In this year’s Sex and Relationships Issue, The Statesman explores how paying more attention to your phone than your romantic partner can put a strain on your relationship, what Stony Brook research has revealed about the motivations behind romantic gift-giving, ways to educate young people about consent, and much more.
Stony Brook students have taken sex out of the bedroom, and to illegal and invigorating heights.
Amid the blue lights on the computer science building rooftop, in between library bookshelves, behind the West Apartments storage units, next to the Physics Building, on the Staller steps – students have confessed to getting it on all over Seawolf territory.
“I was working late in the printmaking studio in Staller, and my girlfriend and I wound up having sex on one of the tables,” J, senior biology major, said. “Fortunately we finished without being caught!”
In a The Statesman survey conducted last week that asked students if they’ve had sex in public places on campus and where, 39 percent of respondents reported doing the deed in a public location on Stony Brook’s campus. None of them reported getting caught.
“We wanted to take a study break, but since there isn’t much to do in the library we ended up giving each other head behind a shelf in the music library,” M, sophomore biochemistry major, said. “I definitely would go back and highly recommend the spot.”
“[A girl and I] noticed that the door to the rooftop was open, so we ended up going outside to take in the view which lead to us kissing, then making out,” B, junior psychology major, said. “There’s a blind spot all the way at the top of the staircase, so we hooked up there and she performed oral on me while there. We
never got caught.”
“I got a blowjob from my girlfriend on the LIRR here right as we were pulling out of the station,” A, senior mechanical engineering major, said. “There were only a few people on the cart so I don’t think anyone noticed.”
Some students have even confessed to being repeat offenders.
“I did it in a dorm kitchen during sophomore year — wasn’t caught, on the trail behind Tabler during freshman year — wasn’t caught and outside a dorm room freshman year — wasn’t caught,” J, senior applied math and statistics and economics major, said.
In New York state, public sex can be criminalized. Participants may face punitive action for indecent exposure or engaging in a lewd act, which are violations and misdemeanors respectively. Penalties can range from a few days to a few months in jail, and fines can be upwards of $250.
Although not explicitly defined in the University’s Student Conduct Code, students caught could face varying punishments for sexual misconduct among other violations at the discretion of the Office of University of Community Standards.
However, the possible implications have made it more thrilling for some students.
“I was in the Stadium parking lot because I’m a classy bitch,” K, sophomore political science major, said. “The possibility of being caught and getting in trouble made it a lot more exciting.”
If your sex life is starting to feel stale, one of the quickest ways to heat things up is with music. Spotify has an entire category for romance and hundreds of songs can be found on Apple Music. Here are some songs for your own personal playlist.
“Pyramids” by Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean’s voice is like flower petals on silk. It’s soft, sensual and ridiculously sexy. While songs like “Pink Matter” from his 2012 album and “Channel Orange” and “Nights” on his 2016 release “Blonde” are designed for the bedroom, “Pyramids” is the magnum opus of Ocean’s romantic music. His crooning in the first half is sultry and the instrumental breakdown in the second half of the song is beautiful.
“Often” by The Weeknd
Throughout his career, The Weeknd has been known for his dark and sexy music. His earlier releases are all bedroom songs. However, much of the music from his mixtapes and his first album “Kissland” are shallow and nihilistic. Enter “Often” off his 2015 album “Beauty Behind the Madness,” a song that in essence is as cynical and superficial, but supersedes both characteristics at the same time. The Weeknd’s earlier works are observations of the world around him, and he invites you into that world in “Often.” If you are not a fan of the original version, the Kygo remix offers a reinterpretation that is just as sexy.
“All the Time” by Jeremih
Jeremih by himself is not as sexy as his hit “Birthday Sex” suggests. His lyrics are often muddled with drug references that seem hastily thrown in and the production is lackluster. While there are other artists featured on this song, Jeremih outshines them. Assisted by Atlanta crooner Natasha Mosley and rapper Lil Wayne, Jeremih gives us his best sex song to date. The creative use of FCC sensors on the track adds an element of naughtiness that most of his songs do not provide.
