SURVEY RESULTS

My Mother Spied the ‘Sex at Yale’ Booklet …

As teenagers on a campus with an unnatural ratio of women to men, our sexual experiences ranged from adventurous to “zip” 

We arrived at Yale, many of us away from home for the first time, and most of us, anxious to begin or continue our sexual awakening. A wave of sexual freedom was cresting around us — “the pill” would become generally available in 1972, abortion was legalized a year later, non-traditional lifestyles were gaining some awareness, and the scourges of herpes and HIV were still unknown or undetected. Yale took what some saw as a bold stance by providing a copy of “Sex and the Yale Student” to each dorm room. Yet Yale’s tentative embrace of coeducation — 1000 men and 250 women in our class — made social life, romantic life, and a sex life, anything but easy or natural for many of us.

As your responses to this question make clear, it was a time of innocence, high expectations, discovery and frequent disappointments.
Gilbert Casellas and Carolyn Grillo

Question 5: What role did sex and sexuality play in your life at Yale? How has your thinking evolved in the years since?

I arrived on campus a somewhat sheltered 18-year-old from the all-boys Jesuit High School in Tampa, Florida, never having seen snow and never having gone beyond “second base” with any of my high school girlfriends. The previous summer in New York City did not help as it only intensified my desire to find a girlfriend.  For some ridiculous reason I believed that I had to get myself a girlfriend, if for no other reason than to peddle the myth that I too was having sex, as I believed every other person was having or had had before coming to college. After all, this was the tail end of the sixties, of Woodstock, and of “free love.” Unlike most of the freshman class, I was housed in our residential college, Timothy Dwight, and thus surrounded by young women, from freshmen to seniors.   So my encounters with women in the courtyard, the dining hall, classrooms and even in the occasional mixers that were held in TD were among the most awkward and cringy imaginable. My state of being single and thus my celibacy continued into my sophomore year when a roommate arranged for me to meet his NYC girlfriend’s friend. At that point, I had gotten over the obsession with needing to prove a point to anyone about my sexual experience. I no longer cared, and neither did anyone else, if they ever did.  And with the passage of time and a few confessions after several drinks, I learned that my freshman year experience was very similar to that of so many other freshmen.
Gilbert Casellas (TD

Although anyone with hormones would have arrived on campus primed to explore their sexuality and sensuality, Yale’s peculiar recipe for co-education  was probably the biggest obstacle to relationships of all kinds. Given the insanely unbalanced gender ratio in our class, how could sexuality unfold naturally?

I was, at last, among men who took it for granted that women had brains. Finally, just as I was  free of the high school stigma of being “too smart.to date,” there was a new barrier: “too few to date.” Walking across the Old Campus or the JE Dining Hall, I sensed a constant surveillance which made me feel, paradoxically, less attractive. Yale didn’t offer any counseling that would have helped us cope with being subjects in an unnatural social experiment. (Well, I do remember a film in the Human Sexuality class where two frog puppets went at it  to a soundtrack of “Je T’aime.” But I don’t think that helped). Speaking for myself, I didn’t even know how little I knew and there was really not enough space and normalcy to sort out the differences among “ sex” and “sexuality” and “ attraction” and “ relationship “ till long after Yale.
Carolyn Grillo (JE)

While I am pretty certain sex was occurring during freshman year, I mostly slept through it on my reasonably comfortable living room sofa.

I am grateful for Gilbert’s and Carolyn’s maturity and candor—along with framing this forum as a space for honest recollection and reflection. They remind me that maturity and candor were exactly what I didn’t find (or supply) in the discourse of sexuality among my friends and acquaintances at Yale. And discourse was about as close as I came to sexual experience for quite some time.  Mixers on dance floors stained with rancid beer, road trips that dissolved expectation into disorientation, awkward flirtations distorted by the absurd ratio of early, timid co-education, coarse displacements of sexual energy into late-night B.S. banter among roommates—such is the whirl of imagery, tinged with an undertone of sad yearning, that I recall from those times. And yet I remain thankful that notwithstanding the era’s aura of culture-wide sexual release, we were not on the whole a mindlessly promiscuous bunch; sex was hard to discuss and hard to find, partly because the casual misogyny and repression of the ’50s hung over us, but also because we still thought sex mattered in some way beyond pleasure, prowess, or (re)production … the referent of “doing it” transcended libidinal urges and reached toward shared fulfillment of some still-undefined sort. So, for me at least, sex was wanting (in all senses), but that gap in desire also opened space for great fulfillments that came just after college
—Anonymous

