It wasn’t even sunrise when I felt nature’s call. Clad in my usual sleepwear — yesterday’s T-shirt, unfussy undies — I stumbled half-dreaming from my twin bed toward the loo and stopped cold as I shuffled past my roommate’s bed in the opposite corner of the narrow room.
Was that a hairy arm hanging out of the bed? Was that a man’s sleeping body entwined with that of my sacked-out roommate, only inches from my barely garbed, bathroom-bound bladder?
He hadn’t been there when I went to sleep. What had happened in here? Scratch that. I didn’t want to know. Could I possibly go back to sleep a mere feet from this rather attractive stranger? And if I left the room in my skivvies, how long before they’d clear out and I could return?
Tufts University drew nationwide shrugs and sniggers last month when it issued an edict to students: “You may not engage in sexual activity while your roommate is present in the room.”
It’s funny. It is. But finding somewhere to bump bodies in college really is an exacting task. I remember breaking into empty dorm rooms and, once, climbing onto a campus rooftop. Not safe. Not smart. Not especially sanitary.
“I had an apartment sophomore year with a small dining room that we dubbed ‘The Love Room,'” says a guy I went to school with. In theory, the space was available to any of the four roommates, but one guy hit a lucky streak and began hogging it nightly. “Total ‘Love Room’ monopoly. We eventually had to create a schedule.”
As long as there have been co-ed colleges, students have found discreet ways to warn roommates when their room is, well, occupied: a neck-tie/tube sock/poofy hair-band on the doorknob or, say, a brief but impassioned text message.
But what of those who aren’t so thoughtful? Who follow their jolly wherever it leads them, regardless of who’s in the room?
“Waking up to the sound of soft moans,” says a current UCSB student, “and seeing a lump in my roommate’s bed moving in a caterpillar motion never puts an optimistic spin on the rest of the day.”
“At UCSB, many of my friends debate the pros and cons of bunk beds,” adds another. You can’t actually see what’s happening on your roomie’s mattress, “but you can certainly feel the bed shaking, which might be more horrifying.”
Some students wonder how you enforce a rule like Tufts’. “If roommates are disrespectful enough to do that while you’re in the room,” adds a City College alum, “then what makes you think they’re respectful enough to follow the rule?”
Besides, “rules” and “sex” make strange bedfellows.
“Sex will happen where there are horny, beautiful people,” says a current UC Berkeley student, “and this just so happens to be the case on college campuses.”
True dat. You just can’t mash a bunch of hard-bodied single people into a room and force them to read pulse-quickening Othello or study the principles of magnetism and expect them to be chaste. To behave. To refrain from ripping off each other’s backpacks and diving for each other’s midterms.
Since we know it’s gonna happen — even stuffy old Tufts acknowledges it now — campuses should provide little rooms where students can enjoy a private coupling. Like restrooms, they’d be just another place where humans can carry out their base but natural urges. Call them Fornication Stations, perhaps, and provide free contraception in an attractive basket.
Until then, students will have to suffer through the imperfect, and often invasive, sexual culture that pervades campuses. On the bright side, you sometimes meet interesting people as you’re tip-toeing past your roommate’s crowded bed.
Remember the hairy-armed guy? I married him.