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On being a prude

 I only learned what “Netflix and chill” meant after I once suggested to a guy I liked that we do so sometime. He quickly texted me back to say that he was shocked by my honesty. “You’re usually pretty shy,” he said. “Are you sure?” I couldn’t understand why he was so hesitant. “What do you mean?” I responded. “I’m only inviting you to watch a movie.”

My friends, wondering if I lived under a rock, later informed me that “Netflix and chill” means something quite different from what I thought, and helped me compose a mortifying explanatory text. No one quite understood how I didn't know such a basic euphemism for sex. Sure, some people are out of the loop — but I know what shows were popular and what music tops the charts. But then I remembered: most people aren’t prudes.

College is a space where we talk about sex all the time. We’re at a time in our lives when we have the freedom to date and experiment with relationships, so it’s only natural to discuss it. But it sometimes feels as if these topics follow us beyond orientation and SHARE sessions to lectures and innocent conversations with friends. Of course, many of us love Sex and the City-style brunches where we debrief on our latest bad date with our best friends — but, sometimes, that’s all that some of us are comfortable with talking about.

The thing is that I’m one of these people: I’d call myself a prude. Talking about sex with people who aren’t my best friends is uncomfortable. As a straight girl, I’m really shy around guys. I generally learn slang pertaining to dating and sex only once I’ve misused it. I lack a general comfort around the topic that most people seem to have. I’m constantly made fun of for my ignorance, especially in college.

Many don’t realize how many prudes there are on campus. And if you are a “prude,” it might be embarrassing to say that some topics make you uneasy for fear of people taking you less seriously . . . . And let’s face it: they probably will. But countless people have confided to me that they’re embarrassed to talk about their sex and dating lives. In some cases, it’s because they’ve never had sex and feel as if everyone else on campus has, and in others, it’s because it’s just not something they want to share — and that’s absolutely fine. Some people, like me, are really shy around the sex they’re attracted to, which makes it all the more difficult to begin a relationship or talk about any of the things that seem like such natural conversational fodder. Just like we are sensitive to people’s identities, backgrounds, and abilities, we have to be sensitive to their intimacy boundaries too.

It’s important to make a disclaimer, however, that there are times when bringing up the topic is appropriate. Orientation and SHARE are just a few example of times when it’s critical to talk about condoms, hotlines, and consent. When you are in a trusting relationship, you should feel comfortable to raise the topic with your significant other. Hopefully, your friends are supportive and candid enough to discuss any issues with you as well. But just because you want to keep your (and others’) private life private doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you. “Prude” shouldn’t be an insult.

We strive to make campus an accepting place for people of all sexual orientations, ethnicities, and religions, and our attitudes toward those with a spectrum of ideas regarding sex should be no less open. Do you judge people for their virginity? Do you resent conversations with those who turn red at the mention of dating? Are you exasperated at others’ bashfulness around the sex they’re attracted to? Examine your answers to these questions, and remember that this shyness is a harmless personality trait. You certainly wouldn’t treat someone differently because of their gender identity or race, so why would you treat someone differently for being a prude?

And if you are a “prude” — that is, if you’re shy or intimidated by the idea of everyone besides you having sex (which just isn’t true) it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Just because other people are comfortable talking about it and doing it does not mean that you have to be. Just because you’re shy doesn’t mean that there isn’t somebody out there who can appreciate that quality in you. It’s hard to feel surrounded by talk of hook-ups and conquests, but remember that at least you know what “Netflix and chill” means.

Leora Eisenberg is a sophomore from Eagan, Minn. She can be reached at leorae@princeton.edu. 

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