College culture is known as a place where people hook up, where connections are made in an instant and passion comes and goes. Casual sex and drunken flirtation rule the game, leading to good stories and sometimes regrettable mistakes. This was something that I never experienced, but had only observed, until recently.
I met a guy that I had never seen before at a party a few weeks ago. I thought he was cute and as the night progressed, we talked more and more. Some tipsy flirtation about classes and — you guessed it, feminism — turned into a compliment and a kiss, which became a sleepover, complete with more flirtation and even a little snuggling. But when I woke up the next morning, I felt nothing. Not good, not bad, just… nothing. So much nothing, in fact, that I couldn’t even remember the name of the guy laying next to me.
After Snapchatting a friend to tell her of the ridiculous situation, he finally woke up. We exchanged pleasantries and he left, with an awkward goodbye. Watching him walk out, my roommates asked me how it was. Thinking back on a night of respectful and good sex, I shrugged my shoulders. “That’s it?” They were dumbfounded. “Didn’t you get his number? Why don’t you have more feelings about it? Most people are at least excited.”
The thing is, in this college culture of no-strings-attached hookups, no one thinks about the people who are disconnected from their bodies. The people who don’t assign as much meaning to sex because that meaning was robbed. Because four months ago, I was sexually assaulted by a guy that I had just started dating. Nine months ago, I was sexually assaulted by my longtime boyfriend. And since then, I have felt that my body doesn’t belong to me. When the choice of what happens to your body is taken from you, so abruptly and without warning, there is a separation that many people, including my roommates who don’t know that either situation happened, cannot understand.
Having sex with this new guy and completely detaching from anything else related to him was so easy for me. “But don’t you like him?” Some of my friends asked me the next day. It’s not that he wasn’t attractive or that we didn’t have a good time, but it was a small victory for me in the battle to bring my body back into my own control. It may seem counterintuitive, but the experience actually proved to be one of healing and empowerment in the face of all of my recent trauma.
As a woman, I have been socialized to think that sex has to come with emotions. The thought is difficult for some people, my single female friends included, to see how a single woman such as myself could have a comfortable sexual encounter without developing a desire for a relationship. Even in a college setting, where men and women supposedly have casual sex all of the time, there is an underlying assumption that women should, for one reason or another, want more. Think about all of those romantic comedies and TV shows — how many women are shown actually engaging in casual sex, wanting nothing more from their male counterparts?
But as a survivor, the ability to engage in casual sex under the guise of being a single woman in college who isn’t looking for a relationship has offered me a new form of freedom. Although it is not typical of all survivors, this becomes another coping mechanism to get through the pain and regain a new sense of identity. It is allowing me the opportunity to reclaim my body as mine through taking control of my own consensual sexual experiences, one emotionless interaction at a time.