The Coral

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In our eyes, dating and intimacy is one of the weirdest, messiest experiences of our young adult lives. It also feels 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 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.

Project Focus

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Our goal is to share tools that'll help us all be more confident, authentic, and safe while navigating college dating and intimacy.

Therefore, we focus our efforts in the following categories:

Wellness

  • How do you care for your physical and mental health?

There is a lot to balance in college. For most of us, it’s the first time we’re away from home with the freedom to decide how we want to live our lives. There are also countless activities, classes, clubs, and social events to explore, so learning to juggle all of the possible applications of one’s time can be overwhelming. When we aren’t quite sure what to prioritize, a lot of our activity is simply dictated by what feels the most immediate or causes the most anxiety.

What’s on fire today? What’s due tomorrow? Who is the closest to a breakdown?

Over time, this mentality makes it hard to prioritize our own health and wellbeing. We fill up our ToDo lists with things other people expect of us, and we forget to take time for ourselves in order to feel healthy and happy.



SELF-AWARENESS

  • How do you understand yourself?

Figuring out who you are is a big part of the classic ‘college experience.’ We spend a lot of time exploring and trying things we’ve never done before so we can better understand what we might want to spend the rest of our lives doing. But there is a constant flow of opportunities to explore, and sometimes we can get caught up in it.

That’s why it’s important to pause and figure out if we’re prioritizing what’s important to us.

What do we care about most? What deserves our greatest time, attention, and focus? How can we get where we ultimately want to end up?

We also need to be self-aware and knowledgeable about our feelings, tendencies, and motives so we can understand what we are (and are not) looking for when we start exploring dating and intimacy. Knowing ourselves allows us to better understand how our actions affect others and how their actions affect us.


Relationships

  • How do you begin, sustain, or end a relationship?

On top of our busy schedules and extracurricular pursuits, we want to meet and connect with others. Sometimes, we get lucky and find friends or partners quickly (maybe close to where we live, in classes, online, or other places we already spend time in), but it’s not always that easy — sometimes it’s hard to know where to start:

Am I spending time with the right people?
What should I do if I want to meet someone new?
What do I say if I’m interested in someone (or not)?


It doesn’t get any clearer once you’re in a relationship either. Everyone has their own set of past experiences, therefore every relationship is different. So it takes some time to figure out what works and doesn’t work:

How should I carry myself when my relationship isn’t super defined?
What do I do to progress things or slow them down?
What do I do when things aren’t going well?


Regardless of whether it’s friends or more than friends there aren’t any shortcuts when it comes to relationships; good relationships require work.


Communication

  • How do you effectively communicate with others?

Engaging with other humans is one of those skills we just have to learn. It also never seems to get easier. Of course, we have mobile phones and social media to help us stay connected to the ones we care about, but that doesn’t always make it easier to communicate, and sometimes can make it even harder to connect in person.

No matter the medium, it can be hard to figure out just what to say or when to say it. Sometimes we even struggle to communicate our most basic needs and desires:

How do I let them know I’m interested in them?
How do I communicate my boundaries?
How do I tell my partner when I feel hurt?


Physical Intimacy

  • How do you ensure you and your partner(s) feel good when you engage physically?

Sex and physical intimacy on campus is a tough topic. For a lot of young people, college is a great opportunity to explore sexually and learn what we like and don't like. However, college drinking and hook-up culture can make sexual exploration confusing and problematic when we aren't able to effectively communicate with our partners (to ask for consent, require protection, or set clear boundaries). Sometimes, we feel pressured and aren't sure if there is consent, or we participate in sexual acts because we feel it's expected of us.

This cultural expectation is often perpetuated by dating apps, social pressures, as well as gender roles, which can make it hard to speak up and advocate for the kind of sex and intimacy we really want.

FAQ's

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Why did you start The Coral?

We started the coral after we realized:

  • College would have been far easier if we'd had an older sister to show us the ropes

  • Although we've struggled over and over with dating & intimacy issues in college, we've learned a couple of things along the way

  • One conversation could make all the difference — when we share our stories and advice with other women, we give them the tools they need to navigate tough and unfamiliar situations


We believe

  • We can learn a lot from each other (we all have a little piece of the puzzle figured out)

  • There is a lot to navigate when it comes to dating and intimacy (taking care of your body & mind, learning about what you like / dislike, connecting and communicating with others, navigating social media, etc.)

  • There are countless examples of what not to do, but hardly any examples of what to do (and we think that's lame)


Why is The Coral targeted towards women? Don’t you think men (and other identities) would benefit from this kind of guidance too?

Absolutely. The Coral’s target audience is a topic we’ve talked about at length and plan to continually revisit. Dating and intimacy is tough no matter who you are, and honestly, we’d love to build accessible resources around dating and intimacy for a wide variety of identities and realities. However, given that we’re just starting out, and our team consists of women, we’ve chosen to initially focus our efforts towards women. Put another way, The Coral is for women, but isn’t not for men (or any other identity).


It's FOR women because:

  • We are women. We’ve had a singular set of experiences, and we feel those experiences have equipped us with the context and confidence to write about this topic in a way we feel will benefit and empower other women. Ideally, this wouldn't have to be gendered at all, but we aren’t blind to the fact that dating and intimacy is a shockingly gendered experience — writing about it from the perspective of women is something we’re excited about doing.

  • Women are subjected to cultural expectations that encourage us to be small and silent. Some of our closest friends (who are also incredibly wise, strong, and confident) repeatedly struggle to speak up and tell a partner about their most basic needs or wants in the context of a relationship. One key reason for this is that men typically have the power and control in relationships (whether they realize it or not). And women, as a result, tend to behave more submissively. This is exactly what we’re hoping to change. We believe women have all of the skills and abilities they need to be leaders in their relationships (to set the tone and expectation around consent, communication, needs, boundaries, etc.).

  • We hope The Coral will give women the tools and community they need to confidently and authentically navigate dating and intimacy (whether that's starting a tough conversation, asking for consent, or trusting their gut and speaking up when they feel uncomfortable).


Note: if you’re excited about what we’re doing and would like to help us expand our efforts, we’d love that. Send us an email and we can figure out how to work together


Why is The Coral focused on college-aged women? Why not all women?

The Coral Staff consists of college-aged women and recent graduates hoping to help the next generation of young women navigate the pressures of college dating better than we did. For a lot of us, college was our first foray into dating, physical intimacy, and self-discovery. Therefore, these early experiences were essential in shaping future behaviors and views towards relationships. That being said, dating and intimacy doesn’t get any easier after graduation, so we sincerely hope the content we produce supports women in all walks of life.