Sexual Groundworks: Pilot

It’s Friday, I’m on a night out. A fellow dancer and I have been flirting for most of the evening, and it’s clear that the laws of student clubbing demand a one-night stand. There’s a well-known script for scenarios like this, a truth of nature: it says if you dance well together, you shag well together. Our duty seems clear, follow fresher philosophy 101: sex is great; if you can get it, go for it. 

No doubt, student culture deems sex extremely socially desirable. Everyone talks about it, though mainly as a sort of achievement or, conversely, something of which they’re not getting enough. Who pulls, who gets laid, who’s been doing it?  On the other end, not having sex is either “a conscious decision to take some time off” or slightly sad. In any case, sexual abstinence seems to require explanation. (Note how abstinence suggests austerity from something desirable and the synonym “celibacy” with its monkish connotation.)

In freshers week, this sentiment seems amplified. Listening in on conversations, reading Tab articles, Facebook posts, and Student Room discussions, it almost sounds as if the first week at university was the fuck fest we’re all secretly dreaming about. 

Ironically, all the sources agree on another point: freshers sex is invariably bad – an awkward mess that might make for funny anecdotes in due time once the itch wears off. Yet sex is still integral to the freshers week mythos: a short period to get crazy with loads of different people.

This is obviously nonsense. 

Most students do not get laid during freshers week. Instead, they get drunk (if they drink), sleep-deprived (if they party), caught up in a ton of superficial conversations (“Which course are you on?”), and have phone calls with their parents about their “university experience so far”. The few one-night stands that do occur are mostly as bad as you would expect for an encounter between drunk, sweaty teenagers. 

Good sex isn’t just there for the having. It’s bloody hard work, and it takes practice. No matter how cool kids present themselves, few incoming university students are particularly experienced or feel all that comfortable in their own skins. There are a lot of social norms to navigate, and then there is the risk of awkward and genuinely bad experiences. 

Does that mean we got it upside down? Sex is hard, think twice, take it slow? The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Sex requires respect for your partners’ and your own boundaries. Don’t do anything for which you don’t feel ready. Take your time and never be afraid to plan or discuss what you like – it will save you a lot of hurt and misunderstanding. 

More so, talking about sex shouldn’t be a mood killer; sex is always better when all partners are on the same page. Sexual experiments need consent and common understanding of what’s going on. Communication isn’t an obstacle. Communication is sexy.

That caveat in mind, I encourage you to develop a self-determined delight in experiment. In order to have good sex, you want to learn and have some experiences. Within your comfort zone, feel free to go nuts. Embrace the weird. There’s no one else in your bedroom other than you and your partners (unless you’re into having an audience, which is okay too). As long as you do it together, you’ll quickly learn what works for you and what doesn’t, and you’ll have a lot of fun along the way.

To be clear: the people who tell you what to do (and that very much includes me) are about as clueless as you are. There is no one truth about sex; what’s right will differ. That conclusion doesn’t entail cynicism – on the contrary, it reveals that true ownership over your wants and needs lies with yourself.

Merlin likes to talk about sex, good and bad, and he’d love for more people to join the conversation. If you want to share a thought, story, or criticism, feel free to contact (Nothing will be shared without prior consent.)

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