The Question: What is dating like at Brown?

Photo Credit to Olivia Cummings! MPCs offer workshops covering a variety of topics related to dating and sexual health – this one about sexism on campus (not inherently related, but the format is similar!)
Photo Credit to Olivia Cummings! MPCs offer workshops covering a variety of topics related to dating and sexual health – this one about sexism on campus (not inherently related, but the format is similar!)

Welcome to The Question, where you’ll get answers about life at Brown all year long! I’m Celina Stewart, and I’ll be bringing you insights (and photos!) into my fourth year at Brown and my answers to some of the questions I wish I’d asked before college. 

Like I promised last week, this column is now going to divide its time between “social issues” like relationships, friendship, family, and other good things in addition to questions about “typical” college issues like coursework, professors, and dealing with Providence weather (let’s get real, I walked outside in a hoodie and no gloves this morning and severely regretted it when my fingers froze on the walk home).

To be honest, I didn’t think to be concerned about the social scene when I was looking at colleges; I felt like if I got into a great school, everyone would be great, and we’d sip coffee and everything would fall into place. While that idea is romantic, it wasn’t realistic. Every school has a different feel, especially in terms of nightlife, social life, study culture, and areas to gather. I’ve loved visiting friends at NYU and eating at dive restaurants, or visiting my friends at Princeton or Dartmouth and chilling in their beautiful houses. If you get the chance when you visit schools, take the opportunity to hang out with students and ask any questions you have. These questions do matter, and may make the difference between a great fit, a good fit, and a transfer request later on.

In terms of dating, I want to provide information on the social aspects of dating, as well as the institutional promotion of a culture of healthy intimacy at Brown for students interested in pursuing relationships when they arrive. That being said, no matter your gender identity, sexual preference, or desire for intimacy, this post can shed light on services Brown offers that can keep you healthy, regardless of your interest in dating (or complete lack thereof).

So, I’ll answer the question no one wants to ask, but many people secretly wonder: What is dating like at Brown?

The first thing I have to say is that by no means do you have to date at Brown, nor is it required or ~encouraged~ to have a fun, outgoing (or ingoing, if that’s more your style!), or fulfilling experience here. Many students choose not to date during their time at Brown, and that is completely accepted and respected. Other students choose to date outside of the Brown community, have long distance relationships, or to use dating apps like Tinder or Grindr to find romance as they go, and opt out when they no longer seek romantic interest. All of these paths are totally accepted, regardless of your gender identity, sexual preferences, or desired level of physical intimacy.

In terms of dating, students take different approaches. I know some people who came to Brown with long-distance partners, and made that work for several years. A couple of my friends developed relationships at the beginning of their time at Brown and are still together now, in our Senior years. Some casually flirted for a couple years, and are now dating. A couple had short relationships and have been happy both in and out of relationships. Some of my friends have never dated during their time at Brown, and are quite content not to. This all goes to say that there is no one way to date people at Brown.

One thing Brown emphasizes and actively promotes is safe sexual practices and a culture of consent. I recognize that at the time of writing this, sexual assault is still a concern for many students on campus, and understandably so in terms of national reform and accountability to students. However, it is not my place in this column to address these issues (if you want to know more, email me and I can direct you to resources). I also recognize that sexual assault and consensual intimacy are very different acts, and I do think that for students looking to learn more about consent and to actively participate in safe, consenting relationships, Brown provides many ways to learn how to actively protect yourself while having fun.

I’ve already mentioned the sexual health vending machines in a previous post, but Brown also offers STI screenings, gynecological examinations, pharmaceutical services, and information about healthy relationships (or how to prevent or get out of an unhealthy relationship) through Health Services. Health Services also tries to be very open and receptive regarding the concerns of LGBTI+ students, using preferred pronouns and trying to make their services comfortable for all students (I use qualitative language as I cannot personally speak to those experiences but have been asked many times what my preferred pronoun is and if I have any special concerns before appointments).

Further, we have a group called Sexual Health Awareness Group (SHAG) which offers workshops, teaching events, and a text service to respond to questions at all hours. One of my favorite freshman “programs” was a SHAG pizza party where we played sexual health trivia and learned in a safe, fun way. Also, all residential peer leaders (RPLs) offer safe sex items on their doors and are willing to talk to students who have concerns about entering, continuing, or leaving relationships.

That being said, by no means do you have to engage in any form of sexual engagement during your time at Brown – something groups like SHAG or the folks holding “Consent Day” (a day where you perform consent-related trivia and games and usually walk away with a coveted “Consensual Sex is HOT” shirt) explicitly reinforce.

What I’m getting at here, if you couldn’t tell, is that dating at Brown takes as many forms as there are students, and no two relationships or styles of dating are the same. If you’re looking for someplace to go wild and experiment your heart out, feel free. If you’re looking to have a nurturing relationship that grows over your time at Brown, feel free. If you’re looking for companionship but not physical intimacy, feel free. If you’re looking to focus on your academic work, build friendships, and otherwise avoid dating, feel free. The Brown community is inclusive, supportive, and fortunately, incredibly open in terms of providing information, resources, and accepting students’ needs and desires.

Want more photos and FAQ updates? Check out @thebruinclub on Twitter! Have questions or comments for me? Want more details?  Send an email to celina_stewart@brown.edu and I’ll get back ASAP!

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