibration). My oldest daughter (17) really likes it too! I recommend this for all children.” -Amazon.com Reviewer

 

If there is one thing that I have to reiterate, it is that the female orgasm actually exists. The fact that I have to even say this represents our patriarchal society. Tell your brothers, sisters, even the kids you babysit … people need to know and grow up with that fact already in their heads! The Big O is not like a unicorn or healthy fast food. It is as real as Beyoncé having twins, it is as real as climate change, and it is as real as you reading this sentence right now. Orgasming is something that takes time, as everyone has to figure out the ways to make ourselves and our partner’s orgasm the best. Patience and constant communication is needed for this. Check in every now and then, and ask “Is this okay?” or “Does this feel good?” You want to make the other person feel comfortable, because if they aren’t, then the orgasm will never come. And if you and your partner are trying really hard and it doesn’t come, don’t be embarrassed or get frustrated. Just remember the saying “distance makes the heart grow fonder.”

I would like to leave you all with a magic trick that Amy Schumer has revealed to the greater public. For those who are into beautiful men, Amy discovered that: “Magic Mike XXL. It like, really is magic. Anytime I watch those guys, at least two of my fingers disappear.” If guys aren’t your type though, I recommend Coyote Ugly, it is a very, very, very good film. But Amy, thank you for that magic trick, can’t wait to try it out sometime.

On Friendzoning

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Back in the ’90s, the following exchange brought forth raucous laughter:

“It’s never gonna happen.”

“What?”

“You and Rachel.”

“What? Me and Rach—whatta…why not?”

“Because you waited too long to make your move, and now you’re in the friend zone.”

“No, no, no, I’m not in the zone.”

“No, Ross, you’re mayor of the zone!”

“I’m taking my time, alright, I’m laying the groundwork. I mean everyday I get just a little bit closer to—”

“Priesthood!”

This conversation, from Friends, suitably, is credited for coining the term friend zone, a phrase that somehow persists even if it has lost much of its comedic pop or social relevance. Nevertheless, I have been tasked to write an article on its many aspects for Valentine’s Day. So, where to start?

The friend zone is a place of nightmare. To be friendzoned is to be banished. That is what a lot of people would like to believe. It is when a man, typically, develops feelings for a woman, typically, and those feelings are unrequited—hardly uncommon. As the phrase suggests, the man has become a friend of the lady and has failed to woo the lady. His desire to mate has been thwarted due to a combination of misread cues and likely his own obliviousness to her intentions.

The man then uses the friend zone as a way to not only come to grips with his own inadequacy as a sexual being, but also as a veiled insult to the woman, and to guilt her into not reading the thoughts of his own mind. It has been labeled misogynistic, perverse, a plea for entitlement.

The Internet is flush with references to the friend zone. There are countless articles with titles derivative of ‘Avoiding the Friend Zone’ and memes devoted to those lost in the friend zone as if it was the Bermuda Triangle of romance. On that note, there is also no shortage of metaphorical comparisons drawn to highlight the apparent bleakness of the friend zone.

Ali Benazir, a self-titled “Happiness Engineer,” actually called the friend zone “Justfriendistan” and said that it is a “territory only to be rivaled in inhospitality by the Western Sahara, the Atacama, and Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell.”

To which I respond: Huh? Has Ali Benazir ever read Dante’s Inferno? That is the true stuff of nightmares, maybe because it concerns actual Hell. But her hyperbole does reveal the priority that regular people, that we as humans, place on navigating relationships, and how nerve-wracking, self-destructive, and un-fun it is to be on the constant lookout for the pothole that is the friend zone.

Honestly, I find the whole concept absurd. To be a good partner is to be a good friend. The two are not mutually exclusive. If we believe them to be, then that only gives dimension to the vacuum of imagination our cultures have when it comes to managing healthy relationships. I’m not saying that in order to be a good lover you must first pass through the “Atacama” that is the friend zone. I am saying that friendship is the sharpest weapon there is to fight for a romance, because quite frankly, then you can cut the bullshit and get to the feelings without sacrificing intimacy. But to do that requires you to be open to the entirety of a person and not to simply see them as walking genitals.

