Seattle Pacific University, the 120-year-old Free Methodist school at the northern base of Queen Anne Hill, officially bans "premarital, extramarital, or homosexual sexual activities." Read the university's 758-word "Statement on Human Sexuality," and you'll learn when heterosexuals at SPU are allowed to engage in heterosexual sex ("In the context of the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman"), why homosexual acts are prohibited on campus ("Sexual experience is intended between a man and a woman"), and why things must be this way ("God").
Earlier this year, in an effort to further marginalize the school's long-unrecognized LGBTQ student group, Haven, an SPU administrator decided to take away Haven's right to reserve on-campus meeting rooms. The reaction: an outcry from students, faculty, and the community at large in the form of angry letters and published threats by SPU alumni to withhold donations. Two weeks later, SPU administrators suddenly restored Haven's right to reserve meeting rooms and, for the first time, decided to officially recognize the group.
Was this "a new beginning," as Haven's faculty adviser, associate professor of sociology Kevin Neuhouser, told the school newspaper it might be? Not exactly. The school's "Lifestyle Expectations" and "Statement on Human Sexuality" are still in force and unchanged. Which means that all across campus, straight and gay students remain committed to furtively breaking SPU's sex laws. The Stranger reached out to a number of current and former students at the university for their stories of SPU sex—hot, conflicted, impious, complicated.
By a member of the class of 2007
Before any student moves into a dormitory on the Seattle Pacific University campus, they're requested to sign a document outlining "community expectations." Guidelines. Rules for living in the SPU bubble.
Don't smoke cigarettes or pot. Don't drink alcohol on campus. And most notably, don't have sex with your fellow students. But every student—male or female, straight or gay or bi—is a horny human being, and the fact is that most SPU students love to hook up. In their dorm rooms, in the library study rooms, in the public lounges.
People try to keep their sex lives quiet and on the down low, because if you're caught, it's trouble. But to do this, they end up in some pretty weird and risky places. When I was at school, good friends of mine liked to fuck late at night in the graveyard just north of campus. The private music practice rooms in Crawford Music Hall and the art studios were popular, too. The common quality among all these places: secluded and almost always open.
By a member of the class of 2001
I had a friends-with-benefits thing with a female friend for several months. She'd come over to my place on campus when my roommate was gone and let me play with her boobs. We did some heavy petting in my bed, too.
Once, my roommate got back as we were in bed and I was pantsless. I jumped out of my bunk in my underwear just before he walked in, and I quickly explained that this female friend and I talked in my bed without pants sometimes (technically true). He shook his head and laughed as if telling me "You're so lame." Then he walked back out and never mentioned it again. I was relieved. You can get in trouble with your peer adviser (SPU's version of an RA) if you get caught "talking" without your pants on.
By a member of the class of 2000
I'm straight. I consider myself a fairly normal guy by SPU standards. And I did not masturbate once in my entire four years at the school.
When I was there, I prayed for God to take away my wet dreams and any fantasies of sex. It was done with the good intention to "not objectify women," but it was pretty extreme. I even tried to counsel other guys out of masturbation. Once, when sex counselors on campus spoke at a midweek worship service on sex, they suggested guys could "take care of it" before a big date, so they'd be less likely to fall into doing something physical, which could be sinful. I was so offended that I walked out.
The suggestion that we masturbate to "take care of it" stood in contrast to what I'd learned at the chapel, where someone showed us images of all the STDs we were likely to get by touching fluids or body parts. I repeat, this was in CHAPEL. We learned the "danger zone" for ladies was "heavy petting." For guys, it was "light petting."
The summer after graduation, I went to a high-school friend's wedding, where I splurged and drank three beers (three times the most alcohol I'd had in my life). Sure enough, I started feeling horny. I went home and stood in the bathtub, letting warm water from the showerhead run over me. The water alone was enough for me to come; I was so desperate for release. Yet I stood there crying in the bathtub, feeling like a failure to God and to myself.
This is why SPU needs to wake up and start talking realistically about sexuality. I look back now and see that the way I stifled my natural sexual desire looks more like an eating disorder than anything else, full of control, self-hatred, and self-punishment. We have to find a way to get in touch with and celebrate our sexual selves—especially as Christians who believe God designed us to feel good.
By a member of the class of 2010
Being in the dorms makes sex difficult, especially if you are gay. I didn't start having sex until my sophomore year, but I did jerk off a lot my first year in college. What 18- or 19-year-old guy doesn't jerk off a lot?
Most of the time, this would take place in my room when I knew my roommate would be in class, because I thought that would be safest. Maybe for most guys, having your roommate walk in on you isn't so bad, but since the porn I was watching was gay, it came with bigger consequences than just some mild embarrassment. So I was careful, trying my best to whip it out only when I knew I wouldn't be bothered.
