For parents, sending a teen to summer camp must be a deal with the devil: You get a break from caring for your angsty kid, but in exchange, you live with the knowledge that little Madison might suck a dick this summer. Communal sleeping, shared showers, and minimal supervision — often at the hands of slightly older and even hornier youths — add up to a pressure cooker of hormones, humiliation, awkward fumbling, and memorable discoveries. To kick off the Cut’s Summer Sex Week, we collected ten people’s most vivid memories of summer-camp sex — and sex gone awry, and confused preteen discoveries, and other strangely nostalgic humiliations.
1. Fake Orgasms Sweep Horse Camp
When I was 11, there was a fake-orgasm craze at Camp Rim Rock’s horseback riding camp for girls. It started when Lauren Petersen* asked if anyone else had “tickling feelings” while grinding on a Western saddle. Lauren was the alpha girl of my cabin. She was cool and tough and came from New York and had a Beastie Boys cassette. When she stole my pink training bra, I was kind of honored. If Lauren Petersen felt tickles on horses, then feeling tickles on horses was cool. Soon everyone was feeling tickles, or trying to feel them, or faking them. It was like the Salem Witch Trials. I will never say whether my horsegasms were fake.
I was kicked out of the horsegasm clique after fighting Lauren for my bra. On laundry day, I snatched it back, then dramatically wrote my name on it in black permanent marker, ruining the bra for both of us. After that I had to be friends with a girl with a bowl cut who kept apologizing for having the same last name as me. She said it meant her family used to enslave mine. White guilt starts so young.
2. Camp Spirit or Furry Fetish?
All camp hookups, in my experience, were a little predator-prey. I was 15 when a 20-year-old counselor convinced me it would be hilarious if we stole full-body squirrel costumes from the drama supply closet (the squirrel was our camp mascot) and snuck through the woods to terrorize kids who were camping in tents that night. So we put on the costumes and hiked to the campsite — and ended up making out on a picnic table in full-body fur suits, squirrel heads perched beside us.
3. Sexual Shaving Rituals
We always shaved our 12-year-old legs outside where the boys could see, sitting on towels spread over the pavement that connected the girls’ camp to the boys’ camp. When I was 13, my counselor got me and another camper to shave her vag before she met up with her boyfriend. We did it outside on the porch, her lying down and us on either side of her, giggling. She was 16 and told us all her sex stories. She once dared several girls in my bunk to put Gold Bond on our vaginas. It was so cold that it stung and I experienced a kind of sensitivity generally reserved for varsity S&M games. I think the counselor got a perverse kick out if it, even though she is straight. She is now a wedding planner.
Still, she gave me some good advice: When my prepubescent tits were getting squeezed like tiny stress balls during make-outs behind the bunk, my counselor said I should tell the boys, “Be gentle.”
4. Lesbian Stirrings at Bible Camp
I wouldn’t say I “realized” I was gay at church camp. When I had my first kiss at camp, it was with a boy. I was a hard-core Texas Bible baby, but my camp shared space with other groups and many weren’t Christian. There was this one older girl who wasn’t with us. And she was so beautiful. I still remember it. Dark hair down to her waist, little khaki shorts. I was 11: I didn’t understand sex, but I remember sitting at a campfire sing-along and just staring at her legs. Then I looked up and saw her looking back at me with this face that said, “I know exactly what you’re thinking, you dirty little lesbian.” Not in a mean way, just the same thing she did when little boys had crushes on her. It was encouraging in a way I hadn’t experienced before. Being interested in girls had never been an option. I’d never consciously explored it before.
I essentially spent the next few weeks there looking at her legs. From that point on, I paid attention to girls. I looked at them. I looked at the Sports Illustrated "Swimsuit Edition." I remember thinking the sex scene in Multiplicity was hot. Andie MacDowell, with a southern accent and a full-length nighty. I was so into that.
5. The Girl Who Discovered Orgasms
I had my first orgasm at Jewish summer camp, the result of dry-humping against a cabin. A few years later I lost my virginity at a summer camp on a kibbutz. I had sex five times that night, including in the shower, and came every time! Talk about getting off to a good (blessed?) start.
6. Naked Boy, Uproarious Laughter
In 1983, I was 11 years old — too young to be interested in seeing what a naked girl looked like, but old enough to be terrified of being seen naked by one myself. But the other boys in my cabin, a year ahead of me and with puberty underway, proposed that the girls' cabin join us after dinner for skinny-dipping in the Au Sable River in northern Michigan, where we had gone for a canoeing trip. I was afraid to participate, but even more afraid that declining would harm my already-tenuous social standing. So it was agreed: The boys would head off into the trees to the right of the campsite, strip, and jump into the river, where the girls would meet us.
