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Toxic masculinity sucks

in Campus Journal/Columns by

Toxic masculinity sucks. It sucks because our patriarchal society creates and encourages the male to be unemotional, sexually aggressive, and dominant; where strength is everything and emotions are weakness, where sex and domination are yardsticks by which men are measured, and where “feminine” traits are the means and standards by which the status of a “man” can be taken away. Toxic masculinity sucks — not just because I am a woman, but because it sucks if you’re a man too. It doesn’t matter if you have a dick or not, or what gender you identify as, because at the end of the day, it’s about what we allow the definition of what it means to be a “man.”

Something I find very interesting is the language that surrounds the topic of success in the male world. Insults such as “pussy” or “mangina” are used often when a man is scared or nervous — god forbid he be human! He is called this when he has “no balls,” and at this point, he might as well be a woman. And that is exactly the point I am trying to make. Boys, it is okay to have feelings, it is okay for you to be on the same level as a woman, it is okay to want something deep and meaningful. This message, however, is not what is preached to boys. Young boys as early as the age of 3 begin to internalize the concept that masculinity must be reached in order to become a man as they start to hide their feelings. Boys are more likely to have used drugs than girls at the age of 12, which could be a replacement for their feelings. Teaching boys to be more controlling and violent is evident in the statistic that men are more likely to kill as they commit 90.5% of all murders. These statistics were taken from Kali Holloway’s piece Toxic Masculinity is Killing Men: The Roots of Male Trauma, where she explicitly shows that toxic masculinity does more harm than good!

In the world of toxic masculinity, sex— both heterosexual and homosexual — is used to determine the worth of the man just as it is used as a measurement of a good night. If you got your dick wet, good for you, you’re a man! If you didn’t cum too easily or if you didn’t take forever to cum, good for you, you’re a man! If you knew what you wanted and got it from your partner, good for you, you’re a man!

False, false, and false. All of that is extremely and utterly false.

Some men are not interested in casual sex. Some men like emotions, some men want a connection. That does not make the man more feminine, it just makes them human! Some men, just like some women, cum very easily or sometimes not at all, but either or does not make you less of a man, it, again, just makes you human. Some straight men are inexperienced and don’t know what to do and some men need women to lead–that is fine, that is normal, that is still “manly”! Also, side note. It is not enough for an individual to just know what he or she wants because it is just as important to know what your partner wants and doesn’t want as well. Communication is the most important characteristic between interactions. Don’t take it for granted.

Toxic masculinity is real, and you know what, it’s scary as hell. It is a structure that allows violent and aggressive thoughts that lead to violent and aggressive actions. You may be reading this and think that you are not affected by toxic masculinity or may think that you don’t contribute to it, but honestly, we all do because it’s a game that we are all forced to play–whether you know it or not. It’s a dangerous game that  suppresses emotion, a game that creates violence, a game that encourages rape culture, a game that restores and strengthens homophobia, and a game that is played here at Swarthmore College. The frats play it, the sports teams play it, and the person you are sitting next to right now probably plays it too. These are problems that deserve attention and change, they deserve a damn to be given about and a fuck to shed. It’s about creating an environment that accepts all. No racism, no sexism, no homophobia, no body shaming, no transphobia, no ableism. But saying and doing are two completely different things. If we cannot change on our own and learn how to act and treat others with respect, then changes within our structure and social life need to change. It is not enough to say, we must do.

What It Is and What It Isn’t

in Campus Journal by

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.

Go for the O

in Campus Journal by

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.

Title IX hosts conversations on sex & relationships

in Around Campus/News by


Starting Monday, Feb. 13 and continuing through Friday, Feb. 17, the Title IX House, in conjunction with other campus organizations, will host five educational and recreational activities during its Healthy Sex and Relationships Week. The week’s activities aims to raise awareness on issues such as interracial and queer relationships, self-love, the female orgasm, and romantic and platonic relationship building. Now in its third year, the program is intended to create inclusive campus dialogue on different aspects of sex and relationships.

Title IX Fellow Becca Bernstein helped to develop this year’s week of activities in association with the Black Cultural Center, the Intercultural Center, the Office for Student Engagement, the Sexual Health Advocates, and the Women’s Resource Center. She sees Healthy Sex and Relationships Week as a program that must adapt as the campus changes and generates more questions and norms with relation to those subjects.