I thought about doing it in the showers, but guys at SPU have a very homoerotic sense about them, and having a guy just get in the shower with you is not uncommon. So not a good place for me to jerk off. (Plus, the guys would have gotten really suspicious if they came in to shower and found me with my finger in my ass.)
Eventually, I found my favorite jerk-off spot: the prayer room. On each floor in my hall, there were small rooms with doors that were designed for prayer and reflection. Well, I used the prayer room often, but I wasn't praying. (Kind of blasphemous, yeah. But to be honest, I'm sad I never actually got to have full-on sex in there.) Another benefit of the prayer room privacy: I could put in my headphones and watch porn without having to worry much. Oh, and speaking of porn: At SPU they have this awful thing called a content filter. It blocks all of the good sites from being accessed while you're on SPU's network. Fortunately, it didn't take me long to discover how to circumvent the filter.
Then, during my sophomore year, I started having sex. At first, this functioned much like my masturbating life did, except with more precautions. I had to be damn sure that my roommate wouldn't be coming back for this. A lot of times, if he was around, I'd just go have sex in my car, parked down the street from my hall. (Car seats are great for giving head.) Once I even met up with my boyfriend and sucked him off in a bathroom in Otto Miller Hall. That was fun! After I came out, I got more comfortable and started texting my roommate to make sure he wouldn't be home. I think this made him really uncomfortable, but honestly I don't care. A guy's got to get some cock.
By a member of the class of 2010
I have a theory that gay men go to SPU in order to "cure" themselves of their "wicked ways," but they just end up fucking each other—in so many senses of the word. I never told any of my friends at SPU that I was gay, even though it was probably apparent. (I carry a purse with me wherever I go, for Christ's sake.) It's not an environment where you can feel comfortable being in your own skin. Or at least it wasn't then.
The fact that Haven has now been officially recognized as a legitimate club on campus says a lot, in that now people have a place to go when they feel alone, alienated, and the like. But for me, there was no such place.
I never really came to terms with my sexuality until I left the school, but one student helped to—for lack of a better term—throw me out of the closet. Let's call him Matt. We ended up losing our virginities to each other.
Matt and I never had sex on campus. Not that it didn't cross our minds. I loved the idea of having on-campus sex, just for the sake of "sticking it to the man." (Wordplay!) But, realistically, the possibility of being caught was just too heavy on my mind. After all, in order for the administration to intervene, all they need is an accusation. They don't actually need physical proof. So it would have been WAY too much of a risk. Punishment would probably include counseling, a fine (yes, a fine), and some sort of disciplinary probation.
So we lost our virginities on his living-room floor after we had both moved out of the dorms. We were still students, but being a couple blocks off campus in a rented apartment provided a greater sense of comfort with no chance of getting reprimanded. Now, looking back, I wish I had had sex on campus. Being as taboo as it is, it would probably have been pretty fucking hot.
Still, losing my virginity while I was a student at that school was liberating. Also frightening as fuck. I'd more or less set my status as a fag in stone, which meant I had to walk on eggshells for the rest of my college career, lest my newly established sex life backfire on me. I didn't even walk during graduation. It's impossible to feel comfortable as a gay man on a campus that is outwardly against you, and I couldn't justify being proud of my education from a school that thought I was leading a disgusting life.
On the other hand, as much as I hate to say it, SPU showed me who I really was. All the negativity surrounding homosexuality helped me deal with my own negativity surrounding my own homosexuality—without them even realizing. Plus, Matt was the hottest sex I've ever had in my life. So thanks for that, too, SPU.
By a member of the class of 2003
Whenever I tell someone in Seattle I graduated from SPU, I get the same reaction: a raised eyebrow and a "Really? I wouldn't have expected that."
I'm a straight woman. I don't describe myself as a Christian, nor did I in college. I was looking for a school that offered a great education and a place where I could stay up late talking about religion—a subject of personal fascination. In hindsight, I might have made a great stoner.
On both of those goals, SPU delivered. My education there put me in a position to choose between high-caliber graduate programs. (I can't lie, opening an acceptance letter from the Ivy League felt pretty damn good.) And the students and faculty I met were thrilled to talk about the nuances of things like how to best respond to urban poverty or gender identity.
And, yes, once in a while, despite being at a Christian university and a complete nerd, I even managed to have sex. For part of my time at SPU, I dated a guy who went to the University of Washington. We probably had as healthy a sexual relationship as any two 19-year-olds can. Sex was thrilling and exciting because it was finally available. The biggest obstacle for us, regardless of location, was trying to find some non-roommate time—on either campus—during which to get nekkid.