“The Bad Touch” by the Bloodhound Gang
This is the most literal song on this list. Have fun.
“At Your Best (You Are Love)” by Aaliyah
The opening moments of this song are just Aaliyah’s voice. It’s a beautiful, intimate moment between the artist and the listener. From there, that moment grows and suddenly, that intimate moment engulfs the environment around you. It is slow and passionate, perfect for love-making. In fact, most of Aaliyah’s discography is like this. It’s inherently sexy, which is why she should be on everyone’s sex playlist.
“Halo” by Beyoncé
When I was in eighth grade, a friend of mine in tenth grade wanted me to download a bunch of songs for him off LimeWire. One of the songs on the list was “Halo.” His reasoning was that Beyoncé’s rich voice made him go crazy whenever he had sex with his girlfriend. The rich instrumentation of the choir in the beginning coupled with the piano creates that same intimate moment that Aaliyah’s voice does. Beyoncé’s voice adds to that moment.
Literally anything by Prince.
Prince was as close to a sex god as we will ever get. He changed his name to a phallic symbol. If that doesn’t scream “I’m into sex” then I don’t know what does. His guitar licks and voice are incredibly sultry. His entire discography is bedroom music.
I remember sitting at my freshman orientation in the fall of 2014 full of anticipation and excitement. I sat in the Staller Center while I learned what to expect here at Stony Brook University. However, that anticipation and excitement soon turned into anger and disgust when the program started addressing sexual assault. There was the requisite “Don’t have sex with people who don’t want to have sex with you,” “Don’t have sex with someone who is unconscious” and what to do if it happened to you. This was all fine and compulsory. However, what bothered me was a group of a few young men about one or two rows in front of me who started snickering and making jokes every time it was mentioned that drunk people can’t consent to sexual activity. I was filled with frustration. Something about consent felt trivial enough to them to ignore. Then it hit me. What if this was the first time that they were explicitly told that it was wrong to engage in sexual activity with someone who did not enthusiastically agree?
That’s when I began to think. The educational portion of the orientation was fine… but it was not enough. If someone is being taught the dynamics of consent when they are entering college, it is too late. Whether they have already had sex, or are planning to in the future, their 17+ years of not having comprehensive education on the complexities of consent have already taken a toll that can be irreparable in our society. Let’s face it. We live in a culture (for this article, I’m focusing on the U.S.) that does not exactly value consent. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network), someone is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men are raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, less than two percent of rapists ever see a day in jail (some may even end up being president) and victims are routinely blamed for their own assaults. Additionally, we live in a society with a very limited idea of what consent is and what can be defined as assault.
This didn’t all go through my head in that one moment. But one thing stuck out to me. We need to start teaching consent earlier. Much earlier. I thought to myself one day, “Why not from birth?” This elicits surprised and sometimes offended reactions from some people. “You’re going to teach infants about sex?” one person asked, as if I was going to teach a newborn how to roll a condom. For the record, no, this isn’t my plan. Mostly because I believe consent is not all about sex. It’s about controlling your body, what you do with it and what is done to it, and that should start from birth.
I support full bodily autonomy for people of all ages. This means, parents, please don’t pierce the ears of your young children who were assigned female at birth, circumcise the penises of your children who were assigned male at birth or force your intersex newborns to undergo corrective surgery. Don’t fix them into immutable gender roles. No “Heartbreaker” onesies or “Ladies Man” bibs. When they are old enough to choose, or begin to explore clothes or toys, let them. Let them explore their gender, their names and their activities, if they want to. Don’t make them hug relatives if they don’t want to. Explain to them the real names of their genitals, how to keep them clean and the difference between a good and bad touch.
