"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Monday, November 04, 2013

Speak Now #30: navigating hook up culture

Now Playing: Lies (Acoustic) by Marina and the Diamonds (you're never going to love me, so what's the use? What's the point in playing a game you're going to lose?)

This semester I've been heavily involved in university guild politics which is a crazy perverted backstabbing madhouse, to tell the truth. It's a place where hormones a surging, tensions simmer constantly and alcohol flows freely.

So, sex.

Here is some advice and thoughts on people new to hook up culture like I was:

1. Shit's going to happen.

You will drink too much. You will find yourself in situations that repulse you. You will hang out with the wrong people and do the wrong thing and trust the wrong information to the wrong ears. People will do things and say things to hurt and humiliate you. But you will pick yourself back up, brush yourself off, put your clothes back on and begin again, with your head held high.  

2. Forever isn't a thing, for now. 

The people who truly love you, body and soul, irrevocably and unconditionally, are very, very rare. What you will come across more often is a mixture of affection and attraction and friendship in weird combinations; the love you will experience, most of the time, is a very imperfect love between very imperfect people. You will lust after people who are just bad news. You will love people as friends but do things that are decidedly not platonic. Not all wanting is permanent. Not every guy who tumbles you into bed will eventually pop the question. That's okay. Embrace it. We come to love and other animals with this expectation of forever - anything worthwhile will endure eternity, and everything else are just false starts and fuckups. But what you get with people like that are standards and expectations of perfection; and that's when the emotional abuse and the blackmail and feeling obligated and self-conscious and insecure and all the lovely stuff pops up. Some of the most beautiful experiences you will have are in relationships that are completely overwhelming and whimsically ethereal, the relationships with use by dates; but that is because neither person expects the other to be perfect, or for something to be perfect. Perfection is really overrated - just go out there, get some new experiences, learn, grow, and enjoy good company.

3. Stand your ground. 

Think about what you do and don't want to do - emotionally, physically, whatever - and constantly re-think and re-evaluate those lists. It's okay to mix them around; to be open to something you were initially opposed to, or to suddenly be repulsed by something you were dying to try out. You figure out what types of sex you want in certain situations; what you'll do in a one-off hookup, what you'll do in a casual relationship, what you'll do in a more serious committed relationship, etc. Don't let anyone pressure you into doing anything you don't want to do. Once you have decided your lists, or change them in any way, think about what you'd need to make sure you can do what you like safely and responsibly - think protection, contraception, having somewhere you can crash for the night after a party, someone sober to drive you home or access to money for a taxi, numbers to call to let people know where you're going if you're going home with someone.

4. Be prepared for fuck ups. 

I think it's important to have a good idea what you will and won't do sexually before you dive into the big bad world of sex, drugs and alcohol, but be prepared for fuck ups. When you drink your inhibitions fly out the window, as do the inhibitions of people around you. Know your options if you forget to use protection, or your contraception fucks up, or you are raped or assaulted. Prevention is key, but be educated for last resorts.

5. Find your crowd.

University campus culture and night life is chaotic - nobody's quite sure where they're going, who they'll end up with, what they'll end up doing, where they'll end up. Make sure you only hang out with people you trust, and keep as many people as you can - both at the party and out of the party - in the loop of where you are and what you're doing. This is something of a double edged sword; most people get into campus culture (at least at my university) by joining a club or a faculty society or, like me, getting involved in Guild politics and those people will keep you safe, but they also hurt you.

6. Explore.

For me, the biggest learning experience is learning about the many different ways I can experience attraction. Learning that there are so many people that I love that I had previously denied myself, because I was too worried about the low possibility of us extending into eternity when that is a ridiculous thing to worry about when you're at my stage of life. Learning that there are so many things to do that I love, and so many things that I wanted to do that are an utter disappointment. Learning that no one should be able to convince you that this is it, this is your happy ending, when it is neither happy nor an ending. Learning the hard way out of bitter regret and disappointment at stupid mistakes and bad decisions. Sexuality is the original sin; knowledge. Go learn something.


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