My first night at university, as I was sat at pres with my new flatmates, a man I’d met mere hours before posed the simple question: ‘What’s your number?’. Me, being young and naïve started going ‘0750…‘ before he interrupted me saying that’s not the kind of number he meant. Not long after that I encountered the good ol’ ‘pull chart‘ for the first time and realised that at uni, the club isn’t just a place to go and have fun with your friends, but rather a mating ground full of stressed, sweaty, and horny young adults looking for a quick fix.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with casual sex. Hook-ups in themselves aren’t dangerous or bad in any way, as long as what’s going on is safe and consensual. I’ve had some great one night stands myself that I don’t regret in the slightest. The problem is that in a culture that praises any sexual encounters as another notch on the bedpost, unhealthy sexual behaviours easily fall under the radar.
In my first year at university I was raped in a nightclub. As a result of said assault, I developed something called hypersexuality. Hypersexuality is an unhealthy preoccupation with sex, or compulsive sexual behaviour, stemming from a multitude of mental illnesses including but not limited to Bipolar Disorder, OCD, and in my case, PTSD.
As a survivor of sexual assault, I felt like a stranger in my own body, and every time I looked at myself, I felt disgusted knowing that he had ever laid his hands on me. Simply put, I hated every aspect of myself and my appearance. So instead of learning to love myself again, I turned to validation from men. I gave them sex, they gave me acceptance. I thought that maybe I could prove to myself that I was beautiful after all if I got all this attention from men. If they desired me surely there must be something valuable there, right? Spoiler alert, this method did not work.
I would continuously go out, get drunk, and either make out with some random stranger in the club, or find myself back in my f*ck buddy’s flat stuck in a never-ending cycle of underwhelming sex and regret. I’ve woken up naked in a man’s bed with no recollection of how I got there or what had happened. Whether I’d remembered the night or not, I’d wake up the next morning hating myself, disgusted by my actions. Yet, my peers would meet me with high-fives and ‘YASSS GIRL‘s. I mean, how would they know I felt the way I did? My close friends noticed something was up, but I just dismissed it saying I was young and free, just having fun. I was at uni, free from responsibilities, just ‘living my best hoe life‘.
One of my many low points occurred one night, where I was so drunk I couldn’t properly stand up on my own. Not to fret though, I had been dancing with this guy who decided the appropriate actions to take with a paralytic young girl was to hold my body weight up by my boobs. Needless to say, I don’t remember much of this night. I was lucky. As he tried to take me home, my flatmate saw me pass by and called me an Uber back to our place, saving me from god knows what. The next day, he was concerned, but I just laughed it off. That is, before I returned to my room and cried alone, disgusted with my behaviour. I remember thinking: no wonder I got raped, I’m such a slut, I deserved it.
In this chapter of my life I was not taking care of my mental or my sexual health. My behavior was dangerous, and it was not until I stopped using sex as a coping mechanism that I was able to really look at my life and reflect. It was not until then that I was able to start healing.
Luckily, I remained relatively unscathed despite the strain I put on both myself and my friends. I still struggle a lot with my mental health but I’m slowly starting to realise that my self-worth isn’t dependent on whether men find me beautiful or not. But I know that others who have gone through the same thing have not come out the other end. I almost didn’t.
When we place such a precedent on sexual activity at university, we put ourselves in harm’s way. Even if you’re not struggling with mental illness, the mere fact that getting laid equals getting status allows for a whole slew of insecurities to run rampant. When this is paired with an unwillingness to talk about sex and sexual health in a mature manner, we as a student populous act as a universal Petri dish for infectious diseases that can have serious long-term effects both physically and mentally.
I still pull in clubs, and I still have one-night stands, but when I do so now, I am aware of what is happening and what I want. The problem is not sex, the problem is not hook ups; the problem is the hegemonic culture which places its value on quantity over quality when it comes to sex. So for next year, maybe reconsider pinning that pull chart to your bulletin board, because do you really support what it stands for?