Hopefully this goes without saying, but sexual education as a whole needs to improve drastically. Abstinence education does more harm than good and should be defunded. Children from elementary school through high school need age appropriate, evolving sexual education that focuses on pleasure and consent, while presenting all of the possible options (abstinence being one of them, masturbation being another, with many different options in between). There needs to be an expansion of what counts as sex and an acknowledgement of the validity of different sexualities, genders and relationship types. Older children need to be taught how to use different types of barriers and birth control, how to be aware of the different options should a pregnancy occur and how to communicate effectively with (a) partner(s), among many other things.
The ways to teach consent — to instill the values of consent — from a young age and beyond are too numerous to list. But in order to fully address consent, we must also address people’s intersecting identities. In order to live in a society that truly values consent, and where every person has full bodily autonomy, we must also fight racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, whorephobia, ableism and other oppressions that affect how people can move through the world and navigate society. We need to teach that consent is no laughing matter. Most importantly, we need to teach and be taught that everybody and every body is of equal value.
While dating his last girlfriend, Andrew Nahmias found that the only alone time he had with her was in the pool.
“One time we were in the pool so she couldn’t have the phone on her, and we were in the pool for three hours and I was like ‘You know what? This is the longest conversation we have ever had. You know why? Because there’s no phones involved,’” Nahmias, a sophomore psychology major, said.
The third wheel that always separated Nahmias and his girlfriend was nothing more than a phone. And even after pointing that fact out to her, he found that nothing changed.
This act of paying more attention to your phone than your romantic partner is called “phubbing,” and it has put human relationships in difficult and uncertain circumstances.
A Baylor University study conducted by James Roberts, Ph.D., and Meredith David, Ph.D., concluded that 70 percent of married couples fight over their partner’s smartphone use.
“I believe partner phubbing is right up there with the ‘big three’ (money, sex, and kids) in causing conflict in relationships,” Roberts said in an email.
Roberts teaches marketing at Baylor in Waco, Texas. His research is primarily focused on the psychology of consumer behavior. He became interested in the obsession with smartphones after watching his teenage daughters.
“They were totally immersed in their phones and it really was a case of, ‘Together, but alone,’” Roberts said in an email.
It is not only his teenage daughters who experience this obsession. Senior biology major, Sam Richards, finds phubbing annoying, however she said she realizes that she has done it subconsciously to others.
“I didn’t notice I was doing it, and when I stopped, I realized the guy was watching me, just waiting for me to stop doing it,” Richards said. “I think [phubbing] can be harmful in terms of relationships because you’re distracted by something that is not there when the person is right there.”
Roberts suggests couples make a social contract with rewards and consequences to combat phubbing. Katie Gregory, a senior marine science major, is trying just that.
“[Phubbing] bothers the heck out of me, so I have a rule with my boyfriend that if we’re at dinner or something or out and having a conversation, both of our phones are away, face down, not looking at the screen unless it’s like ‘oh, want to see this funny meme?’ because that’s modern romance right there,” Gregory said.
28-year-old Annette Kawire manages phubbing by having designated times for her boyfriend and the phone itself.
“I have my time with him and he gives me my time with my phone,” Kawire, who is taking a Stony Brook leadership class, said. “And now it’s getting easier because there is basketball happening, so he’s on his basketball and I am on my phone and we are very happy.”
Communication is a vital component of successful relationships, Stony Brook sociology professor, Norman Goodman, Ph.D. said.
“Relationships are based upon trust and communication, and if you break down either one of those, it makes the relationship much more difficult,” Goodman said. “How would you like to be talking to someone and they suddenly say, ‘well wait you’re not important enough. I have something over here to do’?”
Goodman teaches two classes, Intimate Relationships and Social Psychology, and he believes that phones have become an issue for relationships now more than ever. Cell phones allow users to constantly stay up to date, but they’re getting in the way of human relationships.
