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Desperate British Students Have Found a New Way to Have Sex with One Another Before They Graduate

It's called the "Gold Rush," and it's happening all across the UK.
Photo by Jake Lewis

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

For college students across the UK, it is the beginning of a long, frustrating month: Exam season is here, and this can mean the difference between adding a graduate job to your LinkedIn page or finding yourself slumped on the arrivals couch at the job center. Long library hours spent covertly looking at Facebook and pretending to revise are ripe for procrastination, and the slow realization is dawning that a comfortable uni life spent getting up at 2 PM and having burgers for breakfast is soon coming to an end. The solution to this combination of breathless, real-world panic and the final stress-then-decompress cycle of exams?


The solution is to get your fuck on.

Welcome to the Gold Rush, a new excuse that final-year students have come up with to fuck one another. Because, initially, students don't especially need an excuse to fuck—they have their Freshers' Weeks and their traffic-light parties and their cheap, union-subsidized alcohol. At the start, sex comes easily to students. But then come Year 2 you find yourself bogged down in a relationship, and you spend the entire home straight of Year 3 pretending to study, and then you realize, looming down the barrel of the gun marked "real life," that those last gasps of hedonistic youth are coming to an end.

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To deal with this, students are setting up university-specific Gold Rush Facebook groups, in which people can anonymously post teasing little messages and limericks about other final-year students that they wanna bang. The aim is to give away your identity just enough that the object of your affections recognizes who you are and decides to ride the tandem with you all the way to Fucktown. Here are the Gold Rush pages for Swansea University, Falmouth, York, and Brighton and Sussex. If you don't want to click on them, the messages are largely variations on: "To the red head in sociology: I would bang u" and "to that boy doing curls in the squat rack of the uni gym: I would bang u."


If you're currently waking up screaming in the night because of impending history exams, the origins of the term "Gold Rush" should be crystal clear. In 1848, 300,000 wannabe millionaires descended on California over the course of seven hysterical years in the single-minded pursuit of gold. In 2015, a load of third-years have just dumped their uni partners to go to the last of six remaining 2-for-1 Tuesdays at the Union bar in the single-minded pursuit of throwaway sex.

Not all students feel comfortable with the Gold Rush, though. I spoke to one student from Bristol, Kate,* who felt that the whole concept was "creepy" and "just another chance for the rugby boys to pull, then brag about getting laid.

"You spend the whole four years of your course getting groped in clubs," she continued, "only to have it increase tenfold in the final month by boys who think they have been given a mandate to do it."

Another Bristol student Bristol student, Chloe, opposes the Gold Rush for a fundamentally more YOLO reason. "What's the point in waiting? Just do it earlier in the year. Then there's time for repeats." Though she did add: "If you're the kind of person who will let casual sex ruin a friendship or make it super awkward then it can be good. Especially if it's rubbish and you don't want to face them in class.

The pull of the Gold Rush is the idea that the shackles, so to speak, are off. There's none of the awkward see-each-other-in-a-seminar shit, there's none of the gossip-y fallout from hooking up in a notoriously clique-y community, and there's none of the slow-song-and-dance, will-they-won't-they bollocks that comes when two friends who clearly want to bang take ages before they bang. It's just direct: everyone knows what's up, everyone is gripped with the same human panic, everyone finds solace in the same junk-on-junk manner. Plus, there are Last Days of Rome–style events where the poster tagline might as well be "WELL WHEN ELSE ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE SEX WITH A STUDENT?"


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For those in relationships, the end of university is also a challenging time—with the end in sight, with the threat of new jobs and new beginnings and new cities to explore, a lot (read: pretty much all) relationships buckle and fold. "Around this time of year it can also be crunch time for relationships," Durham student Rajesh says. "If one person is getting a job or leaving uni or whatever, you suddenly find a lot of people don't want to 'do' long distance. Plus, being tempted by all the girls they are going to be 'missing out on' soon can be a factor. So there's a wave of newly single people about as well." It doesn't help faltering student relationships when campuses descend into mass, orgiastic parties, either.

This is a UK-wide thing. Over at Bristol University, third-year student Simon says that Gold Rush is "whipped up into a frenzy by the fact everyone talks about it. It's even more potent for people who are graduating and may never see some people again, it makes it almost no-strings attached." And much like any social media trend, the more people see it and engage with it, the wider it spreads—so Facebook events, with thousands of attendees, are normalizing the idea of the Gold Rush. It's now as much part of the university experience as Freshers' Week and graduation.

Photo by Jake Lewis.

It helps, of course, that students are so savvy with their hook-up apps these days. The late-night library sessions combined with the something-in-the-air sexual feverishness creates essentially a perfect storm for Tinder, Grindr, Happn, and Yik Yak networks to go into overdrive, and—with the boredom and the pressure of exam period being thrown in—it's forcing more and more people together.

For those finishing university, Gold Rush is a road marker that signifies the end of education, a goodbye to a system they've lived within most of their lives; to everyone else, it's the carefree start of summer. That weird double-edged nature adds a certain frisson to those preparing to ride out into the real world. Among the high-stakes of exam season, Gold Rush reminds students of the fun they'll be leaving behind when they graduate, offering them that one final chance to do something stupid before they join the real world, a place where rolling in at 11 AM stinking of WKD knockoffs and wearing last night's clothes is suddenly frowned upon. University life is a bubble, and Gold Rush is one final air punch out of it, an inverted Freshers' Week, a final farewell to education and a wave hello to adult life.

And—also, mainly—just a massive, semi-organized excuse to go out on the shag.

*Names changed, obviously. These people are trying to find graduate jobs, after all.

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