Student Now


Dr. Ruth's Guide to College Life - Excepts

Dr. Ruth Excerpts
Dorm Life 101
Morning Larks Versus Night Owls
Noise & Other Distractions
Alcohol & Cigarettes
Drug Use
Sexual Side of Drugs & Alcohol
Food Issues
Mixing of the Sexes
Dorm Alternatives
Work Life
Your Residential Advisor


The Mixing of the Sexes

There are some colleges where men and women still live in separate dorms, the way it used to be at every coeducational college. Many schools founded by a religious group are like that, including Notre Dame, a school where I once very much enjoyed giving a lecture. Now there are some people who find living in any communal arrangement difficult, same sex or coed, and I dealt with that in chapter 2. But living with members of the opposite sex can present even greater opportunities for embarrassment, especially when there are communal bathrooms shared by both.

If this is something you're dreading, take heart in the fact that this is not a new experiment but something that has been going on for a long time and that students have not found life threatening. And if you're looking forward to it because you think it means that such living arrangements are sexual in nature, then I'm afraid you're going to be in for a disappointment. While there are some students, of both sexes, who take advantage of these dorms to live out their exhibitionist fantasies, the vast majority manage to accomplish their toiletries without showing any more flesh than they would at a beach, and probably a lot less.

For anyone who does not like the thought of sharing their dorm with members of the opposite sex, almost every college has dorms where you really won't have such problems. Even if there is no dorm inhabited by only one sex, if the sexes are separated by different floors, then the intermingling of the sexes is more likely to occur in class than in the dorm. In theory it may sound sexy that in order to visit a friend you have to walk down a hall filled with members of the opposite sex, but the reality is that it can be somewhat intimidating. And that's the point of mixing sexes within a dormitory. By removing artificial barriers, you can really get to know them as friends, which in this era of co-equality in the workplace is a very important lesson. I would go so far as to say that having colleges make the switch to coed dorms in the 1960s was an important step for the equality of women in every phase of American life.

Q. There was this guy who liked me in high school that used to try to talk to me and sit next to me at lunch, but he was pretty easy to duck. Now I've got one who lives in my dorm, and it's a lot harder to avoid him. He's figured out my schedule and he even seems to know when I'm going to be in our coed bathroom, which makes me very uncomfortable. I've told him that I'm not interested but he still hangs around. How do I get rid of this guy?

A. Some people won't take no for an answer, and even find that any attention, like that no, is better than nothing. So my first piece of advice to you would be to pretend that he does not exist. Try to cut off any sense of contact. If you see him, don't look at him and don't acknowledge him if he approaches you.

If that doesn't work, then you'll have to go see your RA and let him or her know about this situation. Yes, many people have to cope with someone who is interested in them, but when you're living in such close proximity, it does change the situation and if you need help dealing with this, don't hesitate to ask for it.

Although the point of coed dorms may be to help the sexes get to know each other better on a casual basis, the raging hormones of the inhabitants will create some embarrassing moments. Some young men will try to come on too strong, and when that young man lives only a few feet from you, it can make a young woman uncomfortable. And because of the proximity of all these men, some young women put up a protective barrier that's more formidable than they really feel. And then there are those who misinterpret friendship for affection, and that can cause some embarrassing moments as well. But just because men and women live together within the same four walls does not mean that there will be an end to the awkwardness that exists between single young men and women who are all potential mates. That potential for finding true love gives off a slight electricity that makes a coed dorm an exciting place to live. Living together won't make you all brothers and sisters, and so there'll be some attractions and some rejections. As the French are wont to say, Vive la différence. Many young men worry about having an erection in an inopportune place, chief among which might be a coed bathroom. Surprising as it may seem, most of the women around you won't be staring at your crotch so you needn't be overly concerned. And the one good thing about a coed bathroom is if you do get an erection, you'll be in close proximity to a cold shower.

College women can be certain that the men around them will be looking, but how much the men get to see is up to them. While it can be annoying to be under constant scrutiny, it also presents certain opportunities to attract the attention of Mr. Right. My philosophy is rather than look at the glass as half-empty, see it as half-full. So learn to put up with some immature behavior and just keep your eyes open for meeting someone who appeals to you.

If you encounter someone who is trying to take advantage of the mixing of the sexes in an inappropriate way, don't let yourself be intimidated. If you don't think you can handle the situation on your own, go to your RA and make a report. In really serious situations, for example if you are being stalked, you can obtain a court order of protection. In case you think that's a rarity, I know of one college campus where more than four hundred students have an order of protection out against someone.

If you're somebody who tends to be inhibited around the opposite sex, rather than giving in to those tendencies, try to make such living arrangements a learning and growing experience. While it is true that when some people get old, they look back and regret some of the things they did, there are also a great many people who look back and regret some of the things they didn't do. I am not suggesting that you do anything rash. For example, I am always telling young people who are virgins not to just throw their virginity away but to wait for the right person. But if the dorm is having a pajama party, you don't have to cover yourself from head to toe. I'm not saying that you should do things that are dangerous, but on the other hand, don't be afraid to take reasonable risks. Remember that turtle who needs to stick his head out sometimes.

Continued Next

Dorm Life 101 | Morning Larks Versus Night Owls | Noise and Other Distractions | Alcohol and Cigarettes | Drug Use | The Sexual Side of Drugs and Alcohol | Food Issues | The mixing of the Sexes | Dorm Alternatives | Work Life | Your Residential Advisor


Buy This Book on Amazon

Dr. Ruth's Guide to College Life





StudentNow | Features | Shopping | Travel | Jobs | Research | Fun | Life | Sports | Colleges
©1996-2011 COPYRIGHT StudentNow information other notices.