On the off chance that this is too daunting a task, I hear the priesthood is always looking for new members and that the Atacama is lovely this time of year.

 

(I use man and woman as the two halves of the whole in this article but friend zone may apply to all sexual relationships if the term has or is to have any significance.)

 

Social Interactions in Sharples

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There are a multitude of experiences, commonalities, and quirks shared by Swarthmore students. Add the plethora of traditions and the collective grind of academia, and the Swarthmore experience feels like a unified struggle.

However, perhaps nothing brings together Swarthmore students like the ever-polarized SHARPLES! As the only dining hall on campus, Sharples is a hot spot for hungry students after they’ve languished under the ungodly expectations of professors the whole day.

The lunch rush is a sight to behold. Your best bet for avoiding the long line in Sharples during the lunch rush is going to the grill. If you wish to satisfy your tastes at any other station after 12:20, a long line awaits you.  I know a lot about line trends and students’ individual feeding clocks because once upon a time, I used to spend as much time in Sharples as in a Seminar. During my freshman fall, I was known as Mr. Sharples. I’m less inclined to spend unbelievable amounts of time in Sharples nowadays, but I’ll never forget the memories that came from my time learning in Sharples 101.

Freshman fall: on a typical school day, I wasn’t thinking about my chemistry problem sets, my 100 pages of seminar reading, or any of the extracurricular engagements with which I had needlessly burdened myself. It was pass/fail and all I could think about was Sharples. Not necessarily the food or the understated ambiance, but the people. Who am I going to meet today? What whacky new stories will grace my ears this evening? Anticipation kills. I’m having Sharples withdrawals as I sit in my classes. Watching the clock is an exercise in torture as the minutes tick by way too slowly.

But then – the time comes. Classes are over and dinner awaits. I’m there at 4:30 on the dot, a little bit after Sharples open for dinner. I want to meet everybody, so I always arrive as early for dinner as possible. Most days, I wouldn’t make any dinner plans with anybody because they were so restricting. Armed with a smile, a generous sense of humor from the big G O single D himself, and a myriad of interesting stories, I’d greet everybody. I’d shamelessly interject myself into group discussions, and soon I had lovely friends and acquaintances from all social circles.

Such behavior earned me the admittedly deserved reputation of a “homie hopper.” For those unfamiliar with the definition of a “homie hopper,” it can best be defined as a person who chooses not to settle down in a specific friend group for the sake of enjoying the benefits of numerous friend groups. Integrating yourself with so many diverse groups of people starts with “playing the game,” as my friend Angel Padilla ’18 puts it. Playing the game involves asking and receiving basic introductory questions about hometowns, majors, summer plans, and the less personal bits of information that rarely pique anybody’s interest. However, asking these questions is essential to establishing a foundation of friendship, and these questions sometimes even procure gold.

After getting through the often-unavoidable awkwardness, my efforts were rewarded with raucous good times, bellowing laughs, and deep bonds that will never be severed. Sharples is also a great place to satisfy other motivations. Let’s ponder a hypothetical situation in which you peep a fine lass or lad who tickles your fancy, but you have reservations about approaching said person. Having many friends is great because the object of your affection may be sitting with people you know, and your connection with those people allows you to make yourself present before said person. From that point on, you can put your best self forward and woo the person of your dreams. I have employed this technique many times in my short Swarthmore career, and it’s almost foolproof.

Sharples is truly a microcosm of different cultures, attitudes, and backgrounds. It isn’t always a harmonious experience, but there is a general sense of tolerance and acceptance present among the student body when we pack into Sharples like a bunch of sardines. Despite the contentious debates and tense moments that naturally follow from such close proximity with so many people in one building, we’re all in this together; respect for peers is always at the forefront. Given the current sociopolitical state of America, it might behoove certain politicians to examine how we do things in Sharples for tips on how to run this country.

The Hookup Rollercoaster

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How do you write an article on the culture of hookups and relationships? This culture deserves a book because it is one of the most complex and ambiguous topics I have ever come across. With that being said, welcome to my column of the hookup and relationship life.

