If you’re looking to get laid in college, don’t go to West Point. If you’re looking to remain celibate and have an accountability infrastructure reminiscent of the Vatican, then by all means, go to West Point. There you will find thousands of rules that govern every facet of human conduct imaginable – including absolutely no sex in the barracks (dorm rooms).
In contrast to most healthy, red-blooded young American adults, getting laid was my lowest priority in college. So the ban on sex didn’t bother me at all. What I didn’t appreciate, though, was the rule requiring me to leave my door wide open if a guy was visiting me. I could only shut my door if a third person was present. So if I ever intended to date a fellow cadet, I would either have to kiss him in full view of my entire company or have my roommate chaperone us. But inevitably this too would lead to another violation, because cadets weren’t allowed to sit on the same piece of furniture – including cadets of the same gender.
West Point dorm rooms aren’t known for their high end furnishings. We basically lived in Spartan shitholes with very few options to park our rears: a metal framed twin-sized bed, a vinyl chair circa 1960 and a trunk. Many classes assign large group projects, so homework time made it most difficult to obey the rules. For example, if my Discreet Dynamical Systems (Don’t ask me to explain what this class is; I don’t fucking remember.) professor assigned a group project requiring us to use the software MathCAD, since this was before the surging popularity of laptops, the homework had to be done inside of a cadet bedroom, where we kept our desktop computers. So if Kara, Joe and Ted came over to my room to work on the project, I would probably sit in the vinyl chair at my desk, but then I had to apply the complicated mathematical algorithms taught in Discreet Dynamical Systems to determine how Kara, Joe and Ted were going to sit on my bed and trunk without breaking the rules. Since homework time was limited – TAPS was at 11:30 – most of the time we said “fuck it” and shared furniture surfaces. (Sometimes it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, especially when it comes to passing Discreet Dynamical Systems.)
Other homework scenarios also forced me to compromise on my law abiding standards, especially one-on-one projects with a male partner. With West Point’s 9:1 male to female ratio, chances were that I would always have a male project partner. In example #2, if Tom came over to work on our Thermodynamics problem set, and my roommate was away studying with someone else, then we were required to leave my door wide open. But often times this invited a lot of raucous noise into the room, and Thermodynamics is really fucking hard, so following the rules made it difficult to concentrate. Again I was faced with a serious ethical and moral dilemma: endure listening to my neighbor Ben’s incessant belching, and compromise my Thermodynamics grade, or bode to look like a harlot and risk demerits – all for the sake of academic success. Since I was never one to see life in black or white terms, I often compromised by placing a trash can in the door frame – to mitigate some of the noise and make it obvious that I was indeed working on Thermodynamics with Tom and not fucking him.
Luckily my trash can concession worked for all four years. My roommate, Sarah, however, wasn’t so lucky. One night she was doing homework with her boyfriend Jay – and if you knew Jay, then you’d trust me when I say it was only homework. They implemented the trash can compromise for some peace and quiet, but an insecure upperclassman with no life walked by and decided to issue them demerits. So Sarah and Jay had to spend their Sunday afternoon in full parade regalia, marching around the cadet area with rifles at the ready – reminiscent of Civil War battle drills – all because they wanted some mental clarity when they tried to tackle their Physics homework.
There were plenty of other ways that West Point sabotaged any chances of me developing into a collegiate sex kitten – even with a 9:1 male to female ratio. For starters, I had to chop off my hair when I reported to basic training. Some women look adorable with short hair, but my thin, frizzy mess of curls need a lot of length if I don’t want to look like Seth Rogen. So that was strike one against me. And then, as if to tease me one last time before becoming a full-fledged cross dresser (Male and female uniforms are identical.), I had to report in to an upperclassman who looked just like Tom Cruise from his Top Gun days.
Reporting to the “Cadet in the Red Sash” is supposed to be one of the most nerve-wracking, intimidating experiences of basic training. I was warned about it in high school, two years in advance. I’ve even come across plenty of civilians, not affiliated with West Point, who have heard about this right-of-passage. I spent weeks preparing for it, practicing in front of the mirror with a crisp salute and stern demeanor: “SIR NEW CADET REPORTS TO THE CADET IN THE RED SASH FOR THE FIRST TIME AS ORDERED!” Once I had that down pat, I moved on to my four responses – the only phrases I was allowed to utter in the presence of upperclassmen: “Yes Sir;” “No Sir;” “No excuse Sir;” “Sir, I do not understand.”