“I think this is a quantum leap to what might have been a minor problem before,” Goodman said. “My wife and I were at a restaurant. It didn’t cause a problem, but before I left work I had some emails sent out and I wanted to see if there was a response, and she said ‘why are you doing that here at the restaurant? Why are you looking at it?’ It was annoying to her.”
Goodman is not a fan of social media when improperly used. He recognizes that the world is becoming more technologically immersed, but he hopes people will limit its use.
“As long as they have the phone, they feel committed to look at it,” Goodman said. “There is almost an insatiable desire to keep up to date… I think it will damage relationships.”
I’m a bisexual, polyamorous feminist in an open relationship with my monogamous, high school-sweetheart boyfriend. Let me say this right at the beginning: I am not trying to save a sinking ship, nor am I trying to compensate for what this relationship might be lacking. The short answer as to why I decided to open my relationship, after much healthy and thorough communication with my boyfriend, is: I’m a lot.
I have a lot of feelings, a lot of emotions and a lot of energy. I crave conversation and connection from all types of people, whether it be my best friend, a stranger on Tinder or that person I keep running into at Starbucks with the nice hair. While I could certainly socialize within a monogamous relationship, I was never able to understand the boundaries it would require. Even if I didn’t technically cheat, what does it mean when I spend late nights in a friend’s driveway, and the conversation gets just a little too deep, the atmosphere a little too intimate? The boyfriend and I had discussed future hypothetical threeways, but what about the woman that sits next to me in class that I’d like to take a walk and hold hands with? I never acted on these loaded moments as a monogamous person, but there was the constant creeping fear that one day, my impulses would win and I’d break not only the love of my life’s heart, but my own respect for myself.
Fortunately, I met people in college in happy, successful, nonmonogamous relationships. I was able to see the nuances of how these relationships work, and how the myths and misconceptions fall away when people can communicate and consent to whatever arrangement fits for them. While my sexuality was definitely a part of my interest, the overall vibe and philosophy of polyamory motivated me to seriously consider it a part of my identity.
Embracing polyamory felt like moving from an awkward family dinner to a conversation with your closest friends. I stopped constantly looking for the line I was afraid of crossing; the protocol established with my boyfriend allows for anything as long as I stay safe and keep him in the loop. When I meet a new person, I no longer worry about whatever physiological reaction my body might have, whether it be a butterfly in the stomach, a tingling in the genitals or just an intellectual spark. Since I started, I haven’t had many committed partners or torrid affairs outside of my primary relationship. However, I feel like the most authentic version of myself to date. I bring all of myself to every interaction, and allow my interactions with people to flow naturally.
As much as I enjoy other partners, the best part for me has been discovering different versions of myself. Being in a long-term relationship, I got comfortable in the specific dynamic I have with my primary partner. That dynamic is still as wonderful and important as it was six years ago when we started dating, but I like to flex other muscles with a new conversational partner. I tend to fall for ridiculously sarcastic people, and flirting becomes a battle of wits. More romantically inclined folks let me live out romcom fantasies that just don’t happen with a serious long-term partner. I like people just as passionate as I am, so we trade roles as student and teacher, respecting and enjoying our different areas of knowledge and experience. Of course, there are as many negatives in poly-dating as any other type of dating, but my journey has been exploratory and patient without too much heartbreak.
I still respect monogamy as a relationship style or identity, and I can imagine there will be times in my life when I choose to return to it. That being said, the ability to keep myself open to possibility and the potential of new relationships have been extremely rewarding as I learn new things about myself, my long-term partner and those around me. Also, people on this campus are cute as heck and now I can embrace all my feelings without guilt or shame.
A note on terminology: Here, I use nonmonogamy, open relationships and polyamory relatively interchangeably. There are distinctions to each that I don’t feel to be an expert on, so please consult the Google.
Peter Caprariello is an assistant marketing professor at the Stony Brook College of Business. Caprariello conducts research on consumer relationship processes, and is interested in various processes affecting how consumers spend money in the pursuit of happiness for themselves and for others.
