Beyond Sex Ed: Stories from Google

Sept. 10, 2020, 1:05 a.m.

“should i ask a girl to kiss on first date”

I typed this into the Google search bar in anticipation of my date with Jen. I had never been on a date before, much less kissed someone — so I truly had no clue what to do. I had scrolled through countless Reddit threads, Quora posts and random articles that were split in telling me yes, I should ask, or no, I shouldn’t. My first internet scan left me more confused about what to do than before — that is, until I came across a random forum post on a random website.

The post described someone’s first date with a guy at a hockey game. She said that they had a blast, that he was exactly what she looked for in a guy. At the end of the date, she recalled that he asked to kiss her — the “cherry on top” for her. Knowing that anything involving her body would be her choice made her feel super comfortable. She was impressed by his asking, and found it cute. They shared a great kiss and were still dating.

So maybe for my first kiss ever, I should probably ask, right?

Jen and I were watching Moana, but I couldn’t tell you anything about the movie because my mind was racing, trying to figure out how I was going to kiss her. My body was contorted in an awkward position as I tried to avoid the armrest jabbing into my back. I was proud of the fact that I put my arm around her. Sure, it was uncomfortable and awkward in the small theater seats, but I figured the arm-wraparound was the first step to kiss her. I glanced over at her and saw her face focused on the movie. My heart was beating out of my chest. Maybe I shouldn’t kiss her. I should just wait for another time.

No, I should ask her. This is going to be the cherry on top of a great date.

“Do you want to kiss?”

She immediately looked over and nodded her head yes.

With the help of a story from an anonymous user on the internet, I scored not one but two kisses on my first date ever. What’s more — Jen wanted to go on another date, and another and another. Eventually we became a couple.

I’ve always put trust in stories. Whether I’m looking for ideas for dates or gifts, advice on settling arguments, sex, or just how to grow together as a couple, I’ve looked to stories to give me an answer. While there are, for instance, academic studies on relationships, reading about someone’s experiences provided a more relatable, interesting, and entertaining avenue for me to learn how to be the best boyfriend I could. From our first date, stories never failed me in my two-year relationship with my best friend, Jen.

With college on the horizon, however, our relationship reached a turning point. During the summer after my senior year of high school, I desperately scoured the web, trying to find anything that could help justify staying in a relationship during college. Instead, I found stories describing people drifting away and becoming strangers, or staying in the relationship during their freshman and sophomore years but ending it during their junior year when it simply became too much of an effort.

I also considered what I could miss if I stayed in my relationship. Family always talked about how college is the best time of life, and how I would meet so many new people. Friends told me about hookup culture. They came home from college and recounted stories about how they had hooked up with four different girls in four days. The stories promised me that when I went to college I would have girls all over me, making me more manly and more popular, and therefore happier than I would be in a committed relationship. Nowhere did I hear stories about someone’s amazing long-distance relationship in college.

So, Jen and I mutually decided to break up for college, largely influenced by the stories we had heard. I was sad, but not broken. We broke up, but I mean, we were gonna stay best friends, right? We could still talk. The next day, we FaceTimed, and I said “I love you” without even noticing.


During NSO, watching Beyond Sex Ed, I couldn’t have been more moved by the honesty of the storytelling. This was like a real-life Reddit thread with people sharing raw experiences — yet this time I could attach faces to their stories. They took me on their journeys, and I shared in the tears, laughter and excitement they invoked. Yet, although I resonated with aspects of their stories, none of them told my story. I still esteemed college hookup culture as something that I needed to experience.

I was still texting Jen when I got to college, very much in love with her. I wondered whether sex was just a physical act, or something more to me. Were the stories I’d heard about hookup culture wrong? I dismissed these thoughts — I was excited to get out, participate in hookup culture and finally live out the stories that I had been told. I partied and drank for the first time, I flirted with girls for the first time in a while, and finally, I found a small connection with someone.

After some talking, I got a message from the girl asking if I wanted to hookup. I got on my bike and began riding to her dorm. I psyched myself up as I rode. What kind of guy would say no to sex?

When I looked at her, I could only see how she was not Jen. I felt sick and empty. I felt as though I was sharing something so personal and intimate with someone I wasn’t even really friends with. In stark contrast with the sex I had with Jen — where I was completely in tune with myself and with her — I realized here that I was absent, doing a disservice to both of us. People had told me that sex was better in a relationship, but I still expected casual sex to leave me feeling empowered and “more masculine.” Instead, without an emotional connection, the act simply felt foreign and left me feeling no better about my self-image. The promise was not fulfilled.

Maybe if someone on the internet, one of my friends, or someone on the Beyond Sex Ed stage had shared that story, my experiences with relationships in college might have been different. But I am where I am: Jen and I are still split up, and hookup culture isn’t appealing to me. And that’s okay, because maybe others can learn from my story.


This experience thought motivated me to take the class Storycraft: Sexuality, Intimacy, & Relationships (FEMGEN 21T). From the first day, I knew the class was special. Even though we were on Zoom, the intimacy of the space was palpable. Brianna and Kane, the instructors, shared their stories, and I couldn’t help but be overcome by the truth they told. Listening to them recount their triumphs and defeats, I felt as if I witnessed significant portions of their lives firsthand. I saw other members of the class felt the same way, which was something I couldn’t see in the darkness of MemAud when I attended Beyond Sex Ed during NSO. I realized it wasn’t just me using stories to learn about how to live life: we all relate by telling our stories and listening to others’ stories, looking for common experiences.

During Week 5 of the class, we told our stories for the first time. I was scared to open up and tell it. I had not practiced at all and was worried about opening myself up to judgment, so my partner went first. Immediately his story’s premise of transitioning from a serious relationship in high school to being single in college hit me. We shared a similar story. As he described in his words what I had felt, I was immersed in his experiences and reliving my experiences. I wish I had heard his story earlier. Even as late as Beyond Sex Ed — three days after arriving on campus — it might have allowed me to rethink the promise of hookups. It might have given me an alternative perspective to consider when envisioning what I wanted my college experience to be. Perhaps knowing that I wasn’t alone would have given me the confidence I needed to diverge from what I heard college was “supposed” to be for guys. The moment after hearing this one story, I was no longer afraid to tell mine.

There are no statistics about how to live college life to the fullest — only stories. I defaulted to going with what I heard. Therefore, we need spaces where individuals can flesh out their experiences without fear so that we can learn from each other; a space where truths do not have to be exaggerated or glossed over; a space where others can listen to stories that resonate with them, show them a different perspective.

In StoryCraft, I was able to learn about myself by engaging with the experiences of others in a way that I had never done before — far more than what any Google search could have given me. It is now my goal to share my authentic story, hoping that perhaps someone else can have the epiphany that they are not alone, and then choose what is true for them. 

This op-ed was granted anonymity due to privacy concerns.

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