Relationships help us all grow because we succumb to the idea of depending on another individual, letting them into our hearts. We have to become vulnerable, feel raw, and completely expose ourselves to the thought of having our heart and spirit broken into a million pieces. Of course there are many different types of relationships, but all help us grow and navigate ourselves as we figure out what we want, what we like, and who we want to grow with. With that being said, after many many drafts of this piece, I came up with the conclusion that a hookup is a type of relationship– the type that fascinates me most.

Hooking up. What does this phrase even entail? Just as the culture itself is confusing, the definition of the phrase is confusing as everyone’s definition is slightly different. One person can be talking about making out, while someone else is thinking sex. When using the word hookup, I have figured out that one needs to specify because if not, who knows where your listener’s imagination is going? However, if you think the definition is confusing, wait until you get to the essence and meaning of the hookup, because that is when the imagination puts on a pair of hyper jets and sets the gear to ludicrous speed. Here are a few of the many phrases that sprint through one’s mind after a hookup: Do they like me? Should I text them? No, they should text me first. But what if they are waiting for me to text them? Do I make eye contact? Do they even remember me? Was I good? I probably sucked. Maybe that’s why they didn’t text me. Should I say hi or just pretend like I don’t even know who they are. Why do I feel like trash?

Or maybe you’re thinking: Shiiiiiiiiit. That was something else. That was like tripping on acid. Sign me up for round two.

Or maybe you are even thinking: Well, that didn’t turn me on, at all. Maybe I’m into girls? Maybe I am into guys? Maybe I’m asexual?

Like I said, hyper jets on ludicrous speed. But it is that not knowing — the precise inability to pinpoint how you are feeling that occupies all of your thinking space and tends to drive you crazy.

Emma Morgan-Bennett ’20 said that the “hookup culture plays a particular role in our generation, since, as the newest generation, we have transitioned from secretive hookups and secretive sexual expressions to explicit expressions of affection and explicit expressions of sexual desire”.

In our generation, there is no hiding as we live in a time, for the most part, that accepts certain actions and feelings. Hookups are normal as we are all humans with sexual feelings and sexual wants, and there is no shame IN that.

Jordan Reyes ’19 feels that “people usually make a spectacle about it [hookups], but it should be a normalized thing”.

There exists a stigma that hookups are a dirty act, and I am here to tell you that they are not. It is an act of self-discovery and an act of growth, and I cannot stress that enough. But at the same time, there needs to be a balance of respect for yourself and respect for others.

“I think casual hookups should be casual hookups, and that’s fantastic. But you also need to know that there is another person at the end of the line and it’s all about communication,” said Morgan-Bennett.

Reyes himself approves of hookups, “as long as things proceed with consent”.

The hookup culture is a complex and intricate type of relationship, a type of relationship that no one should be ashamed of. Look at each hookup not as a mistake, but an opportunity to discover something about yourself. And if the hookup was a mistake, admit it and learn. Hookups help us all grow, as long as you respect and are respected. Hook up because you want to, not because anyone else wants you to.

Help! I dated Kellyanne Conway, get me out of here

in Campus Journal/London Calling by

Welcome back to London Calling. How were your breaks? Did a relative get a bit too sloppy when they were knocking back bottom shelf whiskey? Did an ex text you “HNY” out of the blue at 4 a.m. on Jan. 1? Did you take advantage of the extern program? I did, and it was a wild ride. From the moment I stepped into the office I was given one assignment: watching footage of Kellyanne Conway.

This special kind of hell came as a surprise to me. I had expected to spend the week perfecting my sexy intern act, pushing out my ass as I lean against a copy machine, bend-and-snapping to pick up paperclips, trying to be helpful for my employer — “Is there anything else I can do for you? Bring you coffee? Suck your dick? Send you my resume?” Unfortunately, my boss and most of my coworkers were happily married, so I buckled down with America’s newest sweetheart. I learned to recognize her by the pattern of her crow’s feet, the angle of her crooked smile and the pitch of her nasal squeak as she pivoted away from a direct question. As I grew familiar with her mannerisms and habits, I became more and more convinced that I recognized her from somewhere, and it wasn’t the stand-up routine she performed in the 90s (look it up). There was nothing original about Kellyanne, nothing surprising about the way she spun lies with a beaming smile. A few days into our relationship, it dawned on me: Kellyanne and I had dated.

