Content warning: sexist language, ableist language, and pictures of bruises/hickeys
A few weeks ago I was waiting in line to get Taco Bell at the Student Union before work. While I was in line, a masculine person walked passed me with fat hickeys all over their neck. I seemed to be the only person who noticed.
“Damn, he has a LOT of confidence” I thought, thinking about the times when I had to rely on my long hair and concealer to cover up similar marks.
Then I began to think about why I worked so hard to cover up hickeys when guys could walk around with them laying across his neck like a neon red sign reading ‘I just had sex’. I wondered how people would treat a feminine person with a hickey on her neck?
Planning the Experiment
I began this experiment by asking my boss if I could come to work on Thursday with a fake hickey on my neck, since I knew that hickeys are typically not ‘work appropriate attire’. She gave me the green light to perform my experiment for the sake of this blog post.
Social Experiment – The morning of
On the morning of the social experiment I was highly reluctant to get out of bed. For some reason I had the unshakeable fear that this experiment would make my school day difficult, especially because I had a presentation later in that day.
I sat down at my desk and pulled up a reference photo for my hickey. After sending a quick snap of my bare neck to my long-distance boyfriend (to assure him that my hickey was 100% makeup & not from someone else) I broke out my makeup and set to work ( I’m linking the products I used to achieve my fake hickey in case you’re curious, there are a whole bunch of other products that could probably achieve the same result).
The first thing I did was rub eye shadow primer on my neck. Then I took a yellow color corrector and ran it along my neck in a big oval shape. Then I took a purple-based red eye shadow on my finger and smudged a small oval-ish shape on my neck. Because there was shimmer in that shadow, I added some of a matte, darker reddish brown shadow on top. Then I set my fake hickey with setting powder.
When I was done I went out into the hallway of my apartment where my housemate was getting ready. I decided I’d ask her for her input on my handiwork.
“Does this look like a hickey?” I asked her.
“Uh, kind of?” she replied, “do you need a thicker concealer?” she began to search through her bag for one.
“Oh no, I gave myself a fake hickey to do a social experiment for my blog.” I told her, apparently she thought I was trying to cover my hickey and failed miserably. Another one of my roommates, who knew about my social experiment, asked me to turn so she can see.
“Damn Char that looks real!” She exclaimed.
Suddenly I felt gross and uncomfortable. I did the rest of my makeup and got ready for class. Every time I walked past a mirror I could see my hickey staring me down. I began to feel like a cheater, knowing that my boyfriend was two hours away from me and yet I had a hickey. I snapped him again to make sure he still new it was fake.
After awhile my anxiety subsided. I put my hair up in a ponytail so that I could expose my neck, revealing my hickey. I made sure to change into my outfit for the day carefully so I didn’t smudge my neck. Soon it was time to leave for my class, and my third roommate wanted to walk with me since his class was on the way. Time to take this test outside.
It took all of three minutes for my roommate to see the hickey on my neck. Our conversation went as followed:
“Oh my God Charlotte you have a big ass hickey! Wait is that a hickey or something else?”
“What do you think?” I asked.
“A hickey?! Oh my God Charlotte that’s so bad! You shouldn’t get hickeys where people can see them!”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Do you even care?” He asked; I shrugged my shoulders in response. “I guess you don’t care since you’re walking around with it out like that. But it’s so bad Charlotte! They’re so easy to get rid of! You’re supposed to ice it right away or scrape it with a spoon or quarter!”
I shrugged my shoulders again, “I’ve had this since I saw [my boyfriend] on Sunday; I just gave up trying to hide it.” I told him. We split off our separate ways as we both had separate classes to attend.
Social Experiment – First class of the day
Immediately after I sat down, I felt the eyes of the girl behind me lingering on my neck. She stared down at my neck on and off for the first half hour of my lecture. I felt really uncomfortable. The people that usually sit to the right of me (on the side of my fake hickey) moved to sit behind me instead. I began to feel as though I had some sort of plague. Thankfully no one flat out mentioned the dark bruise on my neck, which helped me focus on the lecture I was attending.
The first class of my Tuesdays & Thursdays is a two-part class with a lecture and seminar combined. In seminar I was supposed to present a speech, so I was highly anxious. Normally I’m totally okay with delivering a speech, but I was impulsively thinking about how everyone was going to judge me for having a hickey, which made me fearful to talk to the whole class. The class kicked off with a group debate, which lasted the whole class period. Thankfully my professor told me I could do my speech some other time because we ran out of time due to the in class debate. I talked to her after class about rescheduling my speech, and at one point I thought that she had seen my hickey because she was on my right side.