“The series has evolved as student needs have changed and evolved. What are the issues that are coming up for students this year? What are the traditions that we’ve started in years past that we want to continue in the future?” Bernstein said. “These are the questions that have guided Healthy Sex & Relationships Week since its inception and that inform both the changes and what we keep consistent year-to-year.”

Bernstein continued by stating how the goal of this program is to make studies on sex and relationships accessible and enjoyable for the campus and that each student can come to those topics and engage with them. By centering the series around Valentine’s Day, the idea is to capture community attention when much of the campus thinks about romantic topics thanks to other campus events like Screw Your Roommate.

“The main goal is to help students explore, discuss, and celebrate various issues related to healthy sex & relationships in ways that are both educational and fun,” she said. “Our hope is that every student at Swarthmore will see or hear about Healthy Sex & Relationships Week and connect with it, whether it’s walking through Sharples on Valentine’s Day and creating a consent-themed valentine or participating in a meaningful discussion about interracial dating or LGBTQ friendships, family, and relationships.”

Chris Youn ’20 has expressed excitement for the program, and he plans to attend several of the program’s workshops, focusing most of his attention on Monday’s activity on interracial dating co-sponsored by the Black Cultural Center and Friday’s activity on speed-dating and friend-making co-sponsored by the Office for Student Engagement. He does, however, note that the series places expectations on the campus community and its understanding of what sex and relationships are supposed to mean and be. He highlights that other cultures have different views that must be discussed in concert with others, so that the program can be more inclusive.

“Some of [the activities] do strike me as interesting — first of all, the […] conversations on interracial dating. For me, I feel like it’s interesting because, personally, my father would not approve very much of interracial dating just purely due to his background — he didn’t grow up in the states,” he said. “I guess it will be a bit of an interesting perspective, not that I haven’t seen interracial dating or anything like that, but to actually discuss it as a group or a roundtable discussion — that, I think, would be a great experience.”

Youn plans to use this series as a way to enter dialogues to uncover different perspectives and mindsets regarding sex and relationships. He notes that the dissonance between his household and general metropolitan environment gives him different understandings of these topics that he hopes to compare to others’ views.

“Like I mentioned, I would like to gain a new perspective on things, and I feel it is mostly due to the environment in which I grew up,” Youn stated. “I did grow up in a relatively liberal environment, Los Angeles, but then, the family environment was quite the opposite of this, so I did experience both things. At Swat, I like to meet new people, talk about things, and have intelligent discussions on them, not just some silly discussions on them with no concrete information on it. Just to be able to talk to people.”

Bernstein offered that this series is meant to help community members discover different topics regarding different interpersonal relationships with which community members might not be familiar or comfortable.

“A specific goal of ours this year is to get students who might not think Title IX programming is ‘for them’ to try out something during Healthy Sex & Relationships Week. For example, I <3 Female Orgasm is in no way JUST for female-identified students. This week is about everyone at Swarthmore, regardless of sexual or gender identity, and we hope that some folks will come by who haven’t engaged with us before,” Bernstein said.

Youn appreciated this commitment to opening channels of discussion. He outlined how the campus should encounter different perspectives and how the ideas behind these workshops are already being considered by individuals and groups on campus. As an example, Youn, who holds a seat on the board of the Swarthmore Asian Organization, said SAO was considering hosting a tea house to discuss interracial dating. Youn stated that, because so many groups identify sex and relationships as topics in need of campus discussion, the campus has both a need for these activities and the dialogue they will promote, and it should utilize this week of educational opportunities as a means to enter these topics meaningfully.

To guarantee that these ideas stay in circulation and are accessible to the student body, Bernstein offered campus resources, particularly Swarthmore’s Sexual Harassment / Assault Resources and Education website and the Women’s Resource Center for Gender Equity, as ways to stay involved with the week’s topics.

“We always hope that our programs and events will get conversations started outside of the space. To me, a successful event is one that keeps people talking, thinking, wondering how might I integrate this into my life?” she started. “There are a lot of campus resources around issues of sex & relationships — some that are widely known about and some that students still have a lot of questions about. One thing I always like to highlight is there are lots of ways for students to be involved in this work and the ways that students are involved continues to evolve.”

The upcoming Healthy Sex and Relationships Week speaker series has been designed for inclusive discussions to provoke thinking and exploration into these areas in the future. Many students want to become involved in these topics more thoroughly, but others hope that there might be more work in the future, possibly with even more campus groups, to promote thought on different practices and experiences with regards to what it means to have healthy sex and relationships.

The Hookup Rollercoaster

in Campus Journal by

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.

