Saturday, 30 October 2010

CONTROVERSIAL: Sex in Hostel Dorms

I originally wrote this article for the travel section of Epigram, but the Man (or the Union, at least) have declared it unsuitable and won't publish it! So, I'm putting it on here instead. Viva la revolution!

Most backpackers have experienced that awkward moment at some point in their hostelling lives: that awful moment when the bed springs start squeaking in the dark (and cheap hostels beds are notoriously squeaky as it is) and moans and groans disturb your sleep, so that all you can do is curl up and cringe. Ask anyone on the road and they’ll probably have a story to tell.

I have two personal favourites. In a hostel, getting breakfast I overheard a man complaining, in a loud and traumatized voice, “ I was sleeping on my bottom bunk, and the girl in the top bunk comes back, pissed as anything, banging doors and falling over stuff and making a HUGE noise climbing up the ladder to her bunk, so I was like whatever and rolled over to go back to sleep... but then a second person climbed up after her! And our bed is really, really loud...” I met the girl in question later that day and she remained unrepentant. Her defence? “I’m going home today”.

Another fantastic story came from a rather sexually liberated Norwegian writer I met, who somewhere in South America heard his dorm mate bringing a girl back, and shouted out, perfectly sincerely, “You two enjoy yourselves! Don’t worry! I’m not shy!” Two months later, the same thing happened... except this time that was a reply: “That’s what you said the last time!”

I think two lessons can be gleaned from these stories. Firstly, don’t have sex if you’re in a bunkbed. It really is too far. Secondly, the gringo trail is a surprisingly tight- knit community, so watch yourself, or you might just get a reputation that spans an entire continent.  But in more general terms, for cash- strapped couples travelling together for instance, is sex in dorms ever excusable? Views vary widely. Some people just say never, ever is it acceptable. Some people think it’s ok, as long as you’re quiet, and everyone else is asleep. Others merely think it’s a waste paying for a bed you’re not using.  The general consensus seems to be that it’s something you shouldn’t do, but it’s forgivable- kind of like throwing up after having too much to drink: “It’s not pleasant, but hey, we all get carried away!” A lot of backpackers are experiencing a new sense of independence and freedom, and it’s hardly unsurprising that this can extend to the bedroom. Add to this the fact that you won’t have to face up to any potential embarrassment, as you’ll be gone soon anyway, and see how moral standards slip.

Leaving aside the red-faced perpetrators, how does one respond to this situation? Do you roll over and try to fall asleep? Do you cough pointedly? Do you shout at them? I cannot answer. Backpacking is full of new experiences, and new encounters with people with different values to yourself, and this, alas, is just one of those times.



  1. Shame it didn't get into the Epigram, lots better than some of the louty or pseudo-contentious stuff they do publish...

  2. I've always found that a loaded pistol kills the mood, in no time at all. xoxo

  3. Travelers of all ages are taking advantage of the cheap beds and community atmosphere that most hostels have.

    Hostels in Castro