I felt really unprofessional. I typically would never talk to a professor with a hickey on my neck. After I walked away from her I sent her an email immediately to explain my fake hickey, trying to save my good self-image. After stressing over the email for a response she finally replied
“I didn’t notice! But that might just be because I’m oblivious!
I think it’s perfectly fine if you do sport a hicky, though…”
I felt a sense of relief wash over me. It was also really nice to know that my Professor was open to people expressing and displaying their sexuality. I was glad that most of my experiences today weren’t too bad.
My next class was a math workshop, where I sat across from a middle-aged woman. She kept staring me down whenever she could see my hickey, but when I met her eyes with mine she averted them. We repeated this body language all class long. I wondered if she was going to say anything about my hickey, but aside from her eyes she didn’t acknowledge it.
Social Experiment – The hell that is math
When my math workshop ended I had some down time to go back to my apartment. I touched up my hickey and made it a tiny bit darker. Then I decided that it would be more effective to tie my hair up in a bun so that the entirety of my neck was exposed at all times.
My math class is filled with incoming freshman, and most of them still fully carried the immaturity of high school. I was assigned to sit in the front every day due to the fact that I’m Hard Of Hearing. Everyone else has moved into their unassigned seats after the first few days of lecture. The people who sit around me are ignorant. They’ve repeatedly talked about sexist, racist, and ableist things in my presence throughout the professor’s lecture. To be completely transparent I had to force myself to go to this class with a hickey on my neck because I didn’t want to give them ammunition to make me more uncomfortable. For the sake of this article, I pressed on and walked into the lecture hall.
The lecture hall is split into three sections of chairs, each section is divided by a pathway so people can get to their seats. One of the people in the friend group that sits behind me was having a conversation with the guy who sits directly behind me. We’ll call the guy who sits to the right of me “R” and the guy who sits behind me “S”.
R sees my hickey and stops mid-sentence. Suddenly the topic switches to the fact that they both (surprisingly) have girlfriends.
“My bitch is very supportive of me.” R says. I almost couldn’t believe the words came out of his mouth.
They go back and forth talking about their ‘bitches’. I sighed deeply, which S took notice of. Suddenly S gets the idea to try to instigate me further. He knows I sit in the front of the room for my disability but doesn’t know what my disability is. He decides that it must be an intellectual disability and turns to R, blurting out “dude you’re retarded!”
R laughs. “I’m not bro, you are!”
“I bet you think the word retarded is funny huh? I saw you laugh! Say it. Say you’re retarded if you think the word is funny!”
“I’m not going to say retarded!” R yells. Then they both start laughing.
I’m fuming. I felt attacked and insulted. After sending out an angry tweet or two about the situation I decided that the best thing to do would be to ignore them. I felt as though if I called them out they would call me sexist slurs in class. I wished I hadn’t given myself a hickey, I felt like a target for merely exposing to the word the information that women could express their sexuality in the same ways that men could. I focused on the lecture at hand and ignored their voices for the rest of class.
Social Experiment – Other Reactions
After class I had work, and MOSAIC was hosting their monthly Open Mic Night. Even though I was Co-Hosting in the Starbucks lounge, no one mentioned my hickey except for a frequent visitor of MOSAIC. He winked (in a friendly way) and gave me thumbs up. I did notice however that while I was asked for an interview for the Spartan Daily that would be written down, my hickey-less co-host had her interview on camera.
After work I went to my apartment and realized that I could get more reactions on Snapchat, so I posted two pictures on Snapchat to see if I could get any more reactions.
immediately my best friend from back home messaged me on Snapchat
“nice hickie 😂😭” she commented
“Thanks! 😂” I replied
“Hahah hoe” she responded. I could tell that she didn’t mean Hoe in a malicious way, and I knew that she herself had had a fair share of people talking about her sexuality behind her back. Still, I felt as though I was a ‘hoe’ for simply having a visible hickey in the first place.
A girl I went to high school with also sent me a chat on Snapchat after seeing the above picture:
“what’s that on your neck I see u girl ;))” she said. After telling her that my boyfriend came down to visit me she replied, “I’m messin w you hahah glad ur having fun!!!”
After the experiment I definitely noticed that I stopped caring if other people were looking at me or not. I do believe that women get bashed for expressing their sexuality, and that’s something that needs to change.
Until then, feel free to cover up or show your hickeys as you please. It’s about to be scarf season (;