Perhaps the most powerful memory of my Yale experience of sex was what didn’t happen rather than what did. Fantasies of meeting the girl of my dreams, perhaps a sex goddess or a female soulmate never seemed to materialize. I quickly realized that there were too many dreams and too few girls. The odds of four men to one woman did not look good. It became clear pretty soon that this was bad for everyone. A wise adage captured the misery of both genders; “For men it was a desert while for women it was a jungle.” While women may have superficially appeared to have the advantage, it made them a commodity in a competition to be won in which many men, including myself, refused to participate. Some seeming solutions only made matters worse. There were the dreaded Friday night mixers when women from “girls’ schools” were bussed in. Without making contact, men and women would throw themselves at each other. I still shudder when I recall a resident advisor beseeching us to action when the buses arrived, as if we were in a prize boxing match, or readying ourselves to storm Omaha Beach on D-Day.

So for better or worse, most of my sexual desires and hopes for intimacy would have to be postponed until I was in more hospitable settings. I realize that not all my sexual issues were a product of my Yale experience, nor was Yale’s gender imbalance only detrimental. Yale’s initial half-hearted commitment to co-education had its unanticipated benefits. I came to appreciate that even without romance and sexual interaction, close and caring platonic ties with women could create intimate relationships which have endured 50 years or more. Before Yale I had no gay friends but the gay-friendly and natural relating between gay and heterosexual men like myself made for a more comfortable platonic connection.

Finally, I felt an immediate impact of Yale’s gender imbalance when I arrived at the University of MIchigan for graduate school. I was amazed, delighted, and in awe of how many more women than men there appeared to be, when the ratio was actually equal. A return to normalcy at last!
Irv Leon [TC]

Even today, some 54 years later, it is a weird and painful experience to recall, particularly coming from a mid-size public high school as I did. No problems pairing up in high school, even for those of us in the “smart group.” But at Yale? “Sex” for me my freshman year was an abstract — albeit totally distracting — concept. Here we were with a couple of hundred equally nerdy, definitely brilliant, probably smarter women and a thousand horny teenage males. A more awkward situation couldn’t have been imagined. How did we cope? Road trips!! And, uh, beer. Only by the fall of our junior year after Yale declared admissions were going to be “sex blind” and admitted several hundred women transfers to the classes of ’73, ’74, and ’75 did the campus take on a veneer of quasi-normalcy (as if “normalcy” ever applies to Yale!). And by senior year — I think ’77 was the first class to admit on a totally sex-blind basis — it became a comparative cornucopia of dateable people! It was a whiplash of change in four short years, intensely bizarre at the time but fortunately, good for a chuckle now.
Wes Bray [CC]

Yale was not well prepared for co-education. In the fall of 1970 most freshwomen were housed in Vanderbilt Hall. In those days room numbers, mailbox addresses and phone numbers all corresponded, and Vanderbilt started with Rooms 1,2,3, etc. for all of Yale. It didn’t take a genius to discern that a visit to Vanderbilt might be an opportunity to meet someone. This resulted in a parade of young men going up and down the Vanderbilt entryways. A guard station was soon established at the Vanderbilt gate and visitors were only permitted with an invitation. This may have reduced the unwanted attention, but it also resulted in cloistering freshwomen. I recall the whole male/female scene as being quite unnatural.
Dan Rouse [CC] 

I recall a resident advisor beseeching us to action when the mixer buses arrived, as if we were … readying ourselves to storm Omaha Beach on D-Day.

I remember the buses of women arriving at Yale for mixers and events. I thought these were brave women. I made more trips to Smith than I can remember. The women at Smith were accustomed to young men from Yale arriving with no official place to stay. Sometimes the accommodation was sleeping on a couch in the common room, but sometimes a young lady would ask her roommate to spend the night somewhere else in order to host a male visitor. The breakfast next morning in the house was very genteel. The Smith women even had their own napkins which they kept in their mail slots. Everyone I encountered on these visits was gracious and well-mannered.
—Anonymous

When I was a freshman, I made the mistake of walking into my bedroom one afternoon after my roommate had placed a towel over the door. This was a signal from the roommate that he wanted privacy for an intimate relationship with his hometown girlfriend. That roommate never much talked to me again. Yale was a sexual wilderness for me. I would not be surprised if as many as 30–40% of our classmates had the same experience I had. I once remember going with a classmate to New York City one weekend, where we met a girl who eventually had to choose which one of us she would spend the night with. I lost. Sex, and marriage, all came later for me, and I had a wonderful family. The entire process got started a bit later for me than for the average guy.
—Anonymous