Of course I don’t mean this literally. I would say Trump’s senior advisor isn’t exactly my type, but that’s exactly my point: could I in all honesty claim that I’ve never been interested in polished, compulsive liars? That I would never fall for a snake in a blond wig? I can imagine sitting down with Kellyanne on either side of the kitchen table, each of us clasping a brimming glass of Pinot Grigio that’d we’d drink in tiny, fast-paced sips. She’d stare at me intently with the half-squinted eyes and soft smile she saves for performances of true empathy. Then, I’d start:

“Kellyanne, you need to be honest with me. Was Rachel saying the truth? Did you really go fuck Jasper?”

“Now listen Tom I don’t think that’s fair, I don’t think that’s fair because she clearly didn’t mean that, and beyond that I think it ignores the real question, which is why are you still bringing Jasper up, a month after that night? Nobody else is talking about it! It’s unfair that you’re not giving me the chance to show you how well we can work together for this relationship.”

“But Kellyanne, you still haven’t answered the question. Did you fuck him? He told Cheryl you did, you’ve got to explain what’s happening here.”

“Tom you need to understand the difference between what offends you and what affects you. Maybe you’re offended by what Cheryl said — and why would you trust that sore loser, she never forgave me for getting my job — but that doesn’t mean you’re affected by it.”

“But Kelly—”

“Get over it, sweetie.”

For those of you more unfamiliar than me with Kellyanne’s track record, apart from the context this whole interaction is a pretty close paraphrase of things she’s said to the media since the election. It may sound obsessive to draw such a close parallel between this politician and my ex (still hate you babe!), but I think the connection informs our relationships with both of them.

Back when we were dating, our biggest issue was trust. I’ve never been crazy about monogamy, and have always valued the freedom of sucking a stranger’s dick in an alley if I so please, but it’s always been important to me that my partner would inform me of his sexual whereabouts, for reasons of both sexual health and intimacy. When I learned he’d been flat out lying to me, before I could even think of ruining his life I was overwhelmed by a feeling of profound stupidity: how come I didn’t notice him being vague, covering up the holes in his alibi? Kellyanne reminded me that great liars are so earnest that they make you want to believe them. There’s nothing shameful or daft about deciding to give people the benefit of the doubt. What matters is how you behave once you learn the truth.

Speaking of which, I think that seeing Kellyane as an ex really helps put into perspective how one should deal with her “alternative facts.” When you catch a partner clearly betraying your trust, is your reaction to write a stern thinkpiece debunking them with a mildly inflammatory headline? No! You scream, burn pictures of them, and spread informational flyers about just how scummy they are throughout their neighborhood (or dorm, or dining hall). We’ve got to stop engaging with her and taking her seriously, point blank.

This doesn’t read much like a sex and relationships column, but I don’t think that sex and relationships are on anybody’s mind today. Here’s a story though: when I told the guy I’ve been seeing about my foray into the world of Kellyanne, he held my stare and asked:

“If you put on a blond wig and a nasal voice, do you think you could sustain an impression of her when I fuck you?”

And you know what? I think I might do it, just so that I can imagine that through the vessel of my body we could dislodge the massive stick that’s stuck up her ass. And regardless, angry sex is hot.

An exercise in entropy

in Columns/Opinions by

It’s an oft-stated and well-treaded fact that systems tend toward disorder. This tendency is called entropy, and to say that systems tend towards disorder is to say that the available energy in a system (energy that is available for work) decreases. Another way of saying this is to say that signal gradually fades to noise.

