Fishbowl Fosters Sexuality Dialogue

Carter Cooper

On the evening of Tuesday, November 17, a group of 21 men and women gathered in the Hall of Presidents to have an open, honest and sober discussion about sexuality. Men at Colgate, a group dedicated to pursuing the question of what it means to be a successful man, sponsored the event.

The discussion, which touched on topics ranging from commitment to masturbation, was held in a fishbowl style. The men discussed questions with each other that had been anonymously posed by the women while the women in the room observed from the perimeter, and visa versa.

In light of the release of the results of the Colgate Campus Climate Survey (CCLS) and the recent events on campus related to sexual assault, one theme of the night was what exactly it means to have a healthy sexual life at Colgate.

“If you could wave your magic wand, what would your ideal community look like? The fact is, you don’t have to accept whatever you’re around,” Dean of Students Scott Brown said.

The diverse set of participants, almost half male, half female, were eager to discuss different sexual lifestyles, both healthy and unhealthy, through personal anecdotes, general observations and popular perceptions.

Alcohol and its role in the sexual culture at Colgate were among the concerns discussed at great length. One participant described the sober hookup at Colgate as a “unicorn,” or something incredibly rare.    

Another participant also defended this assertion, arguing that students’ deep involvement in academics and extracurriculars at Colgate limits their opportunities to socialize and that these moments always coincide with opportunities to drink.

Other participants saw the drunken hook-up as an easy way out. These group members explained that the next morning students could blame the alcohol and not necessarily their own judgment for their decisions the night before. Moreover, one student explained that he felt there was no excuse for performing badly if he was sober rather than inebriated. 

Despite the age gap between members of the group, which was comprised of students, faculty and staff, the climate was open and friendly and all participants seemed willing to present their honest opinions. Older participants were eager to give advice to the current students.

“If I could go back to my college years,” one staff member said. “I would just slow down.”

Stemming from the discussion of the prevalence of drunken hook-ups and the pressure to somehow find a mate at the end of the night came dialogue about expectations and consent. 

One participant mused that she had heard another male student boasting that it was easy to “get a girl” at Colgate because all one had to do was be nice to her for a second.  Nonetheless, participants generally agreed that regardless of the type of hook-up, drunk or sober, planned or unplanned, consent is absolutely essential, even if it is not necessarily verbal or explicit.

As for expectations, one participant pointed out that having certain expectations can be foolish. However, other participants mentioned that once two people agree to go back to a room together the expectations for sex are heightened.

The general consensus was that dissimilar expectations and a lack of communication contribute to an unhealthy community. According to the CCLS, men are more satisfied with the sexual climate than women, but the consensus that emerged between both genders at the Fishbowl discussion was that hooking up was much more satisfying when there was an emotional connection involved.   

It was also agreed upon that, like the sober hook-up, emotional connections were a rarity. Despite this discouraging fact, the purpose of the Fishbowl talk was to empower students and make them aware of the fact that they themselves determine the direction of the sexual climate.