Copy That: The one about sex

Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - 5:31pm

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Christine Jegarl

I’ve never written about sex before. It’s always felt like a breach of some invisible social contract, like a taboo topic tiptoed around euphemistically because we can’t talk about the details: It’s too personal, too vulnerable, too awkward for your grandmother to hear you wrote an article about hooking up. I’ve always thrown sex into the category of things beyond my scope of personal, opinionated expertise, like foreign policy or Major League Baseball or classical music.

Let me preface this with the fact that I do not write. My job at The Michigan Daily is to edit: I proofread and fact check, suggest and question. But in terms of generating content, I leave my opinions unsaid. Armed with the words of others, I am free to wholeheartedly participate in the world of journalism without baring an inch of my soul. All without being the slightest bit exposed — no byline with my name and no picture. I do not write. And I most certainly do not write about sex.

But I’ve been in college for three years now and it occurred to me that maybe I do have something to say. Maybe there is room beyond the silence, beyond the closed lips, beyond the texts I have typed and deleted, just past the whispers of friends and sharp turns I’ve taken to avoid him, to avoid you, to avoid myself. There is all the space in the world to say what I want to say.

It takes courage to share our stories. It takes bravery to share our trauma, our regrets, our mistakes and our successes. It is one of the hardest things in the world to be honest. As an editor, I’ve had the privilege of reading so many accounts of honesty: Passionate opinions, personal narratives, coverage of tragedies and triumphs. The mundane and the unusual, the wins and the losses.

I am going to write that sex in college is not what I expected. Hookup culture, to me, has been a source of intangible, undefinable confusion. I have gotten by without much thought. I haven’t been in danger, or in love. I have played my part in the chaos, at the frat parties, at the bar, in the middle of the night. I have lied and been lied to, I have rejected and been rejected, I have stomached disappointment and an extra drink. I have snuck home in the morning and called my mother.  

I don’t write, but I am a writer. And I’m not a born communicator: In fact, I’m an expert in avoidance. A lot of us are. What strikes me about hookup culture is how deeply removed we’ve become from our truths. I am 21 and just learning how to say what I mean. My mom always told me I’d never be in a relationship until I stopped looking over my shoulder every time I make a decision. I always told her it wouldn’t matter here. But I have to learn how to write what I’m thinking, how to leave something unedited and unfinished.

There is a lot of noise. There are a lot of layers. I was always the one in high school turning down the music at parties so I could hear you speak more clearly. I was always one to want what I couldn’t have. That has been my biggest flaw. I could never perfectly articulate what I was feeling, so I didn’t say anything. I was never 100 percent sure about foreign policy, or baseball, or music or sex, so I never spoke up at all.

I think we forget that people are listening. I forget I’m always staying just 10 more minutes at the bar because I have more to say. I’m always forgetting that I know how to be myself. I’m an editor: always cutting things out, always fixing your mistakes. I don’t write about sex. Maybe I’ll learn how to.