When students move away from home and come to a new campus, their close friends are usually the ones they depend on most in important personal situations. According to Pipe Dream’s 2020 Sex Survey, that bond extends to sex and relationships.
Out of the 383 students responding to the question, “If there are resources on campus where you feel you would be comfortable talking about sex, what are those resources?”, 337 answered that their friends were one of those resources. Similarly, 225 students indicated the most common way they meet romantic or sexual partners is through mutual friends.
Phoebe Clark, a senior majoring in integrative neuroscience, said talking with her friends about sex helps her have a more positive experience.
“My friends are super important as people to bounce ideas off of and talk out situations with,” Clark said. “They help me feel more comfortable in my decisions, and when I’m not being as rational as I should, they definitely bring me back down to earth — especially when it comes to sex. I think it’s super important to have someone to even just chat about it with. It normalizes sex more and makes for an overall safer environment around it.”
Other, less chosen, answers to the question about resources surrounding conversations on sex included “Decker Student Health Services Center” and “University Counseling Center.” One student, Chris Kollman, a junior majoring in history, said these options are less appealing because students have a difficult time being comfortable around them.
“I think that I am more comfortable talking about issues like this with my friends over family, because they are closer to my age than say any of my family members,” Kollman said. “This is because it is a different time period and there were different standards that your parents may have had 40 years ago than today.”
According to Kollman, the major difference between older generations’ knowledge about sexual relationships and younger generations’ primarily stems from social media.
“They did not have to deal with social media and the decisions you make can have the ability to change your life drastically,” Kollman said. “It is important to have friends to discuss these issues with because you can learn from their mistakes and better yourself.”
Social media, as well as the rise of dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble, has drastically changed how people find sexual and romantic partners over the past few decades. Despite the millions of users on dating apps, Kollman said most of his friends met romantic partners through mutual friends.
“It is not true for me but a majority of my friends have met their significant other through means other than bars and social media apps,” Kollman said. “I think meeting through mutual friends is effective because you have similar interests with your friends and those friends will introduce you to their friends that they think you will like.”
Starting conversations about sex may not always be the easiest thing to do, but Owen Lucano, a senior majoring in biology, said people can strengthen both their sexual relationships and friendships by talking about it.
“It’s not always the most comfortable conversation, because sex is something that’s personal to a lot of people,” Lucano said. “But if you keep an open mind, you might learn a thing or two, and perhaps even bond over it. When we disclose information on the things we like or dislike about sex to each other, it strengthens relationships because of the trust that’s built.”
John Murphy, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, said he also has closer bonds with friends whom he can talk about personal topics with.
“I think my friends have helped me learn a lot about my sexuality and help me feel comfortable talking about really anything,” Murphy said. “I think it’s super important to have friends you can talk to about stuff like sex. If you can’t talk to your friends about sex, I feel like that means there are plenty of other topics where you’re not being yourself around who you call your friends. Casual conversation about sex and other personal things is what I think makes you close with your friends.”