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Oberlin dating not a favorite topic among students

Students cynical and negative about dating

by David Hartman

Spring is just around the corner. It is the time of the year when nature renews itself, and for college students, new love blooms - or so the saying goes.

"It sucks," Oberlin students have said on more than one occasion about the phenomenon known as dating at Oberlin.

Frustration and anxiety seem to be common feelings associated with dating at Oberlin. Many students attribute the difficulty of dating to meeting people.

"A lot of students come from schools where they were considered the `weird' people, and so they come to Oberlin with all these defense barriers for social interaction. ... It makes meeting other people a very intimidating thing," a senior said.

"I'm a single individual lost in a sea of P.C.," a student said at the 'Sco Tuesday night. The Tuesday night phenomena at the 'Sco is better known to students as "quarter beer night."

Last quarter beer night, the 'Sco was filled with students dancing to the beats of Acid Jazz. Others prefered to just sit, sip beer, listen to the music or play pool. Others came to the 'Sco with the hopes of meeting people. "I have often come to the 'Sco to meet someone," a sophomore said, "but conventional dating isn't applicable here at all."

"My first relationship as a student started at the 'Sco," said Joe, a junior. "Someone walked right up to me and introduced herself. She was very nice and I saw her later at an all-campus party. At first I thought we were just going to be friends, but we ended up in a relationship that lasted for about 3 months - which for Oberlin is unusual. I've never had a relationship last any longer than that while I've been here."

"The sad thing is," he continued, "that I think things happened too fast. Since this school is so small, we saw each other more than we normally would have. If this had happened in a larger school or back home, things might have turned out different."

Some students seem to think, as one junior put it, that "People don't want a commitment at all, they want a one night stand. ... This is not the place for commitment." Emotional and physical health risks can run high in so-called one night stands. One student said he felt "disillusioned by what appears to be a sex-driven only dating scene."

"I had been dating this guy for a while, but still wondering if anything serious was going to come of it. We went to a party and I saw him making out with another girl on the couch - I realized then what dating at Oberlin meant," said a senior.

Diana Grossman Kahn, Ph.D, a psychologist in the student counseling center, doesn't think that casual sex is necessarily a bad thing. But, she said that "good sex has to do with being in touch with your feelings as well as the other person's." She also said, "The norms of sexual behavior have changed enormously - sexual maturity is happening much earlier."

"In the 1950s sexual behavior was being prescribed ... that constriction has been taken away, but sexual freedom gives opportunity and difficulty as well," she said.

In her 1972 essay based on Oberlin titled, "Autonomy and Abnegation: College Women Deal with Conflicting Sexual Standards," Kahn wrote "... Lack of formal social structure leaves a void that is filled by informal constellations of co-ed friendship groups and exclusive couples. It is quite common that when a young man and woman feel in rapport with one another they progress in a short time to an exclusive sexual couplehood and 24-hour daily companionship."

The essay continues, "There is a tendency for students to concentrate on arriving at the goal [of sex]." This type of intense relationship is part of the reason why many students are unhappy about dating.

"I really believe the size of the school is the major problem with dating here. The minute I begin fooling around with someone, the whole campus knows about it," a sophomore said.

Gibran el-Sulayman, a fifth-year student, said, "Relationships are too intense - things get too serious too quickly. Another problem is that so many people know other people's shit."

Other students agreed, "There is a lack of privacy - too many people are in your business."

"The students here just need to learn how to relax," said a student at the 'Sco last Tuesday night. "They're all so damned uptight about the way they look, making sure they're all P.C. enough - that's all bullshit. They forget that people are more than what they look like; that real people are out there. If you find someone interesting, just go up to them and introduce yourself. Trust me, it works."


Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 124, Number 16; March 1, 1996

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