In our eyes, dating and intimacy is one of the weirdest, messiest experiences we’ll encounter in our young adult lives. It also tends to feel like it’s practically woven into the university experience: We hear stories from our roommate, see classmates making out at parties, and start to remember those movies we watched while we were growing up. It’s all pretty new, and we have no idea, really, what to do, but we figure we should go out and try it for ourselves.
The problem is: like most other complicated, human experiences, dating and intimacy takes some time to get right. It will almost surely go wrong the first few times we try. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s perfectly normal. The tough part is realizing that unlike other topics we learn about, when it comes to dating & intimacy, we have virtually no positive examples of what it should look like or how we should go about it.
It’s kinda like watching your teacher write an interesting problem on the board, but choose to only show a bunch of incorrect ways to solve the problem.
It’s also tough because the consequences of not being adequately prepared for the realities of dating and intimacy can cause a lot of harm and distress.
Normally, the internet, coupled with the advice of those we love, can help us navigate what we don’t know. However, the information we encounter online tends to focus on the dark spots: the endless misogyny in porn, the hyper-sexual or predatory behavior we see on TV, and the countless reported instances of sexual assault in the workplace and on college campuses. The topic also feels taboo for a lot of people and can be uncomfortable to bring up or talk about.
The problem is that we don’t have many other resources. There are a handful of positive, volunteer-driven sexual education initiatives, and interesting articles with research and advice from scholars who study psychology and relationships. But even these are hard to find, and they only reach the people who look for them.
When we asked 30 college students to identify a relationship they look to or hope to emulate, we were often met with a long pause. Sometimes, they’d mention a couple in a movie, or a friend/acquaintance’s relationship, but most of the time, it was hard for individuals to identify even one healthy relationship in their life.
This is troubling to us because we believe having positive examples is what allows us to learn.
When faced with a problem we haven’t encountered, we look to positive examples:
- We watch videos on YouTube to learn a skill, to get fit, or to fix something that’s broken
- We visit StackOverflow to understand development best practices and possibilities
- We read books and literature to learn from those around us and use the experiences they’ve had to supplement or inform our own
Dating and intimacy shouldn’t be any different. At The Coral, we refuse to believe the best way to learn about dating & intimacy is to experience unknown, complicated situations before we have the resources or tools we need to do so safely and happily.
That’s why we’re on a mission to be the big sisters we never had, and share what we’ve learned in order to give other young people the tools they need to be safe, confident, and authentic while navigating dating and intimacy in college!
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Important Note: The Coral doesn’t have all the answers. In fact, we personally struggle with these issues every day, and we’re still learning how to navigate them in new and powerful ways. So help us continuously improve by engaging with our content and helping us learn how to provide tools you'll find most helpful!
It’s also worth noting that although we’re focused on supporting the next generation of young women, these issues are not wholly unique to any age group or identity, and we hope the tools we provide are valuable to humans in all walks of life.