Picture the development of life, for example, as a constant war against entropy. For life to blossom, there must be structure of various kinds at various levels. A balance between internal and external environment is necessary to maintain this structure. As we live and breathe, our cells constantly seek out and work toward this balance, towards homeostasis. This entails seeking out matter external to the system that can be turned into energy to be used by the system, this is called work (this is the meaning of work I’ll be using, not the one with the connotations of employment). But, the centre cannot hold, and so goes the structure; our telomeres shorten as we do, and entropy wins out. This is observable, but to move from the observable to the non-observable we can see a similar story play out in the social world.

It’s easiest to begin with a simple observation: why aren’t we all friends? Why is the default mode of interacting with a stranger that of a non-friend, that of a distant entity? This isn’t to say that we avoid interacting with strangers entirely, or that we mistreat them, but that we have the capacity to see them as other. The easy answer, perhaps, is that it is because we do not know them but that fails to explain the existence of people we do know but still feel are strangers. If we think of the social world as a system of relations, then the “stranger” relation is the least informative one, and here we can begin to see the relevance of entropy. The stranger default stands in opposition to the structure of the social world, it is the state toward which things tend. A simple experiment can confirm this: neglect a friendship for a month and attempt to return to it as though there was no period of absence. Chances are, you have begun to be a stranger to them. Relationships require a constant input of energy (i.e. work) to exist.

This is all to say that relationships require maintenance because the very order which they bestow is constructed, I think. It seems obvious, but ideas to the contrary permeate our culture. The notion of love in fairy tales and romantic comedies as a happily ever after suggests a relationship that requires no energy to be input into the system. There are no perpetual motion machines in the real world, and so it also seems there are no perpetual motion friendships. Happily ever after must be sought after.

Is there a social homeostasis? There must be a goal of social work that involves a balancing, so in this notion there must be something like a social homeostasis.This is a harder notion to observe, so the only claim that can be made is that social homeostasis involves the balance of energy put into the system and the “returns,” I’m not a fan of this model, as it seems soulless to think of relationships as having a return—and that being a metric by which they are judged—but I have to admit it is probable. Reciprocity seems to underlie most relationships, and governs our expectations. So perhaps it is possible to be a good friend to all with no expectation of return, perhaps, but I do not feel it is a positive state to be in because of the reciprocity norm present in our culture.

The limits imposed on us as students similarly serve to further isolate us. The lack of leisure time, especially during particularly taxing semesters, forces us to choose between keeping up academically and keeping up socially. This issue, of course, is not unique to students but seems to be a consequence of the increasing qualifications necessary to “keep up” in getting a promotion, providing for your children, buying a house, etc. The rat race has social (and thus also mental) consequences that should not be ignored.

This seems very bleak, but there is no reason to think that this is anything more than a matter of perspective. The energy we spend on achieving an outcome can make it feel all the more fulfilling and can be the way in which we create meaning. As the fox said to the Little Prince before departing, “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” Perhaps this is enough to face each day with a smile, to look into the eyes of a dear friend and tell them what they mean to you. But, can you say you would not be deeply hurt if that smile were not returned? This question lurks behind every interaction and is at the heart of the middle school experience; “Do my friends actually like me?” The answer: “Don’t think about it.”

The tendency towards disorder in the social realm is troubling, the whole thing seems to cast doubt on all relationships, but it is important to remember that this is only one potential reaction. The inherent difficulty in friendships could be the very thing that makes them so fulfilling, as the fox said. Of the seemingly many days I have had, I cannot honestly say the happiest has been alone and I feel this points to a larger truth. Perhaps this is all just another (long-winded) way to say that relationships, much like everything else, are ephemeral and must be tended to, much like the Little Prince’s rose.

Finding one’s own adventures in kink

in Campus Journal/Columns/Sex and the Swattie by

Sex is a pretty stigmatised thing. It’s even more stigmatised when it isn’t vanilla sex between two cishet people. Which is why sex education, for those of you lucky enough to have had it, never ever covers anything kinky. Ever.

Kink is something that can already be very very complicated, and that lack of education just makes it needlessly messy and shadow-y. In an effort to demystify it just a little, let’s talk about some things you should probably know before you have your own kinky adventures.