I practiced so much, by the time basic training started, I could execute this perfectly in my sleep. So when it my turn to approach the “Cadet in the Red Sash,” I was ready…confident that I would make a good first impression. And I fucking nailed it! I figured that the rest of my correspondence would go smoothly; I knew exactly what was coming my way. But the one thing I wasn’t prepared for, the last thing I expected from this hazing ritual, was to get horny.
The “Cadet in the Red Sash” stared into my eyes for what seemed like an eternity. Instead of focusing on the tasks at hand, my mind started wandering, imaging him unbuttoning his crisp white uniform shirt, revealing his bulging muscles. My high school didn’t have men who looked like this. I was in the presence of chiseled beauty at its finest. “Thank God I was smart enough to get into West Point and enjoy this meat market,” I thought. But just before I could feel any moisture in my panties, not generated from nervous sweat, Cadet Man Meat snapped me back to reality.
“New Cadet, are you wearing contact lenses?”
(So he was staring at my eyes!!) “Yes Sir,” I responded.
What the fuck?
I marched on. What a letdown. All of that hype, and it was simple and over, just like that. I was also very confused by the contact lenses question, but a few hours later, I finally understood when another upperclassman handed me the most hideous pair of glasses ever manufactured in world history.
“New Cadet, contact lenses and civilian glasses are prohibited during basic training. We acquired these glasses for you; they’re your prescription. Do you have any questions?”
When I got to my room, I removed my contacts, donned the brown, thick plastic rimmed contraption and stared at my reflection in the mirror. Between that, my new uniform and hair that barely brushed past the bottom of my ears, I didn’t recognize myself.
“Holy shit! I’m really fucking ugly!” I thought. So much for a 9:1 male to female ratio. The only way I would ever attract a guy in this condition is if there was a 9,999:1 ratio, I was the last woman on the face of the planet, and the future of the human race required my ovaries to continue existing. But that’s probably why these glasses were officially dubbed “Birth Control Goggles.”
I didn’t help my cause by gaining the Freshman 15. Yes, I ironically found the one element that united me with new collegiates across America, minus all of the fun debauchery and underage beer guzzling. So how does a West Point new cadet rapidly gain so much weight, especially during basic training, when half of the day is spent doing some form of athletic activity? The culprit: Mess Hall Food! I showed up to West Point a lean and muscular 124 pounds due to my rigorous preparation and self-imposed strict diet. But when you have no say in your nutrition plan and are subject to meal plans of greasy meatloaf and Doritos, it can turn a hot little bod into the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Well that and my new habit of food hoarding, in the literal sense of eating well past the point of fullness, because an upperclassman could at any time take my food away, and I wasn’t allowed to keep snacks in my room. But no big deal. It only took me 14 years to shed my extra West Point tire and resume my pre-Army weight.
Too add insult to injury, we were forced to weigh-in in public. So every week, all of the guys could keep tabs on my hip and thigh expansion: 124 pounds…128 pounds…133 pounds…136 pounds…139 pounds.
“New Cadet, how the hell are you gaining so much weight?”
“No excuse Sir!”
Soon I embodied the urban legend about the “Hudson Theta.” Because West Point is nestled along the Hudson River, this is the name of the angle between a female West Point cadet’s thigh and the shaft of the saber that she wears for parades. Every year that angle gets bigger and bigger…
Just when I thought I hit my breaking point, we were forced to chant a new battle cry: “WE ARE NOT MEN, WE ARE BEASTS, FOR YOU HAVE MADE US BEASTS!” I wondered what would happen if I tried to use that as a pickup line in a bar.
Soon I realized that this whole college experience was all about transitioning me from a woman to a warrior. Well becoming a warrior was tough work, and my body had a hard time adjusting. But I think the men had it even worse. Panic ensued when they all discovered the loss of their morning wood. Rumor had it that our mess hall food was purposely contaminated with salt peter, but the upperclassmen reassured us that the boner disappearance was due to stress and admitted that it happened to all of them too once upon a time. They promised the prompt return of the phantom erections, as soon as basic training was complete.
And return they did, often at the most inopportune times, like when asked to “take boards” and write out math homework on the chalkboard. I thought the polyester uniform pants did a horrible job of camouflaging my bubble butt. Apparently they were completely ill-equipped to conceal spontaneous arousal. None of the guys could explain why this happened, because it’s not like my presence did anything to turn them on. But they made do with text books and their non-writing hands.
