On a lack of sex at Columbia
By Nicholas Weidenfeld

‘Do not become one of those students who goes to college and goes wild, doing drugs and having sex all the time,’ high school guidance-counselors say. I am one of those who, until I attended Columbia University, believed that the universal college experience consisted of a unique mixture of higher-level education and unparalleled sexual promiscuity. Before leaving me to fend for myself in New York City as a Columbia student, my father even insisted that I must be careful not to abandon my studies to chase "college girls" around. His advice reaffirmed my longstanding belief that sexual promiscuity is rampant on college campuses. In high school I concluded from movies, television, books, and personal accounts from friends and acquaintances that once individuals attended a university, their sexual inhibitions were somehow miraculously lost. Possibly some magical substance was in campus water or, perhaps, something in the air that made men and women around the country give up on long-term relationships and resort to casual and experimental sex for four years of their life. I will be the first one to admit that this sounds ridiculous and absurd, but it is a universally acknowledged truth, like Austen’s proclamation at the beginning of Pride and Prejudice, that "a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." For heaven’s sake, my father even acknowledged the validity of the statement by warning me against becoming a satyr.

As a sophomore in high school, I read a piece of short fiction by the novelist Spalding Grey entitled "College Girls." The story begins with Grey rattling off a laundry list of sexual partners and escapades he experienced when he first attended a large the University of Ohio. In just the first few months of college, his sexual experience with women tenfold more than it had been in high school. His description of the metamorphosis that he went through from a high school ‘loser’ to university Adonis and Casanova was remarkable. ‘Only in college’ I thought to myself while reading the story, and this seems to be the case for the majority of students attending universities and colleges.

Most universities in America offer the average student experiences similar to those of Spalding Grey. To prove this, I will call on the experience of a close childhood friend of mine, Leonardo Waterston. Through Leonardo’s four years of high school, Fortune had not been kind to my companion concerning matters of love, namely, lovemaking. Therefore, sexually inexperienced, Leonardo entered Clark University in Worchester, Massachusetts. Now, he has related to me that from the first moment he placed a foot on Clark’s campus, the female students threw themselves at him. They could not get enough of him. Unfamiliar with such kind treatment by women, Leonardo was confused, to say the least. This was especially the case when during Orientation Week, two female classmates, roommates, asked Leonardo if he would like to join them in the their room. Unsure of what to expect, Leo accepted. It is appropriate at this point in the story to vouch for Leonardo’s character. From numerous past experiences I can safely say that Leonardo does not fabricate and that everything that occurred in the dorm room between him and the two roommates is completely true. And if Leonardo was not telling the truth, be assured, reader, that I am in no way fabricating what he told me. Well then, without being gratuitous, I will only say that Leonardo spent the night embraced by four loving arms, and that his experience that night could easily be a scene out of "College Girls." Leonardo’s story is not unusual. Students at Michigan University, Cornell University, and numerous other universities have told me that they can match Leonardo’s story; therefore, I must conclude that rampant fornication is common in most colleges.

During my first week at the university, I realized that my father’s advice had been in vain because there is less than normal sexual activity on Columbia’s campus. This is apparent to any student regardless of prior sexual experience, and I must have been truly misguided for believing otherwise. I can recall sitting with a group of friends at the beginning of our first examination period of college and discussing the fact that not one member of the group (both men and women) had had any more memorable or more frequent sexual experiences at Columbia than before. All of us were surprised at this, seeing how it was very different from what we had expected. Then Michael Weiss, a student in the group, interestingly announced that he was not surprise at all. He was well aware of Columbia’s reputation as the sexually "prudish" school before ever applying. "No one has sex here. Everyone knows that," he explained, adding " if you want to have sex, you go to Wisconsin or some place like that. My older sister went here and told me that kids here just don’t do that. They all too busy studying and stuff." What was crystal clear to Mr. Weiss finally made sense to me: Columbia, one of the most academically respected universities in this country, is not as sexually promiscuous due to some aspect in the nature of the university.

After much contemplation, I have concluded that there is only one reason that Columbia is virtually void of indiscriminate sexual behavior. It has nothing to do with the administration or the environment at Columbia. On the contrary, both the administration and the environment promote fornication between students. I have heard of one couple in particular (and I am sure this is quite common) who, after having some drinks at one of the local bars, found themselves in an empty dorm room. Now, this couple could not have been in a better position to copulate: they were both physically attracted to each other, they were inebriated, and they were alone. However, as it was related to me, they did not have sex. How and why is this? The school could not have made it easier for these two. The coed dormitory system makes it possible for any student to find a partner without having to leave the building, and, more importantly, prophylactics are placed in boxes on each floor. The school’s support of student sexual activity is also evident in the curriculum; every first year student is required to read Ovid’s Art of Love, a guidebook for the sexually active! In other words, it is strange and stupefying that the couple I spoke of spent that night in separate beds, not in each other’s arms. If it is not the administration or the environment (New York is the most progressive and sexually liberated city in the world), I have concluded that the lack of sexual promiscuity on campus is due to the size of the college and the small amount of students that attend Columbia.