To say that the freshmen dorms were crowded is an understatement. Increasing the entering class to 1,250 by admitting 250 women (remember the argument against co-education that Yale simply had to graduate 1,000 “male leaders” every year?), with little or no increase in dormitory capacity, certainly resulted in crowded conditions. My suite consisted of two bedrooms and a living room, but had been designed for two students (or perhaps one student and a servant, based on the relative size of the two bedrooms!). In September 1970, four freshmen showed up to occupy its two sets of bunk beds. Room and bed assignments were made on a first come, first served basis. The one who arrived first took the lower bunk in the big bedroom; the second arrival grabbed the top bunk in the big bedroom; the third, the lower bunk in the small bedroom; and of course, number four got the only bed left—top bunk, small bedroom. These assignments became relevant to me because two of the four (big bedroom/top bunk and small bedroom/top bunk) began freshmen year with relationships that had started in high school. Both enjoyed frequent weekend visits, but our living situation presented obvious challenges to the pursuit of intimate relationships. Big bedroom/lower bunk vacated the suite, but where he stayed is now lost in the recesses of my memory. Small bedroom/lower bunk (me!) wound up sleeping on the sofa in the living room. The freshman dorm was noisy, and sleeping in a room that was the transit point between two bedrooms was less than ideal. Having said that, when I think back on the many nights spent on the living room sofa, I don’t recall feeling tired or irritated at vacating my bed. While I now find that the sound of a passing car will disturb my sleep, my teenage self must have been oblivious to almost all external noises. Things change. The high school relationships ended, and the two-bedroom suite was followed in sophomore year by more spacious (and private) accommodations. While I am pretty certain sex was occurring during freshman year, I mostly slept through it on my reasonably comfortable living room sofa
Steven Davis [ES]

Arriving on campus for the 1970 Fall semester, we were greeted with a 64-page pamphlet called “Sex and the Yale Student.” The cover featured two rather squarish looking statues — embracing and kissing. I read it cover to cover — hoping to learn how small child statues were created (I always thought that marble had to be sculpted). Thus, began my years of confusion on the subject. That pamphlet did not explain in any detail that Yale (war surplus?) bunk beds were so narrow (and so uncomfortable) that the science of physics had a reliable laboratory apparatus for experiments in the two-body problem. Those Yale bunks initiated my subsequent personal journey for better apparatus — waterbed … then loft bed … and eventually (after graduation and moving to Palo Alto), the “California King” bed. As the original “Star Trek” TV program declared: Space was the Final Frontier
Thomas Corbi [TC]

My lighthearted response: I have only a hazy incomplete recollection of any such activities during that time period, Senator. My serious response: To Yale’s credit, the University took seriously the various implications of men and women together on campus. Faculty members Lorna and Philip Sarris had founded the Yale Human Sexuality Program, which provided much-needed informational, therapeutic, counseling, and other services to the Yale community, both men and women. Linden Havemeyer and my roommate Alec Haverstick served on what I believe was called the Student Committee on Human Sexuality.
Colly Burgwin [SY]

Sex was hard to discuss and hard to find. … We still thought sex mattered in some way beyond pleasure, prowess, or (re)production.

During the fall of freshman year, I learned that my best friend through much of high school, who was at another college, had not only found a serious girlfriend but had “done it.” The news came from a mutual friend — so I felt doubly left out. Apparently, I was seen as so decisively marooned in chastity that I couldn’t even qualify as a confidant. This sense of deprivation persisted into sophomore year, by which time I had a gang of pals, all similarly bereft. Or seemingly so. One Saturday night we were hanging out in my Stiles dorm room, gabbing. Sitting beside one of my friends was his new girlfriend. They were glued to each other, their eyes glazed over, as if drunk on the aura of their own intimacy. At one point they simply got up and left, arms twined. It was clear that they needed to be alone. The rest of us bravely, helplessly, gabbed on, tacitly agreeing not to mention what most of us were probably trying to imagine. I saw sex as a rite of passage that one was supposed to be able to count on in college. This may sound weird, but it was like how, on the academic side, I imagined that in college I would take a course in philosophy — something that seemed alluringly intellectual and sophisticated in the way that sex promised to be, well, carnally splendid. I did in fact take an introductory philosophy class, where I can remember a debate on whether the emotions you feel when reading a novel or watching a film are identical to what you feel in real life. (I argued that even the most absorbing aesthetic experience, however wrenching, always involves a distance and a kind of pleasure.) Meanwhile, in my own life — more viscerally enveloping than any philosophical argumentation — I continued to yearn. And when, during senior year, I finally did enter the promised land with a classmate, the pleasure was infused with questions about connection and obligation, about what our affection meant and what kind of promise it might hold, and all of this entwined with HER needs, desires, and expectations. Sex certainly remained desirable. But real-life sex was, I began to recognize, more complicated than the sex of my imagination, and certainly more complicated than the notion of simply “doing it.”
Dan Laskin [ES]