After basic training I was allowed to grow my hair back out, resume wearing contacts, apply a tad of makeup and wear tiny stud earrings. Unfortunately this barely redeemed my confidence, as I had turned into a narcoleptic robot…literally. Between copious amounts of homework in crazy classes like Discreet Dynamical Systems and military duties such as delivering laundry to the upperclassmen, I was fucking exhausted. I’m convinced that the people who graduate at the top of their West Point class aren’t necessarily the smartest, but instead, are the most capable of functioning with major sleep deprivation. My freshman year I actually spent more time napping in class than staying awake and even managed to fall asleep standing up (Instructors often ask cadets to stand up in the back of the classroom if they’re falling asleep. The more sympathetic ones let them remain seated, which explains how many of my notes became drenched with drool.).
Being a busy zombie left me no energy to even think about the opposite sex. Plus how could I even attract a guy in uniform, which we were required to wear 100 percent of the time?
“Hey girl, that top looks great on you.”
“Thanks Dan, but I actually like it better on you.”
But in this hypothetical scenario, it’s not like Dan could even initiate a conversation with me outside of the academic area. Until we were formally “recognized” near the end of our freshman year, we weren’t allowed to talk and had to march around like robots. And at any time an upperclassman having a bad day could publicly humiliate us. So there went any chance for me to work on my flirting skills.
I don’t know how some of my classmates mustered the energy to overcome the rules, homework, no sleep and a less than ideal dating environment to foster cadet love, but a lot of them did. I guess love (or the horny loins of an 18 year old) conquers all. Or maybe overcoming these challenges and succeeding in the face of adversity are the inherent leadership qualities that attracted them to West Point in the first place. So if you’re going to have an environment of brilliant, ambitious Type-As who can run a marathon and ace a physics test all before breakfast, then I guess you have to expect that the horny ones were gonna get some come hell or high water (or as I would one day learn during the war – bombs and gunfire).
Soon I was privy to knowing just how creative America’s best and brightest can be when they want to get laid. Sure there were library stacks, just like any other college or university, but these sex rangers did what any ranger would be inclined to do – head outdoors to the wild frontier.
West Point actually officially designates one outdoor area for cadet romance: “Flirtation Walk.” (There’s actually a 1934 film about it called none other than “Flirtation Walk,” and I have no interest in watching it.) In the olden days it was a place for male cadets (since female cadets didn’t exist until 1976) to bring their beautiful dates for a jolly walk after a formal ball. Many proposed marriage here. I’m sure this is the old-fashioned notion West Point’s executive leadership had in mind when they incorporated Flirtation Walk into the rules and regulations – not my roommate Michelle and her boyfriend Sam rolling around and fucking like rabbits.
For other outdoor enthusiasts, Flirtation Walk was too cliché, so they congregated in hipper places like the junior year cadet parking lot and behind the sacred Battle Monument, West Point’s most famous monument that is essentially a giant shaft with balls at its base. And others simply couldn’t weather the elements and chose to do it indoors, after TAPS, sneaking into their lover’s room and hoping the roommate was a sound sleeper. (You see, even if we wanted to do it during the day and violate the closed door room, there was still a high risk of getting caught, because there was no way to lock the bedroom doors. But that didn’t stop Terri and Mike from doing it inside her wardrobe.) My poor friend Lynn had to endure moaning coming from behind the dresser, just two feet away, because her roommate assumed she was sleeping. Lynn complained to me incessantly but never had the gumption to say anything to her roommate, so that left me wildly entertained for a whole semester. When I heard stories like that, sometimes it made me wish that I could break up with Jesus for just one night and join in on the fun.
Hearing about all of these sexcapades certainly provided me with an education not published in any West Point recruitment literature. I had no idea how important sex was to a lot of people and didn’t understand why they couldn’t follow the rules and restrain themselves? What’s the big deal with remaining celibate for four years? That was my big plan. Oh, you mean college is where you’re supposed to explore your sexuality? (Although that didn’t stop me from having sporadic wet dreams that emerged when I napped in my gray polyester pants. Maybe there was something secretive about the fabric that caused spontaneous arousal.) But even if I wanted to have sex, between narcolepsy and Discreet Dynamical Systems already causing me to break the rules, if I had any free time, it was going to be spent sleeping…myself…not with anyone else. Plus I didn’t feel comfortable being myself in such a rigid environment, so how was I going to enjoy a romantic relationship? Honestly, the only place where I felt like I could relax and let my hair down was at church. Amen.