At its best, kinky sex can be mind blowingly incredible. “Kink” is an umbrella term that can mean a lot of things depending on what you and your partner(s) want. It could be powerplay, the dealing and/or receiving of pain, binding and restricting someone, focusing on fetishes, anything really. It can look nothing like ‘regular’ sex. One of my favourite sexual experiences was when one of my partners lit a bunch of candles and then drew all over my body with a knife. And then when she was done we just looked at it for a while and then cuddled and napped. It can also look a lot like ‘regular’ sex. A lot of the sex I have is, except with more obvious fighting for power and more painful play. I LOVE kink. However, that doesn’t change the fact that having  it can be very difficult.

 

Something that I’ve struggled with a lot is telling potential partners I’m kinky. Ideally, everyone would just be entirely okay with bringing it up with each other and discussing it and that would be great. Maybe, you CAN do that. That’s great! I, however, cannot. I wish I could, but my generalised anxiety coupled with the stigma around having (kinky) sex makes it essentially impossible for me. Probably a large part of why I like okCupid so much is that the conversation is already initiated. When I’ve met someone through The Real World I like bringing up kink in a context that doesn’t directly involve the sex we might have to see how they respond. For example, a kinky event I went to recently, or how upset the representation of kink in mainstream media makes me. Literally 50 Shades gave me MONTHS of material. Usually, if the interest is mutual, the conversation happily eases into discussing kinks from there.

And then, boom. The hard bits are done. We can go straight into having sex, right? Wrong. Something that is so often glossed over is that sex is never 100% safe. Never. Even if you’re having vanilla sex using all of the protection, there is always a (small) risk of disease, or pregnancy, or undesirable pain. With kink, usually the risk of undesired pain goes up. One time, when I was still a kink noob, my partner and I discovered mid-sex that I was really into being shoved/pushed/kinda thrown around, and then proceeded to do a lot of that. And it was super great. Until, of course, I woke up the next morning with my back in so much pain, and moving being hard, and so confused. Apparently, we had gotten shoving/pushing/kinda throwing around very wrong. And as super great as the sex was, it was probably not worth the pain. Which is why, while it is impossible to achieve complete safety, it is very important to be risk-aware. My pain, for example, would have been greatly reduced if my partner and I had researched appropriate technique and things to definitely not do. It was so easily avoidable. And this is true SO MANY times. Other times, it isn’t, and there are no ways of avoiding the negative consequences of the play you want to engage in. You need to know what these consequences are before you have sex so you can consent to it in a meaningful, informed manner.

Information is often hard to get. There are already very few resources available that can tell you things you can definitely trust about kink safety. Worse, people generally tend to not know them. The internet can be very useful, but also unreliable. Looking for credible sources is important, and can often be hard and time consuming, but I know y’all know how to do it (what did you think all of those writing courses were preparing you for?). Consensus is usually a good thing to look for, as is the post history of the individual you’re reading, and any credentials they might have. If you are on campus, Nina Harris, the violence prevention educator/advocate, is a very good person to talk to. She’s open, friendly, and knowledgeable about kink things. However, she doesn’t have medical credentials and cannot give advice relating to most edge play — things that if done wrong, could seriously hurt you. The Health and Wellness Services Director and a sexuality educator, Alice Holland, however, can and is available by appointment also. If you are not on campus, or would rather not talk to them, people who work at explicitly kink-positive/consent-positive sex shops are also often good resources. A couple of places in Philly I’ve found particularly helpful are The Velvet Lily and Sexploratorium. They’re really nice. They don’t care when you giggle at their dildo names, I promise. They also don’t mind when you get scared and anxious and hide behind your friend when they show you strap-ons like you asked. Or when you strap them around your head and pretend to be a unicorn. Although maybe don’t do that last one — it does get some strange looks. Sexploratorium also hosts classes, called Passion 101, which often center around kinky topics, and can be pretty useful (though they do tend to cost a fair bit of money).

As endless as this conversation can be, kink doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone, and even when it does, we interact with it differently and face different problems. The things that I talk about here are pretty universal, but nothing more specific will be. So while we’ll probably talk more about things, kink is essentially a giant choose-your-own-adventure book. Go forth and have risk-aware fun!

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