Zip.
—Anonymous

Quoting the Doors: “Five to one and one in five/No one here gets out alive.” After those dark days, I found Shere Hite’s book helpful.
Steven Kimball [MC]

I particularly remember one outburst of male frustration. On a snowy weekend freshman year, my high school girlfriend arrived after a 14-hour Trailways ride from Ohio. We had an unspoken plan to finally lose our awkward teenage blues. (I had a single bedroom in the Calhoun annex.) Just as we began “workin’ on mysteries without any clues,” a series of loud smacks cracked the glass of my third-floor window. Down on the sidewalk a gang of annex-mates, tipped off to my good fortune, were targeting my room with a furious volley of snowballs. A rude, but temporary, interruption to our night moves. (h/t Bob Seger)
—Stu Rohrer [CC]

I was married while at Yale. I didn’t have the usual undergraduate escapades of sexual adventure and misadventure. On gender and sex: In the early days of co-education, women were a minority as undergraduates and as faculty. One professor began class with, “And so, Gentlemen….” The three of us in class coughed. He looked up and was truly startled that we were there. He apologized, genuinely. He was nearing retirement, and I realized he may never have been in a class with women as he went through his education and during his time as a professor. Most professors were very cordial. One was old school enough to “doff his cap to a lady” when he passed on the street. It was done as an old habit of respect, as was opening the door. I wasn’t sure whether I should be affronted by this chivalrous code. I could open the door myself, thank you. I decided not to take offense. I experienced no discrimination from these older professors. As I mentioned in answer to an earlier question, one actively encouraged me to pursue studies at Yale. There were a very few professors, however, who “weren’t no Gentlemen.” One was notorious for his behavior with women and his Western Canon that excluded them.

In a specific incident involving a different professor, I had made an appointment during office hours. I knocked on the door and heard, “Enter.” He was standing with his fly open and a full erection. I backed out of his office. I question why I didn’t report the incident to someone. Mostly, I was in shock. I was having difficulty believing it; perhaps, no one else would. Concurrently, I had a boot-camp mentality of “If this is part of what it means to co-educate this place, just get through it.”

Patricia Sheppard [DC]

I met a high school chick in NYC who became Yale ’75. We had a relationship throughout our years there, ’70–’75. The free sex education and practical birth control help from the Yale Health Center were, obviously, integral to our happy relationship. And pot, of course. And maybe the blue movies at the Law School. Since we got married right after Yale and have stayed married until now, I guess I would have to say it worked for us. There was plenty of weirdness, individually, as she was “hit on” constantly at Yale — partly because she is awesome (which I write not only because she might read this) but because the ratio of boys vs girls was so out of whack (appropriate word?!). I was treated like I won the sex Lotto, lots of petty jealousy because of my apparent ready access to unlimited sex and derivative complete lack of sexual anxiety. This latter, of course, was bullshit then as it is now. I remember visiting her in Vanderbilt, the weirdness of that ritual and especially getting to know the other Lotto winners in line outside Vanderbilt’s iron gates.
—Anonymous

Since I started as a ’73, I was there at the beginning, with the mysterious armored fortress on the Old Campus and the 8:1 ratio. In sophomore year, I remember being in a girls’ room in JE with 8 females, and thinking that there should be 63 other guys in the room. Despite omnipresent horniness, I never had sex with another Yalie because of a wonderful relationship with a high school sweetheart. We are having our 50th anniversary this year.
Anonymous