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!

Sex and the Swattie

in Campus Journal/Columns/Sex and the Swattie by


Hi, friends.

This is a sex column, and I’m going to be talking about sex today, but not as a good thing.

I’ve had a very unhealthy relationship, often addiction-like, with sex, that I still sometimes fight to overcome. This column is going to be about that, and how I fell into it, mostly because of how out of touch I was with my body and my transness. It’s also going to be about how I fight it, mostly by trying to be positive about my body.

I’ve never been super comfortable with my body. My feelings about it live on a spectrum that ranges from it triggering me through hatred to a fearful momentary pride I feel the need to hide.

On worse days, this feels reasonable. It tells people I’m a gender I’m not. Most times, it fails to carry me upstairs. It’s marked with reminders of the trauma I carry. It’s consistently rated as either fit for consumption or not worth respect. It seems like everything around me wants my body and I to not get along.

Which is ridiculous, of course, because my body is not it’s own entity. It shapes and is shaped by my experiences. It’s a part of me, it’s the only reason I exist, and it feels like I SHOULD know that and love it for it, but most times, I don’t.

I’ve gotten a lot better at it, though, than I was before.

And how that started had a lot to do with sex. The first time I realised my body could be attractive to other people, I was surprised but convinced it was because they didn’t know what it really looked like. But then they did, and found it attractive anyway, and I was shocked. I didn’t know how to deal with this information, but eventually I took it to mean that I was maybe at least a little attractive. And that made me significantly happier.

Obviously, I don’t recommend this route to greater body positivity. It was so flawed and trouble ridden. Needing external sources of approval for your body is already inherently bad, but can lead to so many more devastating circumstances. For me, it led to an addiction-like need for sex, because the lack of it was devastating, and I couldn’t focus on anything else when I wanted it. It didn’t make me happy, either, almost every time, it left me feeling sad and strangely hollow, crying into my pillow. It felt terrible and I knew it was really bad for me, and I kept swearing to never do it again, but as much as I tried to not do it, I kept giving in.  I stopped putting effort into making or maintaining friendships, until hook-ups were basically my only social interactions, a very lonely way to be a first semester college student.

Fortunately, I eventually realised this and connected the dots. I took a step back and realised that I needed to love, hell, at the very least accept, myself because of who I was, not because people wanted to have sex with me. Which, you know, should have been obvious, particularly given all the talks I’d had with other people about that and my general reputation of being a feminist killjoy. But it wasn’t, and that was really scary to accept. A lot of CAPS took me to a place where I could take a step back from everything and try to figure out ways to break the unhealthy pattern.

The first thing I did was get a vibrator. I did not think that was ideal, since it tied my worth to sex-things, but at least it was viewing myself and my body as sexual, and capable of feeling pleasure rather than being sexy and giving it, so I was A Real Live Human. It was also a comparatively easy thing to do, and an important step back from texting hook-ups when I knew it would be terrible for me to. Also, it was really fun. Vibrators are incredible and I love them and I could (and probably will) do an entire column about them, so I’m going to keep this short.

Vibrators revolutionised how I felt about my body. When I first started using them, I was a trans person who didn’t know the word for my gender and was flailing around, trying to be a cis girl, and sex, even the best kind, came with more than a hint of uncomfortable feminising of my body. Up until that point, masturbation felt like a replacement or copy of sex with other people, something that was meant to feel like The Real Deal and hence did the same thing. Vibrators changed this entirely. They were a way for my body to be sexual without being femme.  Manual masturbation did not frequently lead to orgasms for me, and while sometimes, that was fine, other times it was very frustrating. Vibrators were 90% guaranteed pleasure I felt like I deserved. It was wonderfully freeing.

I was a lot more excited about my body, which meant I started looking at it more. Not with stomach sucked in and flattering clothes and scars and stretch marks hidden away, but naked in mirrors, often dancing. Not looking to see how sexy I could be, but how much fun I could have. That helped me decide that I really like clothes that  are flowy and swoosh when I spin, websites advising me against them be damned. It also showed that I actually didn’t need anyone else present for my body to feel and be great!

It was a surprisingly large realisation for me that my body could be a source of happiness for me. I could do so much cool stuff with it! Like wear blue lipstick, or shave some of my hair and then have a fuzzy head I could pet if there was a shortage of puppies, or wear clothes that don’t match. Being less uncomfortable with my body made it so much easier to approach and pursue friendships with people who didn’t validate it by having sex with me, which led to an incredible support network of great humans.

