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Title IX: Learning About Relationships, Respect & Safety

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Despite the Healthy Sex and Relationships series having come to a close last week, the Title IX Office here at Swarthmore College still has more activities in store. According to Raven Bennett, Swarthmore’s Title IX Fellow,

“Thus far this semester, the Title IX House has hosted or collaborated on fifteen events. Five of these events were part of Training Tuesdays and ten of the events were part of the Healthy Sex and Relationships Series.”

Bennett details the brief history of the Healthy Sex and Relationships, writing that “we decided to expand the duration of the series this year to space out the events more. We felt this would both make organization easier and make it easier for students to fit attending more than one event into their schedules.” This semester, the events held were: “Me Too, You Too Postcard Writing,” “Consent in Practice” and “Relationship to Self,” “6+ Ways to Find LGBTQ+ Love, Support, and Friends,” “Consent and Self-Love Valentine Making,” “Interfaith Storytelling,” and “Speed-Dating & Speed-Friending.”

During these events, participants were encouraged to think introspectively about not only their experiences, but the experiences of others. Alex Kingsley ‘20, reflects on her experience at a Consent in the Arts workshop,

“The talk itself was really informative. Raven was really great about taking complex, scary topics and making them easier to talk about. It did show me how prevalent Title IX violations are in the arts, though, and how difficult it is to deal with them.”

Bennett writes: “We had a number of collaborators for this series including Student Health and Wellness, WRC, IC, Interfaith, and OSE. Our student teams, the Title IX Advisory Team and the Title IX Liaison Team were also integral to planning and facilitating the events that comprised the Healthy Sex and Relationships Series.”

Training Tuesdays, in themselves, are a fairly new concept at Swarthmore. “This is the second semester we are organizing Training Tuesdays. We piloted Training Tuesdays last semester to create weekly opportunities for members of the Swarthmore community to engage with topics related to healthy relationships, sexual violence prevention, and survivor support. We were very excited by the high level of student interest in the trainings last semester, which prompted us to continue the series.”

Overall, the Healthy Sex and Relationships and Training Tuesdays series are forged by a love (pun intended?) for Swarthmore students and an interest in their safety. Bennett writes,

“The hope with all of these events is that we create programming that appeals to a wide variety of interests and contributes to creating a safe and supportive campus atmosphere. I know that students can be very busy, so I always feel appreciative and grateful when students come out to our events. For those who have not had a chance to attend one of our events, I encourage you to take a look at our Training Tuesday offerings and come out to a training that appeals to you.”

Upcoming Training Tuesdays include: “Sex & Alcohol,” “Supporting Survivors,” “LGBTQI+ Sex and Dating,” “Hook-ups to Break-ups,” and “Masculinity.” They are held weekly on Tuesdays from 4 to 5 pm, in Science Center 105.

Strictly Good Advice

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Strictly Good Advice,

 

What’s the best way to get someone you don’t like to stop talking to you? This is a person who wants to be friends with me, but I don’t want to be friends with them. I have expressed sentiments of kindness and friendliness towards them in the past.

Thanks,

Eudora

 

Hello and thank you for the question. For experimental purposes, I will omit the usual disclaimer. I would like to see if anybody writes back dissatisfied with the applicability of my advice.

This is the special Valentine’s Day edition of STRICTLY GOOD ADVICE. I have chosen to commemorate the occasion with your question because it is a good reminder that the plasticky comforts of the commercial holiday can sometimes fail. Just because it is called a holiday, does not mean that your usual concerns – ischemic heart disease, career trajectory, computer uprising – get the day off. Engagements, marriages, committed relationships of all kinds have met their demise on even less convenient days than this one. As a symbolic thorn of this constant awareness, then, I offer your case as a less dramatic cousin to the tragic Valentine’s Day breakup. You wish to halt the nascent ingrowth of a doomed friendship. I will examine the necessary steps to peel back some pitiful schmuck’s parasitic advance into your social life.

If you have already been “kind and friendly” (your words) to this person, it is probably too late to take any action that “without hurting them.” Acknowledge your complicity in this hurt briefly, and then put your awareness aside. Maybe you are at fault for something or should have acted differently or even “known better,” but I don’t think understanding the informative content of observations made in hindsight is very useful in this situation. At best, it will lead you to some conclusion about your virtues, or the virtues of your actions, their consequences, etc.; at worst it will spin you into reflective limbo. So rigorous contemplation about personal history is probably not worth the labor; I have done better in situations like yours by prioritizing haste in my thinking and choosing. Pocket whatever knowledge of your recent mistakes is readily accessible and clean up your mess. There’s no better time than the present to tell someone their best attempts at friendship are no more than the cloying ooze of a candied slug. Salt that slug before it gets too close, too confident, too interested in how your day was and what you’re doing this weekend.

