Your Sex Life: the Owner’s Manual

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Coming to college marks, for me, the beginnings of a sexual rebirth. While I was rather sexually active in high school, it was at Swarthmore that I became mentally active about sex.  I began to reframe what sex meant to me, and figured out exactly what sorts of things turn me on.  To sum up what these past four years have meant for me as I both ponder life as a sexual creature and exist as one, it’s fairly simple: You’ve just gotta own your sexuality.

The first way to own it is probably the most important to mention to newcomers to an environment in which the alcohol flows freely and dances parties abound.  In order for any sexual interaction to be pleasurable, both people involved need to want it. You should both be pumped on the fact that you’re about to do stuff to each other’s bodies.  And this enthusiasm needs to last — if one or more person changes her mind midway through, the owning is over and so is the boning.  At least, that’s the way it should be.

Part of owning it is holding your head high in these situations and making it normal.

I highly encourage everyone, incoming freshmen to outgoing seniors, to consent to their sex and make sure their partner is consensual.  Don’t you dare worry about hurting someone’s feelings by rejecting them.  Do what you want.  Make sure each and every sexual situation you get yourself into is one that you want to be involved in. Another way to own it is be vocal about what you like and want.  Perhaps you’re in your safe and consensual love-making zone and your partner keeps rubbing your clitoris in this total weird and frenetic way that is threatening to ruin the mood.  Let him know.  Guide her hand.  Sexily whisper how you’d like to be touched.

If you’re in a long-term relationship, this applies to you, too!  Tell your partner about that secret kink, bring up that you’d like your lip bit more during make outs.  It’s not too late!  This was the hard part for me, and it has paid off and lead to a more solid, open relationship.  If everyone could start out on this confident, sexy foot, then this will be one happy campus, that’s for sure.

Other ways to own it:

1.  Bring it up with your roommate.  Get it out of the way.  Future, Post-Paces You will thank Past You profusely when you have a foolproof hook-up plan in place.

2. Go to Passional on South Street in Philly and pick out a sex toy!  Try a vibrator, or a cock ring, or some bondage tape.  Just make it something new.  New pens and notebooks are great and all, but sex toys are equally important back-to-school items.

3. Sex is important and great, certainly, but it is not the be-all and end-all of your worth as a human.  There will be nights that you’ll return solo to your room.  It’s possible that not a single person will creepily try to dance with you by lurking behind you.  In these darker moments, it’s important not to let it get you down.

4. Conventional wisdom around Swarthmore (which is a very tiny campus, you will quickly realize) is that it is “awkward” to hook up with someone and then see them the next day in Sharples or in class.  Part of owning it is holding your head high in these situations and making it normal.  Awkward is what you make it.  If you meet the gaze of your one-time-only hook-up buddy with confidence and kindness, and then move along with your day, it makes for a much more pleasant interaction for everyone.  An overall “Yep, that happened!” attitude defeats awkward every time, and it’s a big part of being completely okay with your sexual trysts.

I’m looking forward to a semester as your sex columnist!  I’m one half of Friends With Benefits, the Ginger half.  As with that column, I’m really hoping that this one will encourage people to have an open dialogue about sex.  I firmly believe that sex is something to be talked about, so let’s do it.  Please comment if there’s a topic you’d like to focus on in the next column.  Welcome to Swarthmore!



  1. Great advice! Number 2 really hit home. Got my gag, tape, and handcuffs ready for my next paces hook up!

    Though gagging and taping someone’s mouth seems a bit redundant…

  2. I absolutely agree with 4. I’ve never understood people considering it so damn awkward when it can be a feeling made solely by yourself. I look forward to your columns!

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