Are Yale Guys Bad at Sex?

College papers are often a megaphone for jerky guys to talk about how fat, ugly, or slutty their female classmates are. But now the shoe is on the other foot — a Yale student is getting a lot of attention for her column alleging that "guys at Yale are bad in bed."

Here's the crux of Maria Yagoda's argument, published Friday in the Yale Daily News:

The remarkable scarcity of nice-looking, not-evil and socially adjusted straight single males (NLNESASSM) is a real issue on Yale's campus, particularly in light of the abundance of nice-looking, not-evil and socially adjusted straight single females. Guys are rare commodities, and they are all too aware of it. This is why they get away with a lot. I don't understand the economy, but having read the business section a few times, I have a sense of how supply and demand works. Because the demand for NLNESASSM is so high, the meager supply of NLNESASSM will always be desired, sought after and shamelessly hit on, regardless of their sexual performance or effort. Thus there is no incentive for them to improve, particularly when the whole experience will be over in a few hours and they're not trying to date the girl, or even friend her on Facebook. Female pleasure is pushed aside. Besides, if a guy can continually get with girls without making them orgasm, why would he try?

Yagoda does lay some of the blame for bad sex on ladies: "Yale women too often perpetuate the problem by not standing up for what makes their vaginas happy — by faking orgasms, by silently tolerating atrocious oral sex, and, perhaps the most rampant offense (which I practically invented), by seeking and continuing to have unsatisfying sexual relations with NLNESASSM." And she blames "hookup culture" in general for perpetuating low-stakes sexual encounters where people don't want to bother talking about their turn-ons. But the biggest culprits for bad sex at Yale, she says, are men who aren't trying hard enough, and who don't know how to deal with women asking for what they really want. She concludes with a call to action: "I urge women to start Saying No to Awful Sex (Thank You!), or SNASTY. [...] Let's send a clear message to men who suck at sex that we're SNASTY, and they're going to have to work a little harder."

Unsurprisingly, the column got a lot of traffic on the Yale Daily News site, and has spawned a lot of discussion on campus. I contacted Yagoda herself, who broke down the reactions to her piece into five categories:

1) Men who think it's funny. I've gotten a lot of emails from male friends who think it is hilarious, and even true.
2) Men who are offended by it. If you look at the comments on the actual link, there are a huge amount of negative comments, and I assume these are mostly from men. Men are talking about it and think, in a lot of ways, it's unfair and puts too much pressure on male performance. I got an email from a guy who said the article was hurtful because a lot of guys are already really insecure about sexual performance, and this is going to make things so much worse now that they know girls actually talk about this stuff amongst themselves.
3) Literally every woman at Yale is obsessed with it/finds it true. I've gotten a huge amount of random, positive responses. Women in relationships, single, and somewhere in between are resonating with it and posting it on their facebooks/twitters / etc. It's hugely gratifying!!! So many women are coming up to me and saying, Thank God you wrote that! I've been waiting for this article for so long; all of this stuff needs to be said!
4) Classroom discussions. Apparently classes and sections are talking about my article. My friend's Russian class. Another friend's lab. A class on relationships at Slifka, Yale's Jewish cultural center. And so many more.
5) Men who took this article as a challenge and now are shamelessly hitting on me! I went to a party on Saturday night and at least three guys came up to me and were like, "Well, you haven't had sex with me yet, so you don't know..." and then followed me around, hitting on me all night.

She added that if she had the column to write over again, "maybe I would have put less of an emphasis on male performance were I to re-write the article, and made instead communication the absolute center of the article, but then again, I think it's important to take jabs at guys, considering it NEVER happens and literally every single straight female friend I have here is unsatisfied with the men, and the men usually treat them all like shit."

As Yagoda points out, a number of commenters found her article sexist — says one, "next we'll have 'Yale Women are Ugly and Impossibly Neurotic'? Or something...? Seriously WTF." It's true that Yagoda's piece has some uncomfortable similarities to those undergrad screeds about ugly girls that are so perennially popular — and telling Yale guys that they're all bad in bed isn't particularly charitable given that young people in general (and Yagoda admits this) aren't necessarily great at sexual communication. Frankly, the column is mean.

But if you can see through the meanness, Yagoda's saying something bigger about male-female relations at Yale. She's not just saying that men don't know how to please women — which wouldn't necessarily be their fault, especially if the women aren't talking — she's saying they don't care to. The way she sees it, men on campus have the upper hand to such a degree that they don't have to worry about men's sexual pleasure. Why is this? Yagoda offered this clarification:

I don't think that Yale men treat women badly. I do think — and I can say this with relative confidence — that college-aged guys treat women immaturely, and I thin this is why my article has resonated among girls from different schools. I don't think there's any maliciousness here at Yale, but guys definitely have the upper hand in sexual situations because girls are scared to speak out/share their opinions/communicate with guys. And in the experiences I've had/heard about, girls are super forgiving — that is, they go back again and again to guys who aren't satisfying sexually, and who even aren't decent people.

Assuming you accept the premise that college women are forgiving of men who are careless or immature — and I'm sure there are some undergrad ladies who have dumped dudes for exactly those reasons — there are a couple of possible explanations. Young women are still taught that male attention validates them in some way, and they may be willing to seek it even at the cost of crappy sex. Also, what with all the "end of men" rhetoric these days, we're pretty much told that all men are lazy, whining shits — why should college ladies ask for more? If we take anything substantive from Yagoda's piece, it should be that women don't deserve to be second-class sex citizens. She's talking about a power imbalance, not a skill imbalance, which is something that just teaching guys better oral sex technique won't fix. Although, let's be honest, it couldn't hurt.

Just say no (to awful sex) [Yale Daily News]

Image via Albie Bredenhann/Shutterstock.com