By now it is clear that denying people your friendship requires first committing to negativity and silence. You should have a good reason for completely refusing the efforts of the interested party. It’s not easy to intentionally stomp on the efforts of an interested party. To spare yourself as much excess guilt, empathetic fatigue or whatever else, consider these intentions carefully. There is no set of normative criteria for when it is time to sever a social tie, but there are some good heuristics for when the option is on the table. Mine include safety, comfort, or serious inconvenience. For example, I will deny friendship to someone who hurts me, sneezes on me, or brings their pet bird to my house without asking. Usually when I want to dissolve my friendships, I stop and reconsider. Can I cut someone off just because they keep asking me for advice, but outwardly refuse to send their questions to my struggling advice column? Is it right to withdraw myself categorically from anyone with a pet bird? I cannot advise you too closely on where to draw this line on snub-worthy behaviors, because it is a personal and circumstantial decision, and I know neither your personality nor your circumstances.

If you can assent to all requisite meanness, the next step in de-friending a person is to take verbal action. Sometimes you can ignore a person for long enough and they will understand the tacit rebuke. This is what is called “getting the message.” Often enough though, part of the problem with the person of disinterest is an incapacity to get this kind of message. I have a feeling your situation is something like this; I imagine whatever hints or nudges you have given this person of your social intentions have failed to penetrate the soft tissues of the unrelenting slugperson. If so, the next step for you is to decide the best way to interpret the content of your silences and package them in the most obvious way possible.

Translating from implicit to explicit meaning is tricky and the result may assume a variety of forms. How you choose to do it is a many-valued function of your experience with and ability to deliver bad news. Below I offer a mad-lib style template for what you might say to someone if, whatever relationship you have with someone, you did not intend for it to involve friendship. I suppose this is all you really wanted, Eudora, when you asked your question, but I gave you the rest because I cared enough to write you those words. In fact, I feel something of a friendship budding between us, even though we are just strangers. And you would respond in kind as follows.

Hello [NOUN]. I hope you are [ADJECTIVE] and that your [NOUN] is going or doing well. I would prefer if you no longer [VERB PHRASE], because I have been feeling [ADVERB] about the way you [VERB] sometimes, especially about [NOUN]. Your tendency to [VERB PHRASE] makes me feel [ADJECTIVE PHRASE] about [NOUN]. I hope you don’t take this too personally, even if it is exclusively a comment on your personal behavior. I am sorry to be so [ADJECTIVE], but I really don’t think friendship is a good relationship for us to have right now. Perhaps we should stop [VERB ENDING IN -ING] for a while. I hope I have not caused you too much distress. Try and remember that it’s not you, it’s [NOUN].      

In need of some STRICTLY GOOD ADVICE? Send your questions to strictlygoodadvice at gmail dot com or submit them by online form at the web address http://bit.ly/2svahLZ.

 

Title IX: Learning About Relationships, Respect & Safety

in Campus Journal by

Despite the Healthy Sex and Relationships series having come to a close last week, the Title IX Office here at Swarthmore College still has more activities in store. According to Raven Bennett, Swarthmore’s Title IX Fellow,

“Thus far this semester, the Title IX House has hosted or collaborated on fifteen events. Five of these events were part of Training Tuesdays and ten of the events were part of the Healthy Sex and Relationships Series.”

Bennett details the brief history of the Healthy Sex and Relationships, writing that “we decided to expand the duration of the series this year to space out the events more. We felt this would both make organization easier and make it easier for students to fit attending more than one event into their schedules.” This semester, the events held were: “Me Too, You Too Postcard Writing,” “Consent in Practice” and “Relationship to Self,” “6+ Ways to Find LGBTQ+ Love, Support, and Friends,” “Consent and Self-Love Valentine Making,” “Interfaith Storytelling,” and “Speed-Dating & Speed-Friending.”

During these events, participants were encouraged to think introspectively about not only their experiences, but the experiences of others. Alex Kingsley ‘20, reflects on her experience at a Consent in the Arts workshop,

“The talk itself was really informative. Raven was really great about taking complex, scary topics and making them easier to talk about. It did show me how prevalent Title IX violations are in the arts, though, and how difficult it is to deal with them.”

Bennett writes: “We had a number of collaborators for this series including Student Health and Wellness, WRC, IC, Interfaith, and OSE. Our student teams, the Title IX Advisory Team and the Title IX Liaison Team were also integral to planning and facilitating the events that comprised the Healthy Sex and Relationships Series.”

