By the time I started freshman year of college, I had been to clubs and bars many times, even though I had only just recently turned 18. My roommates, their friend, and I went to a popular bar near campus, escorted by an upperclassman we knew. We didn’t really like him, but he was over 21 and kept our cups full. By the end of the night all of us were the drunkest we had ever been in our lives, and I don’t remember how, but I had begun to makeout with my roommates’ friend. We went back to my room and had drunken, sloppy, awkward sex.
It was my first time with a girl, my first time with anyone.
The next day I called my best friend from my freshman year of highschool. She had just recently started having sex, only with men. I was so excited to tell her that I was finally grown up too, but she said having sex with women didn’t count. Even though we both had Tinder, and the experience of someone exploring our naked bodies, I was still a child in her eyes. I asked some of my other friends if the sex I had counted. The answer was unanimously no. If it wasn’t PIV sex, it was invalid. I was determined to have at least one experience that counted.
I set down my bag of clothes and makeup on my friend’s bed. The other girls already have on a full face of makeup and are choosing their outfits. I start to get ready too, untwisting my hair and taking a drink from our bedazzled communal flask. One of my friends squeals seeing the contents of my bag: two different crop tops, jean shorts, and a mini skirt. She hands me the lower cut top and the shorts. She says these will be better to dance in, and will better show off my body. Another friend gets a call, it’s the group of boys we’ll be meeting at the club downtown. We are late and the boys are getting impatient.
Twenty minutes later, our Uber arrives and we all pile into the backseat, giddy and a little drunk. We talk only about boys; kissing them, touching them, dancing with them, and pausing only to tell the driver to turn up the radio because our song is on. No one is concerned about their early morning shift tomorrow, or the paper due Monday morning. We talk only about boys. This is why I go to clubs after all.
My friends and I finally arrive at the club downtown. We show our IDs and are let in even though none of us are older than 19. I immediately go to the bar and order more drinks, drowning my nerves and anxieties in a bright blue liquid that burns. Maybe this is why I only pursue men at clubs, meeting them and being with them anywhere else feels unnatural. These dirty, sweaty, hot clubs that don’t mind selling cranberry vodkas to teenagers with big tits feel like the perfect place to blend in with the other hormone filled teens and twenty-somethings.
Here, I can interact in that way with men. I can do something that counts. I have a few more drinks and start to get loose. Pulling my crop top lower to expose more cleavage and rolling my shorts up another inch. I dance and writhe to the rhythm of some bass boosted song and wait for the callused hands of a stranger to grab my hips. In the back, I spot a group of Black and Hispanic boys. I gravitate toward them, knowing that as a Black girl in the Deep South, they are the only ones willing to be my dance partners. I glide past the groups of white boys and pretend to ignore them as they look right through me. After a few minutes of dancing with other people of color, I feel someone fit their groin to my ass. I look at my friends with eyes that ask “is he cute”, this man who has found a slice of meat to curb his appetite. I don’t really care what they say because I have been chosen.
My friends buy me more drinks, literally inserting a straw into my mouth so I can dance and drink at the same time. I am bored by this man, this dance, and this club. I begin to zone out and almost fall out of rhythm with the song. The only thing that keeps me going is the cheers from my onlooking friends and my ability to tell this story for many nights to come. I am having a true college experience. Doing something dirty with a man, drinking illegally as a teenager, finally being an adult. This is me being valid.
The man pulls me closer to his groin and I do as I am told and grind against his crotch. His hands crawl up from my hips and onto my stomach. I tear them away and place them on my tits, my good fat. I never face him. The thought of his recoil upon seeing my face, glasses, and gummy smile keep me enslaved to my dance. The music will stop and everyone will either sober up or break off in horny pairs. I only turn around to kiss him, our eyes closed and prejudices unnamed. I go to clubs because it is how I know I am not ugly. If I am grabbed and passed around from man to man and inflated with dollar shots, it means someone wants me in some way. It is me doing something that counts.
Words by Frances McCann