Gawker, one of the nation’s premier gossip blogs, released an article in 2013 titled “How to Have Sex at Yale.” In reality, the article includes no instructions or advice, but it does acerbically refer to Yale as “America’s sex palace.”
To some people I know, the idea that students at this university are doing anything but race-walking, spewing buzzwords, and making their Google Calendars look like Mondrian paintings is absurd. Still, Yale prides itself on encouraging interdisciplinary learning, embracing all aspects of identity—in the classroom, the laboratory, the bedroom, and all the sexy places in between.
Through a profoundly unscientific process, I gathered anonymous input on students’ sexual behaviors. Accounting for all sorts of biases, 75% of the people asked said that they had been sexually active in the past six months. So, yes, Yalies fuck. Most who answered in the affirmative claimed they were bumping uglies in a strictly casual sense. Common refrains included: “I don’t have the capacity to commit to a relationship right now” or “FWB (‘friends with benefits’), for physical fulfillment and enjoyment.” Only 12% of my participants said they were in a relationship, so either I have terrible selection bias, or love is dead. I fear it may be the latter, and one of my subjects agreed: “I prefer relationships. Not many students at Yale seem to be looking for that.”
Of the 25% who aren’t active, many of them claim to never have been sexually active: they said they were looking to share that moment with the right person. Among this population, hookup culture was a bogeyman: “I cannot do hookup culture” and “I do not like one night stands and FWB,” said the non-sex-havers.
Not one of my participants noted in their responses that they were sexually active because having sex felt good. They may have alluded to pleasure in their replies, but no one said it outright. One responder claimed “I’m sexually active because it relieves stress! There’s just something so satisfying about pleasing someone else.” Another said, “I am sexually active now because having sex with my partner makes me feel empowered. It’s fun to discover what’s pleasing for him.”
And so the data shows exactly what we already knew: many are having sex; few want to commit; still fewer only want to commit. It’s unclear whether anyone is learning anything about themselves through sex. Do with this information what you will.