Because there were far more males than females when we matriculated, it could be intimidating and often annoying to receive unwanted sexual attention — some of it aggressive, some just importuning. On the other hand, it was pretty easy to access sex as much as I wished and usually on good terms. I do remember coming on to someone who “gave in” and then felt ashamed and guilty — I didn’t know he was a virgin, so that is something I regret. I also remember one student a couple of years ahead of me for whom it was a personal insult that I was interested in his roommate rather than himself. I received regular anonymous phone calls from people breathing heavily, but I’m not sure these were actually for me or just any old gal in Vanderbilt. Once I moved into my college, I found a boyfriend to signal my unavailability for sexual escapades. It was a relief of sorts, but I now think that this strategy was a mistake. Not because I wish I had had more sexual partners, but because it limited my connections to people outside my own college. Still, it considerably simplified things and made me more comfortable. Looking back, I don’t remember any overt stigmatizing of gay folks, but I don’t remember anyone who was out, either. Sign of the times? Glad that has changed! This response is likely to give you the impression that sex was a big part of my life at Yale. But frankly, I was much more interested in the ideas and personalities I encountered than in sexual activities. I only wish I had been more adventurous in meeting people, because the people I did meet were amazing.
—Anonymous

Yale taught me well and prepared me for many things in life. Learning how to flirt and let men know I was interested in them was not one of them. It was not until age 30, after my divorce, that I realized how hopelessly inept I was at publicly expressing any kind of sexual vibes. Doing so felt uncomfortable, awkward and anxiety producing. But of course this makes sense, having spent my formative years in a stilted environment where expressing my sexuality could scar my emerging identity. In short, being in the second class of women undergraduates was a strange sociological/cultural experience. The male to female ratios were so skewed that as a woman I had one of three choices: 1) Be warm and engaging with everyone and get overwhelmed with more attention and invitations than I could possibly handle, date many men and become known as a “Slut” or at least as “fast and loose”  2) Put up a defensive cool persona, thwart male advances and become known as an “Ice Queen”  3) Find a partner, couple in an exclusive relationship and be spared the pain of options 1 or 2. In my case I think I unconsciously opted for the third option by my sophomore year, which spared me the anguish of my freshman year experiences. That is not to say my partnership was not rich and fulfilling for many years even after leaving Yale. But I do believe that for both of us we coupled prematurely before either of us had had a chance to explore the evolution and expression of our sexual beings before settling down.
Marilyn Sharpe (SY)

Here’s my most unusual memory relating to sex and sexuality. It was during my Senior year. I’d been monogamous up to that point: one partner, stable sex, with a Yale student, for all of my time at Yale. Then I was persuaded to spend the early-morning hours (of a day during our final week before Commencement) in the room of someone reputed to have slept with almost everyone of the opposite sex in our residential college. It was supposed to be a dual massage session. And — guess what — that was all it ended up being: staying monogamous won out. (Soon after Commencement, that all changed.)
Anonymous

I still hold to the relieving of stigmata on sexual pleasure that was basic to the culture of our undergraduate years, however poorly I sometimes relieve myself of it. This has been a massive benefit to well-being — despite the way our capitalist system turns liberation into what Marcuse calls “repressive tolerance.” Although I had a girlfriend at another northeastern college, the more important development at Yale for me was homosocial, ranging from crushes I had to the kind of bonding with our classmates we all sought. It was not until after Yale that I came out, but I took the first steps there. By senior year I learned that there was a group of out gay men in our & adjacent classes that formed a phalange in a major student organization that turned brutal and mean. My observation of the way their reactionary politics poisoned their intimate lives has helped keep me from falling into the trap of regressive conservative nostalgia into which I had been tempted. Once there was an all-night festival of Marx Brothers films in Berkeley dining hall. As I watched propped up under my blanket, a toe crept over from the sleeping bag next to me. I looked at the boy: one of our class. I pushed all my toes into his, his foot wrapped over mine. We left together and walked out the entry onto the wide street. We needed a place to go. On the 8th floor of Saybrook Tower (I lived on the 4th floor) the College kept an ornate room, never occupied, always unlocked. Linen-fold oak wainscot covered all the walls up the molding carved to depict clusters of grapes. The fireplace was large too, and there were brass sconces and a chandelier. There was no bed, but there was a Turkish carpet. So we landed there. He was the only member of our class I hooked up with (you know who you are!). Another adventure took me in by the backdoor to the heart of the bigwig Episcopalian gerontocracy of The Best English Dept in the World. But this is a different story. …
Bennett Gilbert [SY]

