Party Party!

On my first night back at Amherst, my eternal love for Pond 111 was reaffirmed. This ever-reliable mecca of mayhem has witnessed countless episodes of slow grinding, windowsill jamming, strobe-lit ecstasy and, of course, an occasional appearance by the traveling Franzia bladder. A quick sojourn up to the press box can make any underclassman feel like the fresh prince of the party. The keg seems to magically produce beer after beer, and the music, punctuated by blink182 classics and a country song every 18 tracks, leaves one feeling energized, refreshed, and lighthearted (though if it is May and you have been listening to the same playlist at the same party for 8 months, it could just make you feel bored and zombielike). Pond is friendly and open to all, even the occasional vomiting freshmen (or belligerent swim team member), and rarely does it disappoint. Yet, while as a drunk woman scantily clad I bound towards the Socials’ central component on a Saturday night with a barrel-of-monkeys chain of 18 of my closest girlfriends to hopefully find (and awkwardly stare at across the room at) the boy in my Lit. class who has been making eyes at me across the Red Room (you know the type), as a recent nearly-sober witness of the events inside and out, I find some of the rituals and practices involved with this scene disturbing.

HuckleKat’s post delves into most of the problems I have with the slightly bitter flavor of a typical Amherst party: the necessity of alcohol, loud music, darkness, and the objectification of women. His last image, of a heel-clad, flashy freshman girl drunk and stumbling on the arm of a silent, shirtless guy (or more realistically one wearing khaki shorts and boat shoes) struck a nerve in me, and I just couldn’t re-settle myself.

This jarring tale is not like any experience I have ever had, but I can’t say I haven’t gone home with a boy who I ran into at a party. On these occasions I a) knew the guy beforehand and therefore had established a code of respect in the humanist light of sobriety, and b) took him back to my room, where I felt more comfortable enforcing my rules (and changing into pj’s at bed time instead of my birthday suit or borrowing something of his that was 8 times too large—walk of shame avoided). I had very enjoyable evenings with these very enjoyable and respectful individuals, and I would never speak ill of this brand of after-party hookup. The Amherst environment outside the hours of 10pm-3am Thursday and Saturdays is mostly a freeing and pleasant one in which to be a college-aged female, and this is the atmosphere in which the foundation of our cross-gender relationships should be formed.

However…

In the past I was one to don 5 inch heels, a glitter mini-dress, red nails, stick-straight hair, and consume 8 shots in succession at a pregame. While it is fun to dress up from time to time, the extensive prep, sartorial and otherwise, makes for a more stressful and loaded evening than anyone really needs—or understands. Putting this much stress on sex appeal ultimately means placing an unspoken emphasis on the act of sex itself—something that not every girl is ready to accept when she puts on a short dress and liquifies her inhibitions with alcohol.

From the actions of many the Amherst student who ventures out on a Saturday night with the aim of conquest, it seems that their goal is to be meaninglessly entertained by the orifices of the opposite sex. But how can this be what we all really want? Yes, as the article states, some people just like sex—but sex isn’t like bowling. Any physically intimate experience should involve at least the same amount of respect, communication, and openness that it would require two people to operate a canoe, but it seems that often at Amherst the canoe is driven too forcefully by a man paddling from the front following a flailing siren around a tiny, crowded bay.

My problem with the party scene at Amherst reaches beyond the implications of questionable consent and slightly shady happenings behind closed doors, and hits at the heart of a after-hours gender imbalance that seems stuck in the 1950s. If we can work side by side in the library and spoon mashed potatoes with a commiserating chuckle at Val, why can’t we behave like human beings when the lights are low and the music is loud?

New York Times Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/28/fashion/after-class-skimpy-equality-motherlode.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=college%20party&st=cse

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