If you’re at all like me, then when you walk into your local supermarket on Jan. 2, you are bombarded by red and pink messages, loud and clear. Get ready to show your partner some lovin’! Buy candy and chocolates and love! You know what to do! I sure do, you say that Valentine’s Day is approaching. That means dinner dates, gifts and special attention. Thanks a lot, Hallmark! How am I going to get out of this one??
Not everyone is as cynical as me, of course. If you’re like my wife, Valentine’s Day is a joyful occasion. She doesn’t buy into the Don Draper-esque notion that Valentine’s Day is a “Hallmark Holiday.” She gleefully anticipates the opportunity to spend date night with her hubby, to shower him with gifts and to express genuine love and care.
Do either of these perspectives resonate with you? When it comes to Valentine’s Day, are you genuinely excited and happy? Or are you just going through the motions until Feb. 15?
These different perspectives fascinate my research lab. But our interests don’t stop there; we’ve been going one step further, asking questions like: Do partners accurately detect when we are just going through the motions, trying to “get out of jail free?” Or, do partners see us in the best possible light regardless of our intentions? Does accuracy matter? Over the last three years, my lab and I have been diligently trying to answer these questions, specifically with regard to gift-giving.
Here’s how. For Valentine’s Day 2014-2016, we hung flyers around campus recruiting romantic couples. Immediately prior to Valentine’s Day, we surveyed both members of the couple. We first asked how satisfied they were in their relationships. Next, we asked what motivated their own gift-giving, using one measure of obligation motives (an example of an item on this scale is: I’m giving a gift so that I don’t feel guilty) and a separate measure of thoughtfulness motives (I’m doing this because I want to express affection).
Here’s the catch, though. We also asked each person why they thought their partner was giving, using the same scales. In this way, we could compare whether couples were accurately detecting each other’s intentions. Then the couples were free to go about their Valentine’s Day as they would.
A few days after Valentine’s Day, we followed up with our couples. We asked each person, “How happy were you with giving your gift to your partner?”
We first found that reasons for giving varied. Lots of people sounded like me: Just goin’ through the motions, homie. Lots of people sounded like my wife: I’m expressing love, sweet love! More importantly, we found discrepancies between why people reported giving and why their partners thought they were giving. In other words, people often inaccurately detected their partner’s motives, and inaccuracies were not always charitable. What was going on?
We found that relationship satisfaction was a key predictor of inaccuracy. Regardless of the partner’s actual, reported motivation, satisfied dyad members tended to see their partner as giving to them for thoughtful reasons (he’s all about that love, sweet love!). For dissatisfied couples, perceptions tended to downplay thoughtfulness in favor of obligation (she’s just goin’ through motions, homie!).
Furthermore, inaccuracy mattered. The more you saw your partner as giving out of obligation, independently of their actual, reported motives, the less joy you got from giving! Your relationship dissatisfaction was literally sucking the joy out of giving! Of course, the opposite was also true, and is a far more auspicious story; the more you saw your partner as giving out of thoughtfulness, independently of their actual, reported motives, the more joy you got from giving.
So, the news is neither good nor bad. What it tells my lab is that gift-giving holidays can really affect couples, but that this depends on the relationship’s strength leading into the holiday. Couples at risk are those who may be ignoring their dissatisfaction, trying to muster the strength to get through another holiday, despite internal discord. Conversely, couples that are satisfied, content, and committed are likely to benefit from the holiday.
Which brings us back to my wife and I. Even though my cynical views of Valentine’s Day differ with my wife’s romantic ones, this difference in opinion is not the real deal-breaker. Instead, I should focus on the state of our marriage in the days leading up to the holiday, so that our satisfaction during the holiday best colors our perceptions of each other and our intentions. This way, no matter how cynically I respond to those blazing pink and red messages from Hallmark, I can still respond to my wife in a way that she will see as working well. And that, my friends, is how you get out of jail free!