Features

Putting up the ‘do not disturb’ sign

Sexiling forces some students to lead a nomadic and couch-hopping lifestyle

By
Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 30, 2014

When sexually active students take full custody of their dorm rooms, their roommates seek refuge in dorm hallways, lounges and friends’ rooms, a retreat that can affect both their health and schoolwork.

At 3 a.m. during reading period last semester, Ben, a junior, was about to head back to his dorm when he received a text from his roommate.

“Don’t come back to the room,” it read.

Ben, whose name — like those of several students interviewed for this article — has been changed to maintain confidentiality, spent the night in the Littlefield lounge, just one night of many that he had to find a place to crash while his roommate and his “live-in girlfriend” occupied the room.

“One week I was sexiled at least four times,” he said. “It was just a really frequent disruption of my life,” affecting not only his sleeping patterns but also his health and his grades, he added.

 

‘I’m sexiled’

Most students define sexiling as the phenomenon of being “exiled” from their own living quarters by a roommate who is hooking up with someone.

Gwyneth, a senior, said during her first year, she walked in on her roommate in the act and was subsequently relegated to the dorm hallway.

“I didn’t really have anything to do, so I just sat outside,” she said. Passersby asked her what she was doing, she recalled, to which she responded, “I’m sexiled!”

On the nights when he was sexiled, Ben said, he would try to “kill time by hanging out at a friend’s place.”

“I would be sexiled at the most inopportune times,” Ben said. Most of the time, the only notice he received was a text telling him not to return to the room for a while, he added.

 

Patience is a virtue

Despite the wide spectrum of experiences, many students said they have remained patient with their roommates when it came to being sexiled.

Macy, a sophomore, was once forewarned prior to being sexiled during her first year. She said her roommate had asked to have the room to herself for a weekend because her boyfriend was visiting from out of town.

“I didn’t like the idea of sleeping anywhere other than my own bed, but it turned out to be totally okay,” she said. Still, she added, she was “a little bit frustrated” and probably would not have tolerated it again.

Patrick, a junior, was at the opposite end of the spectrum.

During his first year, Patrick’s roommate once asked if his girlfriend could spend the night, but told Patrick he didn’t have to leave when Patrick offered. Then, when “they thought I was asleep,” they had sex, he said.

“It was the longest night ever,” he said.

The next time she stayed late, “I just walked out of the room and didn’t come back until the morning,” Patrick said.

 

Laying down ground rules

Many students emphasized the importance of communication about using the room, including being notified well before being sexiled.

“I’d be cool with being sexiled if I knew about it in advance,” Patrick said.

“It was only a big deal when it was sprung on me and I didn’t have much notice,” said Emily Schell ’16. After a couple of instances, she added, she and her roommate had a conversation in which they agreed on specific parameters to maintain.

Gwyneth said she would draw the sexiling line at no more than twice a week, and also noted the importance of advance notice. “I was annoyed that I wasn’t aware it was going to happen.”

Schell said communication and cohesive dialogue are key. “Sexiling in particular is an awkward topic to breach.”

Though Ben raised the issue with his roommate several times, and his roommate had made promises to change and to “try making it less obtrusive,” Ben recalled, “it never really happened.”

Patrick also reached a vague agreement with his roommate, which resulted in a “mutual understanding” between the pair, he said. “I just took it in stride and brushed it off.

“If I could go back, I would’ve been more upfront and more direct about the whole thing much earlier on.”

 

ResLife

Once the sexiling began to affect Ben’s health and schoolwork, he considered requesting the Office of Residential Life for a roommate change, he said. He was ultimately deterred because the school year was nearing its end.

“By the time I would’ve gone through the system it would’ve been the end of the year,” he said.

Schell, who was a Women Peer Counselor last semester, said though residential peer leaders are trained to help students with issues such as sexiling, she is unsure how many students feel comfortable coming forth about it.

Isabelle Thenor-Louis ’16, a Residential Counselor and Herald staff writer, said especially in first-year halls, “students might have a tendency to keep it to themselves more because they don’t want to seem like a bother to their roommate.”

Natalie Basil, director of residential experience for ResLife, said the office has encountered roommate conflicts that involve sexiling, but it is often “one of several (issues) that come as a package.”

When a student does come forward with a complaint about a roommate, ResLife follows standard procedures.

Students are first encouraged to be proactive and to have the conversation on their own, Basil said. Most students attempt to manage the situation internally, she added. If this fails, the next step is for the students to speak to their RPLs. If this conversation does not resolve the conflict, the roommates are then referred to one of six community directors on campus. These mediators facilitate a final conversation, offer resources and ultimately facilitate a roommate swap as a last resort, she said.

Macy said if the sexiling had continued to happen, she “wouldn’t have tolerated it.” In that sort of situation, “I think it’s very reasonable to ask for a roommate switch.”

If more people acknowledged sexiling as an issue, students might come forth to their RPLs more willingly, Schell said.