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Behind dorm doors: from in the shower to in the bedroom, Mills students talk sex

Photo of a communal shower. (Anna Corson)

In almost every residence hall, one of the few rules decided on by the individual halls is “no sex in the shower.” But what about sex elsewhere in the dorm?

While many students are no strangers to having sex in the dorms, many are unsure of what the campus policy is. RA’s and students agree that while it’s up to the individual student to decide, living in a close community such as a dorm makes it necessary to think about neighbors. Different students and different residence halls each have their own ways of dealing with what happens behind dorm doors.

“There’s not a real handbook way of dealing with sex in the dorms, said junior Meghan Leferink, who is currently a residential assistant. “There’s a heavy emphasis on letting the students be their own people.”

Dawn Liu, a senior and a former residential assistant, said she also lacks a specific method to confronting sex complaints.

“I wasn’t really trained to handle sex incidences due to the respect of privacy of the resident,” Liu said.

So what do Mills students actually do in their rooms?

According to first year Avalon Baldwin the first time her boyfriend came to visit her at Mills, they tried not to have sex, out of concern for her neighbors. It didn’t work.

“I tried to check out my neighbors afterward, to see how they were looking at me,” Baldwin said. “We tried not to be
that loud.”

Baldwin lives in the third floor of Warren Olney, one of the two dorms where first-years live. Because of the porches on her floor, she only shares one wall with a neighbor, a fact Baldwin said her and her boyfriend tried to use to be courteous to other students.

“We made sure to move the bed away from the wall,”Baldwin said.

Most of the women in her hall are in long-distance relationships; her boyfriend is the only one who visits regularly because of his proximity to Mills. (He is attending Sonoma State University in Cotati, near Santa Rosa.)

Liu said that, if there were complaints about audible sex by the other students, she would treat it as any other noise complaint.

“We were told to treat hearing residents having sex as a ‘noise complaint,’ so we were told to speak to residents to let them know about the noise complaint,” Liu said.

Liu also said that such complaints were infrequent in the halls when and where she was an RA.

“I’ve heard sexual noises coming from rooms, but have never addressed it, since they were usually rare and not frequent,” Liu said. “(I) would approach the resident myself in order to ensure privacy.”

According to Baldwin, the two halves of Baldwin’s hall are characterized by different things: one is “quiet, relaxed and accepting,” while the other is “loud and opinionated.” Baldwin lives in the former, but she says her neighbors have never complained about noise or motion caused by her and her boyfriend having sex.

“I’ve been trying to ask people (if they mind the noise), but it’s awkward to ask about yourself specifically,” Baldwin said. “I would ask in a general sense, but then I’m the only one really having sex.”

She thinks, however, that her neighbors don’t mind.

“My neighbors would be okay (with some noise), but if the sound expanded to the entire hall, they might protest,” Baldwin said.

While Baldwin’s hall is relatively quiet, not all halls are this way. Before Leferink was an RA, she lived in a hall with residents that she described as “very sexually active.”

“I can definitely tell you that, when I was a first year, everyone knew when someone was having sex, and then we all stood outside the door and applauded when it was over,” Leferink said.

However, Leferink policy as an RA is one of understanding.

“We had to have that community meeting to talk about discretion,” Leferink said. “As an RA, that’s what we say is, be discreet.”

Baldwin knows of one student in her hallway who also has sex regularly. However, Baldwin said her hall-mates tend to be more critical of the student because she has had several boys over (at
separate times) rather than only one boyfriend.

“She’s had a lot more passersby than I have,” Baldwin said. “Some people complain about that.”

Baldwin believes her hall-mates perceive her sex with her boyfriend as cute whereas, when there are multiple men over over the course of the semester, her hall-mates see it as suspicious.

“Even I perk up if I don’t recognize (the male guest),” Baldwin said, adding that a woman she didn’t recognize would also draw her attention.

Liu said that it is common for dorm residents to secretly speculate about their neighbors’ sex lives.

“I don’t think that they don’t mind audible sex sounds in dorms, it’s that they are too embarrassed to address it,” Liu said. “Walking by a neighbor’s door and giggling, then talking about it at the dining hall is different than dealing with excessive and frequent loud noises; many people are not comfortable with addressing that directly.”

Baldwin also described how her hall and the hall below her have vastly different demographics. The women of the third floor of Warren Olney are mostly straight with a few self-identified bisexuals whereas the floor below has a larger lesbian population. This coincidence is completely random, as the floors are separated by academic interest, rather than romantic interest.

“Most (of my floor) has or have had long-term boyfriends,” Baldwin said, but acknowledges that such a dynamic is uncommon. “When I told someone I was straight they said, ‘You’re the first legit straight girl I’ve met here.”

And what about the shower sex discussed in so many community meetings?

“I wouldn’t have a problem with it, but I understand people don’t want that. I don’t miss it that much,” Baldwin said.

Leferink believes that most students are opposed to it anyway, but those who aren’t are not likely to get caught.

“People realize it’s a communal space, and they are concerned with hygiene,” Leferink said. But due to the privacy policy, “it’s so entirely not enforceable.”

Leferink said she would never admonish a couple having sex in the showers during the act, but she would speak with the resident individually.

Despite varying concerns about sex in the dorms, most residents keep their complaints to themselves.

“I guess it’s natural,” said junior Cynthia Alcazar. “I just know when to put my headphones on.”