When we arrived — I was wearing nothing but the waterproof watch that came free with my subscription to Sports Illustrated — the girls still stood on the shore, where they informed us that they would not be joining us in the river, and had furthermore taken our clothes, and would watch us come retrieve them. A couple boys proudly marched out of the river. The rest came out crouching over to hide their privates. I stayed behind out of a combination of fear and the wan hope that if I waited long enough, everybody would get bored and leave.
This did not happen.
And so, getting colder and colder, I slowly trudged out, crouching and covering, everybody else now clothed and staring at me. Somebody asked me what time it was. The request somehow triggered an automatic reflect, and I was momentarily transported out of the moment. I stood straight up, looked at my watch, and answered. And then I looked down at my cold, wet, exposed prepubescent boyhood, and everybody — boys and girls alike — was laughing uproariously at me. Honest, I hadn’t realized what would happen when I picked up my hand to check my watch. I have never worn a timepiece since, and, honest, it just occurred to me as I recalled this story that this might be the reason why.
7. The Birth of a Teen Hussy
The summer after seventh grade, I went on a bike tour from Vermont and into Canada. I was the only girl on the trip, aside from the counselor with whom I shared a tent but no rapport. We rode 60 miles a day.
Somewhere around the border of Canada, we camped on a beach. It had been about ten days and I hadn't had any fun with the random group of dorks on my trip, but that night I heard a party raging down the beach. I waited until the counselor fell asleep, then snuck out of our tent and walked toward the party. It was a big bonfire, loads of booze, local teens. I met a very cute, blond 16-year-old and told him I was 15. (I was 13.) He took me into the woods, and, chalk it up to boredom or my first taste of anonymous hooking up, but I decided that I would give this stranger my first ever blow job. I didn’t tell him. I just went for it.
When I returned to my tent, the counselor was frantic. She had woken up, realized I was gone, and freaked out. I was promptly kicked off the bike tour, sent alone by Greyhound bus back to Port Authority for my parents to retrieve me. I never told a living soul what I did with that boy. It was the beginning of many years as a teen hussy.
8. The Topless Girl Who Ran Into Her Dad
I attended a church camp that my super-strict church put on every summer. Premarital sex was a sin punishable by eternal damnation and girls couldn't wear jewelry, makeup, or anything tight or low-cut. The opposite sex was referred to as “the brothers” or “the sisters,” and we were kept mostly separate, outside of meals, lectures, and campfire sing-alongs. The year I turned 16, my dad volunteered as the camp’s director and decided that each age group would have its own color, denoted by T-shirts. My XXL purple T-shirt was four sizes too large. (I’m still not sure if that was a mistake, or if Dad did it to reign in my precociousness.) But my friends’ shirts fit them, so I would take turns wearing my friend Sarah's T-shirt, swapping at the end of the day.
One night after a sing-along, I, thinking I had a tank top underneath, whipped off Sarah’s T-shirt like it was no big deal. Her eyes bulged and I realized that I was wearing only my silky padded bra from Victoria's Secret — itself a contraband item — in front of maybe 50 fundamentalist teenagers of both genders. I freaked and ran to the closest building with my arms crossed over me. I opened the first door I saw and plunged in, thinking it would be empty. Inside was my father. He was giving a presentation to a handful of national and regional church leaders who were visiting our camp. Freaking out again, I ran behind the whiteboard of his presentation. The church elders awkwardly shuffled out, and then my father came back and kindly handed over his sports jacket. To this day, we have never talked about it.
9. First Kiss: A Tale of Minor Tragedy
I had my first kiss at summer camp. “Wanna blow me?” he asked a few seconds later. I didn’t know what “blow” meant so I didn’t respond, but after a few more seconds of kissing, I knew I would do anything for this boy. He was the love of my life. So that night I asked an older girl to explain “blowing.” I’d barely processed the information when I walked into the cafeteria the next morning and saw the older girl holding hands with the love of my life. She had somehow managed to track him down and blow him before breakfast. I ran to the bathroom and sobbed. A few days later, I found a new boy to kiss and forgot all about the first one. I don’t remember either of their names anymore.
10. Caught in Headlights
At a church camp when I was 16, I became a secret item with a boy. I wasn’t a camper; my family was in an in-between home situation that year, so we lived there and I did office work to earn my keep. The boy would sneak away from activities to hang out with me. On the night he was leaving, I snuck out to his cabin to say good-bye. What we did not know was that his dad had already arrived to pick him up. The staff, including my mom, were looking for us everywhere. We were caught literally in headlights when my mom and another staffer drove up in a golf cart, shouting. The boy, being quite the gentleman, sprinted away and left me to be interrogated alone. Definitely a lesson in the kind of man one wants — or does not want — in her life.
* Names changed to protect the innocent who lost their innocence at camp.