"We were at the library and intended to stay at the library to study,” wrote one senior male about why he had sex in Olin Library in an anonymous survey given out by Red Letter Daze.
For Cornell students trying to balance a demanding course load as well as a social life, having sex in the library can seem like a no-brainer.
Sarah* found it convenient to hook up with a classmate while completing math problem sets.
“It was pretty productive because we would complete a problem set AND hook up during our meetings,” she stated in an e-mail.
Although Emma had gone out to Level B on a Wednesday night a few months ago, she found herself having sex in the basement of Olin after meeting up with a crush who was still studying at 1:30 a.m.
Yet despite the appeal of combining work and pleasure, convenience was not the number one reason given for getting intimate while hitting the books.
Instead, many students cited the list of 161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do. The list, which was compiled by The Sun based on an e-mail survey in 2005, and is updated by editors each year, begins with this: “Make the library into your bedroom and have sex in the stacks.”
“I think people thought it sounded interesting, and put it on the survey, even if they hadn’t necessarily done it, and now it self-perpetuates,” said Kornelia Tancheva, director of Olin and Uris libraries, trying to explain the phenomenon.
At least one student agreed.
“I don’t think the idea to do it would have come up without it being on the list of 161 things,” one student wrote in Daze’s survey.
Cornellians varied in how strictly they were willing to follow the specifications of the list. Some students counted anal sex, oral sex or mutual masturbation — with partners ranging from significant others to “hookups” — while others adjusted the location to include study rooms in Mann Library or library bathrooms.
However, Jenni Warne ’10, a Daze staff writer who writes a column about completing the 161 list, said, “It counts most in Olin or Uris — but not in Mann, because those stacks aren’t classic library enough. It also doesn’t count over the summer.”
When done right, having sex in the stacks has rightfully earned its place as number one on the list since “it’s the most impressive,” according to Warne.
Although exciting to do before graduation, library sex isn’t usually noteworthy from a physical perspective.
“It wasn’t the best sexual experience of my life,” Britney said. “Getting in and out quickly was part of the goal. You’d have to be really courageous to lie down, and standing sex isn’t quite as sexy as it looks in the movies.”
Jim said he and his girlfriend only had sex in the stacks for “about two minutes. It was more about the accomplishment” than the performance.
Perhaps for this reason, when asked whether he would be up for an encore, one junior told Daze, “Hell no. Once to say I did it is enough.”
Still, many other students said they’d be willing to stage a repeat performance.
Some wanted to try the act with a new partner or in a different location, while others, who had partaken in oral sex, wanted to go all the way.
Jim, who like approximately half of the students interviewed, said his initial act was spontaneous, said he wanted to plan out a future encounter so that it would be “legitimate — not just a two-minute romp.”
Cornellians who had planned in advance, employed various tactics to ensure that things went smoothly. Many of the female participants wore skirts, and another paused midway through giving oral sex to pretend to look at a book as someone walked by.
Another couple employed a mutual friend as a lookout.
But even some of the most far-sighted Cornellians overlook at least one detail: what to do after library sex has been consummated.
“I may have hid my condom in a book,” said Jen, a senior who had sex with her boyfriend in the Uris stacks.
Similarly, Jeff K., one of The Sun’s sex columnists, said about receiving a hand-job, “There is a copy of a book somewhere in Cornell’s library that has been defiled, and might have pages that stick together.”
Advance planning may be counter-productive for those who said the thrill of possibly getting caught was part of the fun.
Many students who hooked up in the library did so “for the thrill of it,” “to try something new,” “to feel like a badass,” or, as Emma put it, because, “I have a penchant for sex in public places.”
Laura agreed, telling Daze, “It was exhilarating to be the in library during [a crowded time], but every time I heard a noise I was convinced we were going to get caught.”
So how many students actually get caught with their pants down?
Not many, it appears.
Of more than 20 people who spoke with Daze, only two said they were seen, and not by library staff members.
In fact, Tancheva said she thought having sex in the library was “almost an urban legend. Through the years, we’ve had maybe one or two cases.”
A student working at Olin’s circulation desk agreed. “I think people really only try it when they’re drunk on Slope Day.”
This was certainly the case for Becca. She said she and her boyfriend at the time drunkenly attempted to have sex in the basement of Olin on Slope Day. They were caught by a grad student, however, and left quickly after “it got awkward pretty fast.”
She noted, however, that things could have been much worse, “if we’d actually gotten in trouble.”
Tancheva said, “We can refer someone who does anything inappropriate to the [Judicial Administrator].”
Mary Beth Grant, the Judicial Administrator, referred Daze to a Dear Uncle Ezra column from Dec. 8, 2009 to which she contributed a response about having sex in unusual places on campus. In it she wrote, the Cornell Campus Code of Conduct prohibits an individual from exposing a “private or intimate part of one’s body in a lewd manner” or from committing a “lewd act in a public place.”
Although she has not received referrals from students having sex in the library, they could receive punishments similar to those caught engaging in promiscuous activities on the Slope or in the dorm lounges. These include: “community work, alcohol/drug education, reflection papers, reprimands and/or warnings, [and] could result in a disciplinary record.”
However, none of the other students who spoke with Daze had fooled around during Slope Day, which suggests that most students are able to get away with their actions.
In fact, for some, the most awkward part of the whole thing may be the person with whom they’re having sex.
Sarah, who was hooking up with her math classmate, said, “I refused to see him outside of doing math problem sets [… and] I wouldn’t tell any of my friends [his name] because it was embarrassing.”
Still, several students recommended sex in the library to others, because as Warne said, “It’s the most classic college thing that you won’t be able to do after you graduate.”