To sexile or to be sexiled? That is the question

The first hook up I had at UC Berkeley was with a cute boy I met at a home football game. As plans were crystalizing, I ran through the sexy checklist in my head: Clean the room, brush your teeth, shower, put on nice cologne, start spinning that vinyl record and text your roommates. With the texts sent and the room secured for the next hour, I met my date outside my building.

An hour later, I got a text from my roommate asking if he could come back to the room. I begged for a reservation extension. He acquiesced, granting me another half hour.

After another 45 minutes, my roommate had had enough. I heard a loud knock on my door that brought an end to that night’s affair.

My experience was not unique. In fact, many people have had to deal with similar scenarios –– it’s so common that, in fact, there’s a term for it: sexile. 

“Sexile” (verb) sex-ile | \’seck-zi(-ə)l: To banish or expel a roommate to have a private space for sex.

There are many difficulties that one must overcome when learning to live with someone else. Chief among them is finding out how to navigate the new definitions of privacy in shared spaces.

While the term “sexile” comes from the forceful, involuntary demand “to exile,” I argue this is, in fact, a misnomer. Sexile is really a contract between roommates that grants permission for one to utilize the privacy of a room. All contracts come with stipulations that change based on circumstance.

If one lives with a roommate in an on-campus housing arrangement, they may be familiar with the roommate agreements they are compelled to come to a consensus on. These agreements essentially stipulate that the lifestyle of every roommate continues in a manner that is most familiar to their own while not greatly inconveniencing those of the other roommates. Of particular interest to the sexile is the clause of this contract that has the presupposed granting of free access to use the room in question whenever one needs.

Sexile as a contract, therefore, comes from this desire to balance the need for privacy in sex with the appropriate amount of communication between roommates to reserve or request the temporary annulment of a roommate’s free access clause.

When these needs are not met, very awkward situations can come about, like the one I experienced last semester.

Last fall, I once came back to my room at 2 a.m., tired and ready for bed after partying with my friends. As I was getting undressed in the dark, I thought I saw something moving. I looked over at my roommate’s bunk to see two sets of feet.

I got dressed in a panic and waited in my dorm hallway. My roommate came out about 30 minutes later to walk his date home.

The lack of adequate communication between roommates and the nonexistence of the sexile clause beforehand were what lead to this situation.

A contract must be a multiparty agreement, met from all sides with mutual respect. 

When a contract is being negotiated, any party may leave negotiations for any reason whatsoever. The roommate(s) who are asked to leave the room, or the “sexilee,” has the right to say “no” to any sexile proposal without fear of pressure, change in roommate dynamic or repercussions. If the sexilee says no, this does not mean that the roommate(s) who are asking for the room, or the “sexiler(s),” can bring their partner into the room to try and pressure the sexilee out.

While writing this article, coincidentally, I was sexiled. I was in my room when I got a text from my roommate asking if he could borrow the room. Per my right to walk away from the contract, I declined and told him when I would be leaving.

No response. 

Fifteen minutes later, I heard my door open. He and his date for the evening walked in, surprised by my presence.

Here, the number one rule of open, unambiguous communication had been violated. While I had communicated my inability to leave the room, my roommate had not received my messages and had assumed that the room was his for the taking. 

Everyone has different ways of communicating; some examples include texting, calling, face-to-face or even something as simple as putting a sock on the doorknob. Texting, calling and face-to-face conversations are great ways to hammer out sexile plans, while a sock on the doorknob lets roommates or any potential passersby know to be cognizant of their potential interruptions.

Along with the guarantee of an empty room comes the mutual understanding that interruptions will be as infrequent as possible. Texting is the best route when there is a nonimmediate issue that directly involves the sexiler. Calling is the best when there is an immediate issue directly involving the sexiler. Lastly, knocking on the door should be reserved for only the most severe of circumstances, like when the sexiler has long overstayed their reservation. 

With any contract, it is important for one to be aware of how both parties are agreeing to the terms. If you’re having a face-to-face conversation about sexile, it is important to recognize the sexilee’s body language and tone of voice when responding. If they seem like they’re not totally on board with the idea, it is imperative that there is an open dialogue to flesh out any potential issues.

The importance of sexile should not be overlooked, as matters of privacy and mutual respect in shared spaces allow everyone involved to have as pleasurable of a sexual or living experience as possible given added social complexities.

Contact Eric Rogers at [email protected].