Even though it sounds like that when I write it out, this hasn’t been anything close to a linear journey. It’s been very rollercoaster-like, affected by things like weight changes, general mental health levels, how cute my outfit feels that day, the weather, literally so many things. I feel vastly differently about my body from day to day, and I figured it was just random for a while, but I’ve been paying attention to the patterns, and the lows are definitely getting less low, and the highs more high.


Week of events hosted by WRC, Title IX team promote healthy sex and relationships

in Around Campus/Campus Journal by


Every young sexually frustrated teenager dreams of the freedom of college. Having sleepovers whenever you want, with whomever you want, and never having to say a thing to your parents. It seems like sex is the one thing everyone is certain happens in college — but is it? And when it does happen, is it good, enjoyable sex? If it’s not, how do you make these encounters better? The Title IX team and the Women’s Resource Center attempted to answer some of these questions, as well as many others in a series of workshops and talks leading up to Valentine’s Day.

Violence Prevention Educator Nina Harris, in collaboration with many others, organized the week of events to discuss sex and relationships on campus.  “The narrative shouldn’t just be ‘oh those are the rape prevention people,’ it’s more than that, we’re the good sex people too,” commented Harris. The week included conversations that addressed the good, the bad, and the awkward in different contexts: everything from ‘textually active’ a workshop that examined sacred texts and their relationship to sex and relationships, to queer dating, to sexual empowerment and getting what you want out of a sexual encounter. The events presented conversations that are not usually found in formal settings.

“I think it’s really important to create spaces where talking about sex and relationships is fun,” said Becca Bernstein, Title IX Fellow and one of the main organizers of the events. “I really just want students to be able to have some space to think about these issues and have the chance to reflect on their own relationship to sex and relationships.”

The administrators involved in these events, including Harris, Bernstein, Alice Holland and Isaiah Thomas, took charge of creating that space. The staff made an effort to really engage with the topics, in order to create meaningful conversation with students. “[Harris] was pushing to move beyond a thought like ‘if I ask, he’ll think I’m weird’ to questioning why that is weird, or not ‘hot’ and why we should care,” commented Morgin Goldberg ‘19 who attended the Sexual Empowerment event.

The wide range of topics for these workshops came out of student input, mostly based on last year’s Healthy Sex & Relationship week last year. Multiple collaborations with student groups and different committees from the WRC and Title IX liaisons resulted in events that covered all different aspects of sex and relationships students saw as prevalent on campus. Even some of the slogans for the events came from students, such as for the Beyond Hooking Up event, during a Title IX student advisory team meeting, said, “The last time I was on a date was … literally never”.

Students such as Clare Pérez ’18 also helped organize and run the events the person quoted in the flyer for ‘Beyond Hooking Up’. “The main intention for Beyond Hooking Up is that there are ways to meet new people, romantic or not, that isn’t at the frats on a Saturday night or Pub Nite on Thursdays,” Perez stated. The event began with a presentation on intelligent flirting and healthy relationships and included speed dating/friend making, then ended with a mixer to reconnect with people students had met earlier in the night. “We wanted people to walk away feeling more confident in their ability to talk to new people and put themselves out there,” Perez said. These different kinds of social events, outside of Thursday and Saturday nights, can connect people who may not usually cross paths, and in a school as small as Swarthmore, new social events can be a breath of fresh air.

According to Nina Harris, students at Swarthmore have a slightly different mentality around the balance between personal relationships and academics. “I think Swarthmore doubles down on that ‘you’re only here for your academics’ thing,” commented Harris, “I’ve worked at a lot of top tier schools and it felt like the students had a lot more balance in their experience.” At times it can feel like Swat marriages or random hook ups are the only options for students. For many, the focus may be on academics and internships rather than their own relationships, and these events attempt to take time out of busy schedules to reflect on our relationship with relationships. “It’s like you’re all brain and then you’re all genitals,” commented Nina Harris on Swarthmore students’ hook up culture, “you can never just feel fluid in your experience.” This balance between intimacy and workload is something many of us still need to figure out.

The overall theme of the week was to reach out to students in an attempt to help find that balance and build that bridge between academic life and romantic life. The culture of Swarthmore can sometimes be dominated by academics and often times students can forget that college is also about experiences and personal growth rather than just success in class. The WRC and Title IX Office are working to bridge those gaps and offer the tools to make that balance easier for students to find time for themselves.


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