“Sex is not a drug.” Dr. Drew’s words resonated throughout the small conference room I shared with him and eleven other college columnists and journalists. I attended the Trojan Journalism Roundtable discussion of college sexuality held in West Hollywood. Two nights in a suite, exquisite food and roughly eighteen boxes of condoms all paid for by Trojan sounded like a fabulous weekend getaway. The real treat, however, turned out to be the discussion I had with the other students.
Many of the student representatives I met at the roundtable discussion struggled with news censorship and a lack of access to sexual information and contraceptives that we, at a liberal campus, take for granted. Some schools have been fighting, without success, to have a sex column for years! The prevalent problem here at UCSB is that as a general population, we don’t take our sexual health seriously enough.
In Isla Vista, there is an enormous amount of pressure to separate sex from emotion. This is the University of Casual Sex and Beer, after all. Pressure can lead some people to make sexual decisions that they aren’t ready for, which can often lead to regret and emptiness. Who, then, is putting the pressure on students and why? The truth is that we pressure one another and the culprits are all of us, as a peer group. The question to ask is why we do it. Is it guilt about sexual experiences we felt were in some way “wrong?” Or is it jealousy that we haven’t felt a solid connection with someone sexually? For whatever reason, ignoring our gut reactions to sexual experiences can do more than pile up the emotional baggage we carry around; it can also hinder our ability to have a completely honest relationship with ourselves and other people in the future.
Sharing the experience of sex with someone is one of the most enjoyable connections two people can share and, frankly, people should experience all the sex that they can in their lifetime. The empty feeling after a regrettable sexual encounter is what Dr. Drew described to me as instinct. Consenting to sex for the wrong reasons — to get back at someone, to validate oneself or for power — can lead to a “what was I thinking?” moment in the morning. Drugs, especially alcohol, can also lead to sexual trysts that may not have occurred had everyone involved been sober.
Alcohol can certainly be used appropriately as a social lubricant. A drink or two can help you relax in a room full of people and create a more personable atmosphere. However, the need to get smashed before having any sort of social interaction, sexual or not, can severely hinder your ability to create and maintain sober, meaningful relationships in the future. Drinking should not be our excuse for an emotional attachment, because no excuse is needed. Making excuses and chiding ourselves for what we feel undermines our ability to use sexuality to enhance our lives in a positive way, instead of as a tool or drug to avoid addressing the issues we face.
There are also the mornings when you wake up feeling fulfilled, satisfied and happy — and stone cold sober. Can you say terrifying? When we muster up the courage to admit to liking someone, it is usually chalked up to the result of copious amounts of booze and drugs. The fear of rejection can lead one or both partners to close themselves off emotionally. Putting yourself out there is hard, but the possible reward of an emotionally and sexually satisfying relationship is always worth the risk.
Dr. Drew is right: Sex is not a drug. Sexuality is part of who we are, and not something we have to use to prove anything to anyone. Unaddressed feelings can be emotionally harmful to one’s ability to create meaningful relationships. So the next time you feel something, don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself and your partner about it. The more honest and upfront you are, the more you can gain from your intimate relationships with others and learn about yourself in the process.