This paper reflects the research and thoughts of a student at the time the paper was written for a course at Bryn Mawr College. Like other materials on Serendip, it is not intended to be "authoritative" but rather to help others further develop their own explorations. Web links were active as of the time the paper was posted but are not updated.

Contribute Thoughts | Search Serendip for Other Papers | Serendip Home Page

English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

Co-operative Sex Talk

Michelle McGrath

Living in a co-op creates a special dynamic between individuals. In my particular co-op there are 12 women living closely, cooking meals for each other, and meeting minimally on a weekly basis to discuss house and personal issues. Life in Batten house is different from dorm life in that the number of occupants is smaller, they all share at least a few common principles by which they live and they don't simply interact daily but they must cooperate with each other daily. As with many aspects of our lives, one's sexual practices are usually well known to all in the house. How we deal with sex, and especially how we talk about it is reflective of our close living environment and style.
In such an up front environment there seem to be two reactions that people have with regards to their sex lives: they either talk about sex much more often than "the average college woman", or they tend to remain silent on the issue. There is also the contributing factor of living in an all female environment which in part makes us more like other women on the Bryn Mawr campus and less like that average college woman. I find myself in the group of women that frequently engages in sex talk therefore much of what I discuss here will be from that perspective. It seems that sex is a common bonding point for all who wish to discuss it. The close living environment has made me and many of the other women comfortable with discussing very intimate details of our sex experiences, sexual desires and sexual attractions after only knowing some of them for as short as three and a half weeks.
The language that we (the co-oper's that talk about sex) use tends to be full of colloquialisms but also involves biological names for various body parts. Vaginas and penises are usually named explicitly as such although sometimes more affectionate euphemisms are used in reference to vaginas like "twat" or "kooter." In contrast sex acts are generally referred to with less explicitness for example "getting head", "having sex", "fucking", "getting laid", "going down" or "getting booty" are most often used rather than purely descriptive biological terms like "putting his penis in my mouth." One could interpret this as comfort with sexual organs but squeamishness with regard to specific sex acts. I would suggest though, that the descriptive language of biology fails to capture sex acts as effectively as the slang terms. Each of these terms contains a certain connotation that differentiates it from another. They in contain certain emotional charges and suggest moods that cannot be imported through descriptive language.
In addition to this verbal language there is without a doubt sexual body language between friends in the co-op. Sometimes it is used in jest sometimes as a comforting cuddle for someone who needs cheering up. As I think about sex more and more, sexual gestures seem to be a normal part of friendship. By this I don't mean that we are all hopping into bed with all our buddies or that we would even want to, but that some degree of comfort or joking often manifests itself in a mildly sexual nature. I find this to be especially true with those who are often physically and spatially close to each other. Perhaps this friendly sexual contact is a safe and comfortable outlet for those who are not in a sexual or romantic relationship at the moment.
While much of the sexual communication that goes on in the house is healthy I can't help but wonder if there is a downside. It seems that in a way so much time is spent putting sex into verbal language, it makes the phrase "leaving nothing to the imagination" take on a whole new meaning. There is rarely a sexual act that we would refrain from putting into language if we were so inclined. But what effect does all this verbalizing of sex have on the individual and her sexual experience?
I am beginning to find that perhaps leaving something to the imagination, or at least to physical language is preferable to the constant verbalization that has taken over my thoughts in the last three weeks. That is not to say that our practice is bad or wrong or in some way inefficient, just that so much talk of sex creates too much thought during sex, perhaps the ultimate proof that the English language is not the best language to use to express desire, yearning or touch. In some ways the discussion helps me become more comfortable with having sex, thinking about sex and exploring different parts of sex, yet with comfort comes a lack of mystery. The thrill of sex as part of the unknown, undiscussed and unexplored vanishes as one begins to talk about all aspects of it. On the other hand perhaps I am simply losing my youthful nativity about sexuality. Sex cannot remain mysterious for one's whole life. The goal now may be to discover a balance between thinking sex, and doing sex.
I doubt that I am the only individual in the co-op who feels this way about our constant verbalization of sex. Perhaps we are all in a similar stage in our sexual development and find ourselves working through those feelings co-operatively, they way we do everything else. After finally feeling comfortable with our sexuality we are now working to find a balance between sex, sex talk and the rest of our lives. While I cannot be sure if the process is helped or hindered by our close living environment, I do know that it will be more interesting, more memorable, and maybe even more meaningful than if we had all gone through this stage in a different living environment.

| Forums | Serendip Home |

Send us your comments at Serendip

© by Serendip 1994- - Last Modified: Wednesday, 02-May-2018 10:51:33 CDT