A Comprehensive Guide to Wesleyan References in My Erotica

I write a lot about college students. It’s my thing. Even though kids in their late teens and early twenties are obsessed with sex, and even though pop culture is obsessed with us having sex, there’s very little erotica targeted at our demographic. One of these days Eva Gantz and I will get around to editing our hookup culture erotica anthology, but until then I’m filling the void in various collections and ebooks.

It’s a long running joke that my erotica is full of Wesleyan references, and most of my short stories take place on the ivy-covered campus of the fictitious “Liberal University.” To save you the trouble of hunting down every hipster Easter egg, I put together a list of my favorite Wesleyan shout outs in my fiction. So here is your go-to guide of inside jokes, references, settings, and Wes-specific weirdness:

“Pretty quick into her academic career, Cass realized that college was basically one big, unfortunate sitcom. Upstairs neighbor bros got drunk and peed off their balcony in the middle of the night rather than walk down the hall to use the communal bathroom like adults. You only ever got locked out of your room while taking a shower, forcing you to wait in the hall wearing only your ratty polka dot bathrobe for a member of campus safety to let you in again. And then there were the days when you just wanted to drink your mocha at the coffee house before your morning lecture, and the only seat open was next to that guy you had a one-night stand with last weekend. ” — Meet Cute. Wes references: the Nics dorms, PSafe, Pi Cafe

“There is a house party where Lucy hijacks the speakers in the cramped living room to play N*SYNC and they wind up dancing to Bye Bye Bye with a bunch of lacrosse bros. The back of her shirt is soaked with sweat and she can feel the thin fabric sticking to her skin, pulling away and sucked back every time she twists her hips. She feels electric, hot-blooded, mesmerized by the colored lights casting patterns across her arms and turning her into something beautiful, an undergraduate stained glass window.” — New Words. Wes references: Fountain Avenue, pop culture nostalgia

“They slept together once in college, two restless seniors in love with their freedom and terrified by the impending specter of the real world. They got drunk at a mutual friend’s softball party and stayed up late eating grilled cheese from the food truck, confessing to having no clue what they were doing in life. Their situations were different and she had a mountain of student loans waiting for her on the other side, but it was a relief to hear him echo her own doubt about the job market and living with parents and listening to everyone else talk about their plans. Plans are for squares, he dismissed before stealing the rest of her sandwich. I should just seduce a rich widow and be a kept man. She asked him what his qualifications were for such a position and he spent the rest of the night showing her.” — Memory Foam. Wes references: Whey Station, student debt, crippling doubt about the usefulness of a liberal arts degree

“She always found Owen gorgeous but it didn’t make sense; he was a wrestler and sat on the wrong side of the dining hall. After another round of drinks he admits he used to read her column each week, how nervous he was to finally message her and say hi, and she thinks what the fuck was Owen Kravatz doing reading her column and how the fuck could she ever make him nervous? A better question: How did she never notice him noticing her?” — Post-grad Warriors. Wes references: Loud side vs. quiet side, The Argus

“After one last check that I’d written ‘Stephanie Mills’ on the top of my test, I put down my pencil and looked around the lecture hall at my fellow students, the majority still struggling to label a diagram of the human heart. There was a chance I had confused two of the valves, but as a non-major I only needed a B- on the exam to pass the course and complete my general education requirements. The aortic valve did not determine my future—at least not academically. As I handed in my test booklet, I imagined the night of post-finals freedom waiting for me back in my single. At long last I could roll a joint, marathon through the first season of Broad City, and eat the tub of raw cookie dough sitting at the back of my mini-fridge. Sweet, sweet victory.” — Friendly Neighborhood Drug Dealer. Wes references: Shanklin 107, Gen Ed requirements, the Butts, WesWings cookie dough

“They squeeze in a quick lunch at the student center and Cory gets a huge plate of steak fries for them to share. He is already telling some anecdote about German cinema when she notices he got both ketchup and mustard and has already swirled them together in a murky puddle for her even though he thinks her preferred method of eating fries is gross. There it is again on her tongue, I love you, and thank goodness he is too absorbed in his story and his sandwich to notice the choked expression on her face when she swallows the words.” — New Words. Wes references: Usdan lunch, film majors, steak fries, fear of intimacy

“It is dark in this section of the stacks, the fluorescent light flickering with exhaustion a few rows over, and his face is mostly in shadow but you can still read the awe and tension in his features. His eyes have long since shuddered closed, his brow furrowed. A calloused hand is tight at your thigh, bracing you against a shelf. You dimly wonder in that lust-addled way if you will knock over the metal structure, if it can even be knocked over, but his hips rock forward and dusty spines dig into your back and you groan and stop wondering about the shelves or the noise or the thirty pages due at the end of the week because his fingers are delving under the hem of the skirt rucked up around your waist and you want him to fuck you finally, finally.” — All-Nighters, Wes References: Olin stacks, #thesiswhy

“And then there was the time Reece showed up at the studio with a grease-stained paper bag of Cajun fries from Five Guys and made awed faces at her paintings and that was a very Charlie and Reece thing to do. No one ever visited Charlie at the studio, not even her roommates, and especially not with fast food. He must have remembered her saying that Five Guys fries were second only to In-N-Out fries which of course he couldn’t get because they didn’t have locations on the East Coast and who the hell remembered conversations like that? There was a smudge of black paint on her forehead where she had swiped her bangs out of her eyes and he reached out to wipe it off with his thumb but wound up smearing it across her skin.” —Charlie and Reece. Wes references: CFA studios, Five Guys

“Cass had a theory that she might have slept with her soul mate by now and not even known it, because no one ever acknowledged the stranger they’d made out with at a rave the previous evening when they bumped into each other in the omelet line.” — Meet Cute. Wes references: Usdan brunch, mistakes made at Eclectic

“Megan was reaching out to open the heavy front door when it swung outward seemingly of its own accord, and then she was face to face with Ben. His skin was washed out in the harsh light of day, five o’clock shadow out of control and not at all dressed for the weather. Ben was startled when he recognized her, taking a shallow step backward on the porch, and she could read it all in how his mouth went slack before tightening. She knew what he saw: his predictable, loyal ex-girlfriend leaving his fraternity house wearing last night’s dress. She had not spent the night at Theo’s for revenge, did not expect to run into Ben on her way out, but she had to admit it felt pretty fucking good to see the shock on his face before he caught it and pressed it down, pasting on a thin smile in its place. She still knew his face and she could read it like a book.” — How Rage Tastes. Wes References: Psi U, asshole frat bros

“With a casual but fully intentional flip of her hair, she strode across the room like it was her idea in the first place and sat down across from Ian, also known as the guy she made out with last weekend who happened to be a really good dancer if she was remembering the Jewish fraternity’s Bro Mitzvah party correctly.” — Meet Cute. Wes References: AEPi, less asshole frat bros

“It is cold outside, January chill seeping into her bare legs, slush darkening the leather of her heels, but his hand singes between her thighs and finds her slick. His grunt is muffled into her throat. The brick is unforgiving against her shoulders and she wishes she had thought to grab her jacket before he dragged her outside, but when he hikes her up the wall to guide her legs around his waist she barely feels the scratch.” — Slush. Wes References: Fountain backyards, regrettable decisions

Note: some of these stories are unpublished, but the ones that are available can be found here.

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Ella Dawson is a sex and culture critic and a digital strategist. She drinks too much Diet Coke.

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