Around 2011, casual sex once again hit the headlines. From sex-friend flicks like No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits, to vaguely censorious journalistic deep dives and scholarly analyses, pop culture was obsessed with no-strings-attached sex. Young women were, the breathless reports detailed, having more sex without romantic commitment—and some of us were even liking it.
2011 also happened to be my freshman year of college. I arrived on campus armed with a pair of high-waisted khakis that made my ass look sacred, some great lipstick, and a newly minted birth control prescription. I was young, I was horny, and I was not going to let antiquated things like relationships get between me and the liberated feminist orgasms I was sure characterized college.
If you’ve had the dubious honor of erotically cavorting with college-aged men, you can guess that I was in for a rude awakening. Sure, college brought plenty of no-strings-attached sex. But it also brought the pervasive feeling that those same strings were snaking back around to strangle me and the young women I was friends with. We may have been liberated enough to have sex without commitment, but we weren’t liberated from slut-shaming, orgasm inequality, and sexual violence.