Some people at SPU felt tortured and unsupported with respect to sex because school rules or their faith banned bumping uglies. But others were despondent because they'd doinked someone who turned out to just be a bad idea. There were also the pregnancy scares and occasional required rounds of antibiotics for rogue STDs, which always shakes your nerve. On that note, the SPU health-center staff was famously discreet and supportive.
By a member of the class of 2013
Perhaps the local gas station's rumored record number of stolen condoms can speak for the oppression and guilt we SPU students all live under.
By a member of the class of 2007
Here's a fun fact for you: The gender makeup at SPU is approximately three to one, women to men. As a heterosexual freshman boy of 18, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.
My first class at SPU was a sort of introduction to philosophy. I remember looking around the room and being shocked at how many beautiful women there were. I'd entered SPU as a virgin. Before I knew what happened, this feisty redhead had invited herself up to my dorm room for a "study session." She taught me how to actually please a lady.
I can picture her pale skin, her wonderful tits with pink nipples. Not to mention the taste of her spicy pussy! We were fuck buddies until she left the school a few months later. By the way, young Christian women having anal sex to preserve their "virginity"—i.e., saddlebacking—is not a myth or exaggerated. It is much more widespread than you'd believe.
By a member of the class of 2000
Before I came to SPU, I had been discouraged from dating. So the numerous officially sanctioned campus activities that encouraged dating gave me a sort of cultural whiplash. There were late-night raids involving students from opposite-sex dormitory floors. There were group date nights where roommates were responsible for arranging each other's companions. I didn't know where the career center was until my junior year, but I can't remember when I didn't know who Doctors Les and Leslie Parrott were. They founded SPU's Center for Relationship Development.
I was curious about sex and critical of the university's need to regulate it via the "Lifestyle Expectations." But I also knew that there was a lot that I didn't know about sex, and as a woman, I was aware that there were particular risks (rape, pregnancy). The sexual and religious tensions that permeated SPU only amplified those risks. It was common in the spring for at least one male student to write in to the school newspaper complaining that women wearing tank tops and shorts were inciting him to commit unspecified sexual impurities. For many male SPU students, I would have been not a sexual partner but the root cause of a sexual problem, and the chances of being blamed seemed high. Besides, I was neither enthusiastic about breaking the code I'd signed nor especially interested in sex, compared to my studies.
At one point, I developed a crush on a girl, but I had no idea how to articulate my feelings to myself, let alone to her. I was often lonely, but sometimes tremendously entertained. One summer, my roommates and I invited the guys who lived in the apartment across the hall to come over and watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show. We were thinking of a casual movie night, though I had a mild crush on one of the guys. After 30 minutes, they walked out in disgust over what they saw as inappropriate content, and, well, that was the end of that crush.
By a member of the class of 2006
It all started with men's intramural football. During our first weekend of games, I met a super-hot guy from the opposing team. I swore he was making eyes at me the entire game, but I thought to myself, "We're at SP fucking U."
Later that week, I came to find out that he was also in my anatomy and physiology class—when he sat down right next to me. After a few conversations, it became clear we had a lot of similar interests. We ended up studying several times a week. We hung out between study sessions, as well. A hike here, a jog there, went to a show. Toward the end of the quarter, we started studying for our big final, which was a week away.
One particular evening, we brought rye whiskey (also prohibited by SPU) into the studying equation. We got pretty tipsy, and before you knew it, we threw studying out the window and just had a grand ol' time laughing and talking. It was sweet. We were sitting on my old blue couch when he spilled his drink. We both shot up to start cleaning it up, and then, as we were there on our hands and knees dabbing at the spill, we looked up at each other and seriously locked eyes. He leaned forward, and slowly and cautiously moved in closer. We kissed.
We kept kissing until we had been making out for 15 minutes or so. Then, suddenly, we heard my roommate get home. That really crashed the party. I knew we would have gone further if my roommate hadn't come home, so the next day I preemptively made my way to the store for condoms and lube. I was closeted, yes, but I'd fooled around with some guys in high school and watched plenty of gay porn, so I knew what I needed, and wanted.
He couldn't wait to call me the next day to meet up to "study." He arrived at my place and we didn't say a word—just instantly started making out. I locked my door, the clothes started coming off, we gave each other head, and then he asked me to fuck him. So we fucked. For a long time. It was incredible. Not gross or shameful, like the church taught me it would be. Natural. Real. Human.
I got an A on my exam the next day, too.
Do you have your own story of rule-breaking sex at SPU to share? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or, to send it anonymously, go to thestranger.com/spustories and put it in the drop box. We'll publish the best of your submissions on Slog, The Stranger's blog.