Along with our freshman year course book and other administrative paperwork, during “move-in week” I recall that we were all also greeted with a pamphlet on Human Sexuality. That pamphlet piqued my interest regarding sex and sexuality and how the human body functioned. Especially the section on contraception. It indirectly led me to volunteer at the New Haven Planned Parenthood clinic nearby a couple of times a month at their vasectomy clinic. I would help usher the men into the minor surgery room, and watch the procedures while making sure the guys were “doing OK” during their 20 minute minor ordeal. Although my roommates joked about my evenings “snipping nuts” at the clinic, that experience was one memorable factor among many leading me to my career as a Family Physician who was one of only a handful of FPs who performed vasectomies in my 60-physician primary care group. As a result, over my 20 years of clinical practice I performed about the same number of vasectomies as I did baby deliveries — about 800 of each. Definitely a significant “life nudge” from that simple sexuality booklet handout! Lowell Keppel [SM]

[I made ] true friends with two different, amazing young men … Years later I learned that each of them was gay.

My overwhelming memory of the sexual culture at that time was one of seismic change. Where I went to high school in northern Virginia the general feeling about girls who “went all the way,” even with long-time boyfriends, was that they were “sluts.” If word got out that you slept with someone, your reputation was basically tarnished. That was the culture I exited when I graduated from high school. Three months later, upon my arrival at Yale, a glossy pamphlet called Sex and the Yale Student, put together by the university, arrived in each freshman dorm room. (This is what I remember at any rate.) The pamphlet detailed all the different types of birth control with pros and cons. It listed a team of doctors available to Yale students for sexual counseling, both physical and psychological. It was for all intents and purposes a manual on sexuality, courtesy of the university. In a three-month period, it seemed like sex had gone from sordid to sanctioned. Talk about whiplash. Nothing else that happened that year was as powerful a metaphor for the changes coursing through our sexual culture.
Kathy Slobogin [TC]

The first week we arrived freshman year, 16 guys called or came by saying the room had been theirs — an impossibility. I went on multiple dates during those early weeks, but quickly got involved with a guy, and ultimately ended up with a different boyfriend each year. That lopsided ratio did me no favors.
—Anonymous

I attended an all-girls Catholic High School. With a reputation as a “brain,” coke bottle glasses and an older brother who offered physical violence to the rare few boys who expressed any interest in me, I arrived at Yale sexually naïve and socially awkward. Thanks to new contact lenses and the absence of my brother I was asked on dates by a few male students. Regrettably, one of those was the teaching assistant in the literature class I was taking as part of Directed Studies. In response to his invitation, I replied along the lines of “No thank you. I’d rather not” (Socially maladroit indeed!). When he later marked my papers with comments such as “How could you have missed the obvious phallic significance of….?” I, fresh from the convent, assumed I was not good at analyzing literature despite my lifelong love of reading and never took another English Lit course. I now run two Book Clubs at the Yale Club of New York City. Several of the participants majored in or have advanced degrees in English literature. Because of my limited studies, I typically present nonfiction titles. When I explained the reason for this I was asked if I had complained that I was sexually harassed and what Yale did about it. Younger Club members were surprised to learn that I did not, since in the early 1970’s “harass” was two words.
Anne Riney (JE)

Entering Yale I hoped to take interesting classes, make friends and meet women. The classes were superb. I made many friends, including a lot of women. While I might have had dreams of something different, an experience in the first few weeks of our sophomore year revealed how unprepared I was for romance or sex. I was captivated by the smile and figure of a freshman woman in Physics class. I thought I knew something about the topic (Physics) and on three occasions before coming to Yale I successfully asked women out after first meeting them. I did not know anything about physics and although I did ask the young woman to be my lab partner and walk her bike back to Calhoun College with me, I had absolutely no idea how to progress beyond my own immaturity, self-centeredness and lack of any experience with the give and take of romantic love. She liked me. I liked her. We got together more often, kissed passionately and soon had sex. I was absolutely clueless. I fumbled through as if I were in a movie, and after (which was fairly fast) lit a cigarette as a dashing Dashiell Hammer might. I did not have the intelligence to say anything, ask anything, express feelings or emotions — much less ask how she felt. I was also doing poorly in both Physics and Organic Chemistry. In an exquisite feat of hyper-rationalization I decided I needed more time to study and that it was unfair that I have a fantastic girlfriend when the ratio of undergraduate men to woman at Yale was something like 10:1. I was a complete idiot and I literally shut the door on her.
Peter St. Clair [CC