Training Tuesdays, in themselves, are a fairly new concept at Swarthmore. “This is the second semester we are organizing Training Tuesdays. We piloted Training Tuesdays last semester to create weekly opportunities for members of the Swarthmore community to engage with topics related to healthy relationships, sexual violence prevention, and survivor support. We were very excited by the high level of student interest in the trainings last semester, which prompted us to continue the series.”

Overall, the Healthy Sex and Relationships and Training Tuesdays series are forged by a love (pun intended?) for Swarthmore students and an interest in their safety. Bennett writes,

“The hope with all of these events is that we create programming that appeals to a wide variety of interests and contributes to creating a safe and supportive campus atmosphere. I know that students can be very busy, so I always feel appreciative and grateful when students come out to our events. For those who have not had a chance to attend one of our events, I encourage you to take a look at our Training Tuesday offerings and come out to a training that appeals to you.”

Upcoming Training Tuesdays include: “Sex & Alcohol,” “Supporting Survivors,” “LGBTQI+ Sex and Dating,” “Hook-ups to Break-ups,” and “Masculinity.” They are held weekly on Tuesdays from 4 to 5 pm, in Science Center 105.

Does Love Exist At Swarthmore College?

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No!!!!!!!!!

 

* * *

Okay, so it might be a bit more complicated than a “no” and nine exclamation points (maybe ten would’ve done the job?). But two months and some change at Swarthmore and it’s easy to get the feeling that it’s a desolate wasteland where the concept of a “crush” fits in neatly with its less colloquial definition. Why is this the case though? Is there something in the Sharples water that comes out of the fountain that constantly, without fail, reads REFILL even though there’s no way that it could possibly still need refilling? Something emitting from the fire moose that causes more than just temporary casual discomfort?

Coming to Swarthmore, I was elated at the thought that I could finally, for once in my life, have potential romantic interests. Fantasies involved stolen kisses in the fall-time amphitheater, romantic afternoons on Parrish Beach, and more, but little did I know that romance at Swat begins and ends with pathetic Tinder messages and avoiding eye contact in Sharples the morning after.

This disappointing realization has led me to the pose the question: why the fuck is Swat like this? I mean hey, you have to be at least a little smart to be here, so why the complete and utter lack of any sort of emotional intelligence here? I’ve weighed the hypotheses, run the tests, and analyzed the data. Or at least I would’ve if there were any actual cases to study here. Unfortunately, the point three semi-functional relationships on this campus couldn’t be reached in between their constant PDAs to remind all of us that we are alone and will never have that. In lieu of actual case studies, I decided to reflect on some of my very own brushes with Swat romance.

It’s certainly sad that it’s not even three months in, and I already feel as though I’ve exhausted any and all Swarthmore options. Tinder currently just creates ring upon ring of faded red that reaffirm that we are in tragic suburban Pennsylvania. Swat parties consist of running into guys who 1) your best friend already hooked up with, 2) you already hooked up with, 3) your best friend is in love with, or 4) you’re in love with (and terrified to even make eye contact with). The idea of finding some manic pixie dream boy who will sweep you off your feet is long dead once you realize that the men at this school get winded walking up Sharple’s hill and are without a doubt, not going to be sweeping anyone off their feet.

Still, you play along with the game. Tell yourself that a real world  four is a Swarthmore seven  and a real world seven is a Swarthmore eleven. To an outside observer, this could be seen as desperation, but at Swat, it’s adaptation. If we’re going to be here for four years, there’s a necessary irreverence that needs to be taken with Swat’s romantic scene. Everyone here is just a some-degree-of-awkward teen/young adult who doesn’t know what the fuck they’re doing, even if it looks like they’ve got it all figured out. Experiences here will range from mediocre to downright strange, but regardless of how they end up, you can – at the very least – leave with a good story and a laugh, and most of the time that’s enough.

So does love exist at Swarthmore College? In the typical, fairytale way, I’m going to argue that it’s highly improbable you’re going to find your Prince or Princess charming here. But that doesn’t mean you can’t love the foolishness that comes along with trying to find love in this loveless land. View every embarrassing hickey as a battle mark that you have pride in, greet every awkward 2 a.m. hookup with a huge smile and a wave in Sharples the next morning, sweep yourself off your own feet at Paces (i.e. slip on the sticky ground and laugh about it with your friends for the next week).

Love doesn’t exist at Swarthmore College, and that’s okay.

