Cardiff University hit the headlines recently as it was revealed that an events promotion company in the city was handing out “shag charts” to students during Freshers’ Week.
The charts were distributed by Climax Promotions as part of their £25 Freshers’ packs, and featured space for the names of who students had slept with, to be written on luminous pink phalluses.
Cardiff University’s student union has distanced itself from the company, condemning the “lad culture” they say it promotes, but newspaper coverage of the charts has generally portrayed them as representative of student culture as a whole.
It’s easy to see why abundant shagging is seen as part of life for incoming students – you’re away from your parents for the first time and thrown into a building with hundreds of other newcomers.
It’s become part of the student myth: take a quick look at the forum The Student Room and you’ll see a myriad of threads on the topic. Which university has the hottest girls? Is it easy to get laid in halls? Will my boyfriend cheat on me when he goes to university? It seems to be accepted that lusty, naked antics are as much a part of university life as all-night essay sessions and awkward seminars.
Then there’s the student drinking culture. With cheap drinks on midweek nights, free entry with your student card and some exclusive Freshers’ Week offers, bars and clubs have carved out their place in student life.
Second year saw me turning up to so many of my Thursday morning grammar lectures hungover that one of the professors thought I was going through a deep personal crisis. I wasn’t – my favourite club night was on a Wednesday. Casual attitudes towards booze feed the sex culture, because how better to get over your shyness around that hot guy down the corridor than by downing a few pints of Magic?
Incidentally, the Cardiff shag charts also featured a “chunder chart” on the same page – hopefully they weren’t encouraging an intermingling of the two.
But where does that leave those of us who don’t participate in that side of things? When I started my first year, I did so as a stay-at-home student, like many others. My parents can be pretty nosy and not so liberal, so there was no bringing boys home, and I wasn’t meeting new people every weekend at parties or through the people in the flat next door.
Most of all, I was shy around the guys I did meet, and had very little confidence in myself. I was lucky enough to fall very quickly into a group of friends where sex and drinking culture wasn’t a massive deal, but I still sometimes felt a little left out, being so far from the fabled Murano Street lifestyle. I worried a lot that I was missing out on some integral part of growing up. Wasn’t this supposed to be my time to go wild? Shouldn’t I be out clubbing or at a flat party every other night, rather than every other weekend? Was I, God forbid, just a bit boring?
Of course, that wasn’t the case. Above all, university is a place where you can truly be yourself, and meet people who appreciate you for it. If you want to go crazy and sleep with a different person every other night, that’s cool, but it’s fine to be a virgin well into your dissertation too. If you’d rather stay home with a book than pull an all-nighter on Sauchiehall Street, then do just that. Hell, if you like, then do both at once – take your Kindle on the bus to pre-drinks, if it’ll fit in your handbag.
There’s more to us than how many tequila shots we can stomach, or how many notches we can make on our cheap Ikea bedposts. University offers you not only four years of self-discovery, but also time to find other people who accept you, whether you’re a hardcore hedonist, a studious library resident, or somewhere in between. Be who you are and who you want to be, and you’ll have the best time of your life. Whether you manage to fill out a shag chart is just a footnote.
NB: Of course, if you are planning on a casual hook-up soon, make sure it’s safe! The QMU’s free condom service is available three days a week and also offers a selection of latex free and female condoms, as well as lube, so get stocking up.
[Lauren Cummings – @__laurenC]