Reading about the “Booty Wall” at Howard University last week sent one regular City Paper reader on a trip down memory lane. A graduate of Virginia Tech, she wrote in to share some of the particulars of her time living in that school’s “Virgin Vault.”

Jules Cooper was a resident in the all-girls Vault in the 80s, when it was on the sixth floor of West Ambler Johnston Hall (the building has since become much better known as one of the sites of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre). Cooper didn’t live there by “choice,” as the rest of the students did (meaning their parents had carefully considered the risks of girls living among boys, and chosen it for them); she had a forced roommate switch a few weeks after the school year began, and the new roommate was a Vaulter.

The accommodations were such that everyone on the floor – mostly freshmen – shared a common bathroom, Cooper says. And the highlight of the day – I mean, not counting the days when there were panty raids – was “when an old guy from Roanoke came in to get trash and yelled, ‘Man onna hall!'”

She writes:

Everyone on that hall was certifiable in one way or another. … None of my friends on the hall made it past sophomore year, most dropped out from drugs, grades, booze, and yes, [conflicts over] sexual orientation. So much for clean living sequestered away from the boys.

From the outside world, though, we were the girls in the Virgin Vault, whispered reverently. I cannot explain the guy mentality, but it was there. There would be huge panty raids in front of the hall with 100s of frat boys yelling “Vault Vault Vault Vault.”  We never threw panties. Mostly we lit a candle and sat on the floor until it passed. Also, a favorite hazing ritual from fraternities was to chain a guy to the lamppost in front of West AJ and make a bunch of noise so we’d all watch him take off his clothes to escape.  We watched that. Average time to work up nerve to unclothe? Shockingly, a minimum of 45 minutes.

(My, how times change.)

Not everyone living in a “Virgin Vault” is a virgin, believe it or not. Kelly King attested to that fact in a 2002 article in the campus’ University of Virginia’s Cavalier Daily newspaper called “It takes all kinds to be in the V-Club.”

She wrote:

When I was in high school,
 I decided I no longer wanted to be a virgin. I was the last of my friends remaining in the precious V-club and I hated it. They would sit around and talk about sex with their boyfriends and all I could do was sit and listen or add the occasional oral sex tip. I wanted to know what I was missing….

Fortunately, when I left “the club,” my fears were put to rest because I found the right guy, and I didn’t have to wait a decade to get some. Moreover, when I got to college I realized that real life virgins over the age of 16 actually did exist (OK, maybe my friends were way ahead of the game). I was actually one of the only people on my hall who had ever had sex, hence our nickname: the “Virgin Vault.”

Jeff Craley, a 22-year-old Tech senior who works at the campus radio station, WUVT, has heard of the Virgin Vault, of course (the housing office says it does not have a “freshman-only, female area” on campus, though there are single-sex female dorms). His impression of anyone who would live in such a place: “I’d probably just assume that they’re religious.”

Other schools have so-called Virgin Vaults, too, as it turns out; some are all-girls floors, some are girls-only dorms (when the VV at the University of Wisconsin went co-ed in 2006 it was said the dorm had been “deflowered”). Some girls at Indiana University tried to get some T-shirts together commemorating the end of their time in the Vault there. Sadly, they couldn’t get the money together in time, but here’s the design: