Traditional dating rules no longer apply – with freshers’ weeks underway across the country, here’s what really goes on at university.
Just when you think you’ve learnt the laws of dating, they go and change every last rule in the book. Teenagers today have grown up in a culture where television sitcoms dissect the “third date rule” and pop songs talk of true love. But as university students navigate the mayhem of freshers’ week, they can give up on waiting for their first date of the term.
Dating, boyfriends and exes have followed “courtship” to become quaint relics of the past. Instead, get used to a world where couples “see each other”, exes “have a history” and casual dating means “we have a thing”.
Welcome to university
It’s no secret that students have a lot of sex. There are no early-morning starts, plenty of opportunities for drunken liaisons, and hundreds of possible partners – all of whom spend their days reading, snacking on toast and hanging out in groups for hours on end. Traditional concerns about when to have sex and with whom aren’t completely absent from campus but are treated as curious and unnecessary constraints on a good time.
Leeroy, who’s about to start his third year at Manchester University, says a relaxed attitude towards sex is standard, and he’s slept with six women and kissed another “40 or 50” since starting university. But in keeping with the collegiate atmosphere, his partners aren’t unfamiliar one night stands but friends who he sees regularly at parties. For a while, Leeroy had sex every day with a student living on the floor below him in halls – “we’re still friends now”, he says.
And in two years of studying at Manchester University, Leeroy’s only been on one date, which he says was “really awkward”. “She was not my type at all but I just went along with it and pretended I was into One Direction and was a Christian. She invited me to her flat and we slept together. I never asked her out again,” he adds.
Leeroy may sound like the kind of callous lothario that worried fathers warn their daughters against, but the English literature student insists that no one was hurt. After all, he says, “it’s not like she asked me out again either” – and the pair still chat whenever they see each other around campus.
Traditionalists may squirm, but Leeroy’s experience is typical of students across the country. Formal dating is now a rarity, with many students unlikely to go on one date as a way to get to know a potential love interest. Instead, students have plenty of free time to socialise in groups, and so friendship, sex and romance blend together.
Leeroy is a fan of the social set up. Apart from the time he caught two STDs – chlamydia and gonorrhoea at the same time – and one instance with a girl who bit his lip until it was swollen, he says he has no regrets about his sex life. Forget worries about third-date sex or anxious chat up lines – university students have thrown structure out the window in their hunt for love and sex. But while dating is a rarity, university romances are as complicated as ever.