I was from a very sheltered world in Boise Idaho and perhaps like a few of my classmates, sex and being a constant student didn’t go hand in hand. My most vivid memory was when my mother brought me to Yale, and I see under the door of our freshman dorm room the black book. It was among the multiple flyers for laundry service, clubs to join, and other offers. The book Sex and the Yale Student. I will never forget her response. “I wonder if Stanford will reconsider your acceptance?” She even called. Well clearly that didn’t happen, and over my four years I had a very healthy and meaningful relationship with sex and my partners. Thank you, Yale and that black book.
Jane Hamersley McLaughlin [BK]

I arrived at Yale after three years in a girls’ school feeling very much like a wallflower, and loved being in seminars with competitive noisy boys. I felt they saw me more like a tomboy sister than a potential girlfriend – an impression confirmed when I ambled towards a bus one Friday evening, wearing my denim overalls, and saw many goddesses embark, glamorous top to toe, from Vassar. Clearly not of this world, and I went back to my room, properly humbled, and ate a bag of Pepperidge Farm cookies. The other strange and touching experience I had was making true friends with two different, amazing young men. I would have gladly fallen in love with them, but matters stayed Platonic. Years later I learned that each of them was gay.
Ariel Miller (ES)

Like most of my female classmates we were a bit daunted by the male/female ratio of our class, 1000 men to 230 women. All the Old Campus dorms were male, except Vanderbilt where we were housed. There were no parietals, so it was a huge change from my boarding school experience where boy-girl interactions were carefully monitored. You could get in big trouble if a boy was caught in your room. We were also coming of age when there was the sexual revolution with the birth control pill, free love, and the gradual acceptance of homosexuality. There was no fear of having casual sex in the era before AIDS. (I feel sorry for young people with all the sexual hang ups of today. Does “yes” mean “no”?) Upon our arrival we were handed that juicy and very frank pamphlet “Sex and The Yale Student.” The cover of the Brancusi “The Kiss” said it all, adding to the pressure to end your virginity during your Yale years. Dutifully, I marched over to the Health Plan and made my appointment with a gynecologist to get the pill. So, there I was lying on my back when in walked Dr. Billings — an old friend of my parents! Jeez! I prayed for patient — doctor confidentiality. Fortunately, I didn’t hear from my mother the next day. But what truly surprised me during our freshman fall term was the arrival of the many buses from all the women’s colleges in the region — Smith, Vassar, Wellesley. These buses would just drop these women off on street corners and the women would walk around, hoping to get picked up. I was told this was a remnant of the old days at Yale before co-education. I remember the resentment of my female classmates who felt that the Yale men were befriending us during the week, but when the weekend came to party, they had to resort to this demeaning ritual. Fortunately, the buses started disappearing, and by second semester, were gone altogether.
Cilla Leavitt [TC]

Sex back then was joyful and experimental.

I grew up with a way-ahead-of-her-time mother, who celebrated sexuality and encouraged me to explore that aspect of my being, which I happily did. So I arrived at Yale comfortable in my body and in my attitude toward sex. It was not something I had to discover.

Singie Shepley-Gamble [BK]

I come from a family of all girls. My mother kept me on a tight leash. The first time I saw a male naked was coming out of the shower at Yale. (Gorgeous!) I actually loved the booklet we all got.  I read it over and over. I will forever love the Brancusi sculpture on the front. Wish I could find it! Sex back then was joyful and experimental. When I grew up, sex became tangled up with adult emotions: anger, fear, worry. Young sex at Yale was fun and freeing.
Beth Rosenthal [BK]

I hadn’t had sex before college and I was eager to try, radically incautious, and like a female Lord Byron, idolized the objects of my affection. Due to the male-female imbalance of the time, I had many male friends and too many lovers. The lovers did not reciprocate my fantasizing. A signature experience was attending one of those awful mixers where women were bussed in from the Ivies, and my lover at the time, also my first experience with sex, strode through the room in a drug haze and walked right over me (I was lying on the floor). Another was a private party that ended with sex with my idol of the time, and his idol, a younger man, both philosophers, and I was their ‘first’ for both. The older promptly started an affair with a graduate student and ballet dancer; the younger promptly began a relationship with the woman who would become his wife. This dysfunctional approach (on my part) has continued well beyond Yale, and let’s just say I’m happy being single and should write a book about my sexual misadventures.
Edie Terry [PC]