I am quite familiar with a third-year student at Columbia who attended a fraternity party some months ago. This friend of mine, Mr. Theodore Williams, is not one to frequent such gatherings; being a timid and shy man, he is unused to the debauchery that occurs at frat parties. However, on this particular occasion, he let himself go and drank more than usual (an act that I do not condemn), and he found himself on the dance floor becoming a little too familiar with a girl he had never met before. As the two danced, Theodore allowed his hands wander. The girl, taken aback that Theodore was acting in such a way, pushed and verbally scolded him. As I have said, my friend is not one to act so freshly and tried to apologize, explaining that he had not meant to offend her and stating that he was ‘not into casual sex.’ The music was loud and the girl misheard Theodore. Thinking that he had said that he was into casual sex, she became infuriated at his alleged proposal and stormed off to tell her friends. The next afternoon Theodore awoke, hung over and embarrassed about his actions the night before, and went to lunch with a friend, hoping to forget everything that occurred the previous night. And to his chagrin, the girl he had danced with sat down directly behind him to eat her lunch. Needless to say, Theodore was beyond humiliated because he realized then and there that he would never live out his actions, much like Abu Hasan’s and his historic fart.

Theodore, a transfer student from the University of Wisconsin, later confided in me that this would never have occurred at Wisconsin because he would never have seen the girl again. At a large school one can make mistakes and no one knows or cares, he explained to me; however, at Columbia, the smallest of all the Ivy League universities, if one makes a mistake, which is bound to happen when sex is concerned, one will be branded for the rest his/her of college life. The campus is small, as well, and there are only so many places that students go. This makes sexual promiscuity far more unappealing because students cannot sleep around, and later forget about it. One’s private life is not private on a small campus and one will quickly find it very difficult not to develop a reputation for sexual promiscuity. Therefore, students wisely avoid sexual promiscuity because it would be better to have a sexual partner off of campus (or no sex at all) than to be forced to deal with the stigmatism of one’s peers for having their private life exposed.

The first draft of my paper in the style of Michel De Montaigne’s Essays was erased when my trusty computer turned on me and crashed, wiping from its files any trace of my work. My original essay, On life as a Joke, discussed the notion that we take ourselves too seriously; however, as the reader should recognize, my paper does not discuss the issue of self-deprecation at all. This is because I believe that if I had rewritten the original paper, I would have lost the most significant and notable aspect of Montaigne’s writing, his stream of consciousness. Montaigne’s essays are wonderful and enjoyable because they manage to recreate Montaigne’s thought process. In his essay On the power of the imagination, Montaigne states his thesis and then proves it; however, he does so by digressing. Early in the essay he explains that his purpose in writing the essay is to prove how powerful and important the imagination is. He continues in proving his point by telling stories and anecdotes that, while helping him prove his point, seem like informal conversational ramblings, rather than a contrived, structured speech. In other words, he seems to be writing exactly what he is thinking at the time, and the only way I believed that I could recreate this loose, uncultivated style was to first write a stream of consciousness, then to go back and edit. If I had tried to rewrite my original paper, it might have been well written, but it would have lost the spark that is present in and necessary to Montaigne’s essays.

I do not want the reader to think that my essay has no structure, for this is not the case at all. In order to create a Montaignesque piece of writing, I had to read his essays closely and find common patterns in his writing. For example, Montaigne’s reasoning is circular, yet he unfolds his argument piecemeal, always moving the essay forward. This is difficult to explain and even more difficult to imitate. Yet, I have attempted to write like him; therefore, I must explain how I have done so. Montaigne begins his essay stating the overall purpose. He does this often by using a quote, a tactic that gives him credibility (because others must agree with him), and then moving into personal and literary anecdotes that prove his larger point piece by piece. If we follow Montaigne’s structure in his essay regarding imagination, we will see that he begins with the quote "a strong imagination brings on the event." This quote presents the topic of the power of the imagination. He then moves on to discuss personal anecdotes and stories, writing about how the imagination can govern one’s health and impotence and what little control our will has over imagination. In the end the reader realizes that all of Montaigne’s arguments, even though they seem to be off the subject, prove the power of the imagination; he just explains each point piece by piece, unfolding his argument as he goes along. In my mock essay, I attempt to do the same.

Like Montaigne, I begin my essay with a quote that introduces the larger topic of the essay, sexual promiscuity in college. This quote does not discuss the specific argument that I will make later in the paper (Columbia University’s lack of sexual activity) because, similar to Montaigne, I argue my points in steps. My first step, which the quote proves, is that it is universally believed that sexual promiscuity exists in college. Further underlining this point, I use personal examples, the story of my father’s advice to me, as well as turning to Spalding Grey’s story, an example of the excess of fornication occurring in college. Following in the footsteps of Montaigne, I then bring up my next point, that the majority of colleges in America are home to sexual promiscuity, citing stories I have heard through friends. Only after I have proven this do I introduce the most important argument of the paper that sexual activity is low at Columbia University, and that this is due to the size of the campus.