Ana's Sexual Inexperience On ‘grown-ish’ Shows How College Students Feel Pressured To Be Sexually Adventurous

Everybody experiments with sex in college. Right? That's one of the many social pressures placed on students as they enter those four years of new friends and new experiences. But, as the "Crew Love" episode grown-ish illustrated this week, that assumption can be complicated at its best, and harmful at its worst. Spoilers ahead for the March 21 episode.

As Zoey and the girls get all dolled up to attend the freshman formal dance, they playing a game of "Never Have I Ever" — an activity downright designed to allow participants to either brag about their exploits, or feel extremely lame about their lack of them. One person says something they've never done, and those who have done that thing take a swig out of their cup. It can be a fun way to get chummy with those around you and learn about their pasts, but the game also has the potential to single out people who don't have the same caliber of tales to tell as the others.

Zoey says she's never kissed a girl, and all the friends but her and Ana drink, stunning Ana. Later in the episode, when Ana's had way more than her fair share of drinks, she tries to clumsily lean in for a kiss from Nomi. Nomi, who is bisexual, tells Ana that she's not there to cross some item off her bucket list — her sexuality is a real part of her identity, not something for Ana to assume she can use.

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That's where the problem comes in — Ana might not have been compelled to kiss a girl if it hadn't been for her feeling as if she has to "keep up" with her friends, checking off boxes of the intimate accomplishments they've achieved. And if she hadn't, that would've been OK.

Sexual experimentation, in general, can be a positive thing — it's how plenty of people come to terms with their sexualities and get a better grasp on who they are and what they like. The Cut reported in 2016 that according to a study published in the Archives Of Sexual Behavior, more Americans were trying new things sexually in recent years than ever before. "The number of Americans who self-reported having had at least one same-sex encounter since age 18 jumped significantly from the early 1990s to the early 2010s," the article states. "For women, the percentage more than doubled, increasing from 3.6 percent to 8.7 percent; for men, it nearly doubled, going from 4.5 percent to 8.2 percent." People feel as though they can take ownership over their sexual experiences and be as open as they'd like.

But Nomi's statement to Ana still rings true — just because she's bisexual doesn't mean that consequently opens a door to any of her pals who want to try something new. She's a person, not some exotic food they might want to try and just as soon decide they don't want to have again. So while Ana has every right to explore her sexuality, she probably shouldn't do it so boldly while falling down drunk, first of all, and she shouldn't assume that Nomi is there purely to be her guide into the realm of women. These kinds of ideas can also contribute to the harmful notion that all women who engage in same-sex activity in college are simply "going through a phase" or down to try new things, when it's often already hard enough for queer women — and particularly bisexual women — to have their sexual identities taken seriously by the world around them.

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On the other hand, Ana tells Nomi that she figured if she were to try kissing a girl, it'd be best to do so with one of her loving friends, with whom she feels safe and trustful. That's a completely valid point — it makes sense that you'd want a genuine friend along as you embark on something so personal that you've never tried before. But that doesn't mean she should drunkenly lean in for a kiss, completely unprompted, just because she happens to be standing next to her bi friend. Ana also should be trying new things because she wants to, not because she feels like she has to keep up with some list of requirements all women have to fulfill as they get older. In the end, the two make up and share a friendly kiss, initiated by Nomi, who good-naturedly gives Ana the experience she was looking for once they had an actual conversation about it, and she wasn't being bombarded with a kiss out of nowhere.

Expressing one's sexuality is something that all consenting adults should feel free to do, especially during college as they grapple with adulthood and coming of age. But that shouldn't ever make light of the fact that while some people are just having fun and discovering what they like, others are cultivating a real identity, which, as Nomi says, affects their entire lives.