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Sex and the Campus

Case #1: Section Love
There seem to be unwritten norms, rules, and myths about dating on campus here at Harvard Business School. Or is there such a thing as dating “on campus?” One of the biggest unwritten rules of HBS dating is avoiding “section love” (i.e. dating someone from your section). But what’s wrong with that? It seems extremely easy, natural, and convenient.

Your section becomes the center of your social life especially during the first year. As if seeing each other in the class everyday is not enough, you have parties and take trips with your section. You get to know each other in and out. Instead of randomly hooking up with some sketchy girl from the extension school, it is so much better to hook up with your sectionmate because you know where she/he is coming from and that she/he is intelligent and potentially successful. What better place is there to look for a future spouse than your very section? Yet, ‘section love’ is one big no-no at HBS.

I have a friend in the second year who just started dating her sectionmate, secretly. The guy professed his interest in her at the end of last school year, and they visited each other over the summer. They kept seeing each other frequently after coming back to school this fall, and decided that they liked each other enough to give it a shot.

But only under one condition: they won’t go public until they are completely sure about their relationship.

The result? Their rendezvous primarily take place in his apartment because she has a roommate. They hardly meet alone outside of the apartment. Even when they are together in public, they never hold hands, let alone kiss. She says it’s ok and that she is very happy despite the secrecy. In fact, I’ve never seen her this happy and excited!
But why can’t they just let everyone know that they are in love?

The main reason why “section love” is such a taboo is the big “what if?” What if it doesn’t work out and they break up? If it happens during the first year, they still have to see each other every single day in class after the breakup. It would be very ugly if they start sharking at each other in class. Another factor is the gossiping within the section. Let’s face it, everyone loves to gossip and if the gossip is about someone you know really well, it’s even better. So people start gossiping about the section couple’s relationship status, and it can get annoying and uncomfortable.

But is it such a bad thing to admit to people that you fell in love with someone and it didn’t work out? Even if things don’t work out in the end with your section love, I don’t think there is anything to be ashamed of as long as you gave it a serious shot. We are all adults here and no one is going to laugh at true love. So why don’t we become more open about whom we love, regardless of his/her section, enjoy the good times, and learn from the bad times?

September 30, 2002
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