What It Is and What It Isn’t

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It’s interesting how you can think one way about a particular thing and then learn something that blows your mind, leaving you to question so many different things. This happened to me this week, and it’s a lot of fun when this happens because your mind is being stretched in ways that you didn’t think were possible, but it also stinks because it is the only thing you can think about. Thank you, Lisa Wade, for making this the best-worst, intellectually stimulating week yet.

For those of you who do not know, Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and author of the recently published book American Hookup, which is about the emergence of sex culture on college campuses. I, myself, have not read this book but a friend of mine highly recommended it to me, so it’s on my list. However, I have recently entered a new era in my life which includes listening to podcasts, and I stumbled across two featuring  Lisa Wade that made me think about hookup culture from a different perspective. With that being said, I highly recommend listening to “Hookup Culture with Lisa Wade” and “Hookup Culture: The Unspoken Rules of Sex On College Campuses”.

There is something about hookup culture that I both love and hate, which leaves me in a really confusing place. I am a firm believer in experimenting with other people to figure out what you like and what you don’t like. Do you like girls or do you like guys? Do you like sex a little rougher or a little softer? Lights on or lights off? Hooking up allows for individual growth as it is an experience that ultimately leads to self discovery. So, with all of this positivity I have towards hook ups, why do they leave me feeling so dirty? And Lisa Wade helped me finally answer this question that I’ve been asking since my junior year of high school: it’s not the physical part of the interaction that bothers me, but rather the culture that surrounds it.

Hookup culture itself is a relatively new form of socialization that arose in the 1920s. This is the period of time when the rise of industrialization attracted people away from rural parts of the country to cities. This change of setting allowed for the hookup culture to take root and flourish due to the close proximities in which people were now living. Along with this, cities offered nightlife, which is where the culture of hookups ultimately began. Also, the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the right to vote, helped influence the women’s movement of 1960, often called the Second Wave. This 1960s movement pushed for more equality for women. This equality would grant women more freedom outside of the house, encouraging more sexual freedom since women were then allowed to publicly embrace their body and sexuality, adding to the hookup culture. So, like I said, hookup culture is a relatively new phenomenon. But, before I go any further, I want to make it known to my audience that I will be focusing on heterosexual hookups… as that culture bothers me most and is the one that Lisa Wade talks about in the mentioned podcasts. There are, of course, similarities between same-sex and opposite-sex hookups, but I will be focusing on and critiquing that of opposite-sex hookups.

Examining the society in which we all live today, we embrace masculinity; not the “looks” of it but rather its normalities. However, when a girl crosses the gender boundary and takes on more masculine characteristics and lifestyle, she is looked down upon. There is a clear distinction between the roles and expectations that men and women are supposed to embody. However, when thinking of the qualities that are most rewarded and looked upon highly in our society, they are the traits and qualities that embody masculinity. Since men are the “most” ideal humans, as they contain the most “ideal” traits, it is they who women should follow; it is they who should lead. This attitude seeps into the infrastructure and culture of hookups that normalize the idea that men should “choose” who to hook up with, not women. These thoughts and ideas in our heads soon become actions, creating the hookup culture that I have come to hate.

It is the so-called “script” that the majority of hookup participants follow, myself included. It first begins with the girl wanting to be desired by the guy so that he chooses her. Maybe her shorts will be a little shorter, shirt a little tighter, boobs pushed up a bit — I mean heck I’ve done this before, and I know I’m not the only one. Then what follows next is the guy comes up from behind and latches onto the girl, and she looks around and if her friends nod in approval, she goes for him. We did this in high school, and, honestly, it did not even phase me because that is normal. Our society embraces the man and what he embodies, so us women and young girls find it rewarding when the man chooses us. I was at a concert where this happened to me. I was dancing and the guy came up and we started grinding and then he proceeded to grab my boobs. Back then my friends and I were all excited because he wanted me and my boobs, but that is so fucked up. It’s fucked up how we all unquestionably follow this so-called script and don’t even question its ways.

Lisa Wade believes that the hookup culture is deeply connected to rape culture due to this script. This is because the hookup culture calls for a carefree environment that turns into one of carelessness. Hookups are typically a one-and-done deal, a  hit-it-and-quit-it, if you will. Feelings aren’t supposed to accompany a hookup, but if they do, you are seen as desperate and clingy according to the script. Having feelings is apparently feminine and therefore bad, and that is why the hookup culture deters these emotions. It’s the idea that wanting someone is worse because in this culture you are just supposed to want something–the idea that women are sexual objects created to please men.

So, a couple things. Hookup culture sucks. Hookup culture rocks. Podcasts. Lisa Wade. Mind. Blown.

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.

 

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.

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