From what I hear, things are beginning to get hot and heavy between my roommate and his partner. I wouldn’t be surprised if my room was their final destination after a night out this weekend. I’ve never had a roommate before, so what should I do if my roommate wants to have sex in our room? Where should I go?
--Dorm-less for the night
Dear Dorm-less for the night,
Living with a roommate, especially if you’ve had your own room leading up to college, can be quite an adjustment. Giving forethought to unfamiliar situations within a shared living space is an important step in creating a comfortable environment for both you and your roommate. Whether it is around sleep schedules, visitors, or cleanliness of the room, negotiating and compromising on preferences early on may lead to a more successful roommate experience. The same goes planning for “private time,” either by oneself or with a significant other/partner.
Banishing a roommate from a dorm for the purpose of engaging in intimate activity (more commonly known as “sexiling”) is not an uncommon practice on college campuses. In fact, studies show that 82 percent of college students have dealt with this issue. Because there is not a prescribed set of actions on how to handle being sexiled, or sexiling your roommate, it is important that you and your roommate set expectations that work for you both. This way, you will have a game plan whether your roommate is planning ahead for some alone time or sends the late night text asking for the room for the night.
Research has shown that roommate interactions may affect you more than you think — your roommate can impact your academic achievement, health, and social attitudes for better or worse. In a 2016 study, while only 3.6 percent of students reported that alcohol use impacted their academic performance, 5 percent of students found that roommate difficulties impacted their academic performance. Even behaviors that seem to be indirectly related to your living situation can impact your roommate. Therefore, it helps to consider how your behaviors, such as “sexiling,” influence the health and wellness of your roommate by keeping an open line of communication.
As previously noted, there is not one hard-and-fast answer to the question of what you should do if your roommate wants to have sex in your shared space or where you should go. All of this depends on arrangements that you and your roommate agree upon. However, there are two common options when confronted with the issue of sexiling: some roommates choose to agree on arrangements before being confronted with privacy issues, while others choose a more spontaneous “sock-on-the-door” approach or use some other signal. However, studies have shown that these strategies are not equally effective — while students perceive spontaneous strategies as selfish and uncomfortable, previous arrangements result in direct and unaggressive requests for privacy. To approach a conversation regarding such advanced arrangements, try using the roommate contract provided by your residential college adviser (RCA) as a template.
When conversing, it is important to keep certain principles in mind: 1) Privacy is universally essential: everyone needs time away from their roommate and private space to allow for self-reflection and coping with social pressures; 2) Compromise: each roommate should be making equal concessions. It is reasonable to expect that, if you sleep on an air mattress in your friend’s dorm this Saturday, the next time you request privacy to be with your partner, your roommate will respectfully crash on the futon next door.
University Residential Life Policies state that “roommates are expected to be sensitive to each other’s need for privacy and reasonable about the need for occasional guests in their room.” If it gets to the point where you feel as though this policy is not being upheld because favors to your roommate are not being returned or your privacy is not being respected, you may want to talk to your RCA. RCA responsibilities are vast and include managing health and adjustment issues, problems between roommates, and the demands of academic work and extracurricular activities. Even if there are no problems between you and your roommate and you simply want to practice talking about behavioral expectations, your RCA would be happy to help. This is a great time to practice skills in negotiating what you want within your shared space!
Due to the influence of roommate interactions on your college experience, transparent and frequent communication regarding expectations is essential. If you continue to anticipate unfamiliar situations, as you did when asking this question, and talk through those hypothetical situations with your roommate, you are on your way to an optimal living situation.
Information retrieved from College Choice, American College Health Association, and Association of College and University Housing Officers.
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