Privilege in the Bedroom

By Guest Contributor

“Privilege” is a word we love to use at Middlebury. It works well with our classroom discussions on the global south, how we perceive our relationships with the town, and even how we treat waste at our dining halls. It is not a term that often enters our bedrooms.

I had a shocking reminder of exactly what privilege meant when I brought a guy home from a party for the first time this semester and since being abroad. This was someone who I considered a friend and a nice guy, someone who I had known since freshman year and who had always been kind to me. Frankly, I had always had a crush on him, but we hung out with very different groups and it was never something I would have pursued.

So I was cautiously excited as I was bringing him home. When we got to my room, the conversation we had been having was immediately cut off as things started getting physical. At a certain point I admitted that I had my period and didn’t want to do much, which put a quick damper on things. When I said I didn’t want to have oral sex with him because it wouldn’t be reciprocal, he seemed even more put off. When I asked if we could do something when I didn’t have my period, he was quick to tell me that he didn’t want to be “boxed in.” Finally after about two minutes of awkward silence, he made a half-hearted excuse about needing to get up early and left.

So what, right? It was a bad night. The kind of night you attribute to Midd just being Midd and complain about with your friends the morning after. You can’t expect anyone to want more than casual sex at Middlebury right? That would be absurd.

What is actually absurd is how far we as a student body have lowered our expectations both in the bedroom and in romantic relationships. We expect all relationships to be primarily physical and initiated at a party when both partners are intoxicated. We expect them to last one night. We have even come to expect that we may not acknowledge each other the next day. This is not limited to gender or sexual orientation. It is pervasive. It is more than the complaint that “no one dates anymore” at this school. It is a complete and utter lack of respect for each other summed up in, and yes I’ll say it, privilege. We’ve all had a rough week and now we deserve to get drunk, go out and, if we’re lucky, get some. At its best, it ends the way my night did. At its worst, it is manifested in acts of sexual violence, which we all know do in fact happen here.

I think most of us know that this is not acceptable behavior outside of this college in the “real world.” Ever. It should not be acceptable here either, and we need to take a hard look at why it has become our normal. I’m not saying that all romantic interactions must end in committed relationships. Frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with casual sex if both partners communicate their expectations, use protection, and respect their partner’s integrity. Oh, and maybe say hi the next day.

As a student body, we’re always eager mobilize to find the next hot issue we can pick over with friends, read about in The Campus or host a panel discussion about. The state of our romantic relationships at this school hardly ever makes the cut. Or how it is now taboo to be in any way romantic or sexual (unless you’re already in a relationship) outside of a sloppy party. Changing our hook-up culture does not need its own organization; it does not need high profile meetings or official endorsement. It requires us to shift our own behavior and attitudes and not accept inconsiderate treatment from others.

And it needs to be our next big topic. Because at the end of the day, none of us (no matter how beautiful, athletic or privileged) deserve sex. Or a relationship. We have to earn that by treating others with, if nothing else, respect.

LIZZIE GOODING ’14 is from Jamestown, RI