Should our intimacy be controlled? Voices from the community on parietals, sexual assault, and moving forward. (Previous: Part II: Faculty Perspective)
Student Perspective: Lucy Binswanger
Spring term last year, my teacher took our English class out to the diner as a chance to bond and eat good food before finals came around. Trying to come up with topics of conversation, I asked around the table if anyone had any funny first date stories. None of them did, because every single one of my 15- to 16-year-old classmates had never been on a date or even anything remotely close to one. I then asked one of the boys in my class why he had never taken someone he liked on a date, and he responded that it was “way too much effort.”
My first thought was: dang, are you missing out! What happened to all the gentlemen who took us out to dinner at Chipotle before hooking up with us and never speaking to us again? At least we’d get a free meal out of it. However, I wasn’t surprised. After a year in the Deerfield Bubble, these encounters with cultural difference were to be expected.
When I first arrived at Deerfield as a new sophomore, I was immediately informed by my peers of the unspoken rules and regulations about hooking up and “dating.” I’d wanted to ask someone out who I’d met a few days before and had a nice conversation with at ukulele club (hubba hubba). A senior told me that in theory I could, but she advised that I didn’t. That would be “weird.”
Being in public school for most of my life, this came as a huge shock. If you were interested in someone romantically or sexually, you either cowered in a corner yearning over their sweet embrace in your daydreams, or you mustered up the courage to ask them out. Going to movies, walking around town, or even just hanging out at a SO’s house was always a typical and enjoyable part of life. Boyfriends and girlfriends were equally as common as “things” or “hookups,” and people knew that because they were able to define these relationships pretty easily.
Sexual assault was real, but not necessarily common. Students were well educated on sex and consent, and students could talk to trusted faculty about these matters because… well… sex was allowed.
College campuses are now dealing with what many call an “epidemic” of sexual assault and rape, but the real question is: are boarding school campuses any different? Rape culture is real at Deerfield for many reasons. Lack of communication, social pressure, reputation, and bottled-up hormones make for one big lump of suck.
This culture of casual sexual encounters is a subset of an overall flawed social structure.
Deerfield culture is already very sexist and there is little female initiation when it comes to these encounters. After a hookup has taken place, the couple’s sexual privacy is almost always compromised because of the size of this community, usually at the girl’s expense. When you ask someone of the opposite gender to get parietals, or “leave the Greer,” or go for a walk, the assumption is that you are going to hook up. However, hooking up can mean anything from a kiss on the lips to having sex, so there’s already an extreme lack of clarity there. If a couple does happen to want to do something besides kissy-kissy cuddle time, they either have to “find a spot” and risk getting caught by security, or they have to get parietals and risk having an intimate moment interrupted by their resident, if they can’t finish by the next “knock knock, everything okay in there?” Therefore, almost all sexual encounters at Deerfield exist under a time limit. When speaking of sex education, the general faculty response is to “wait for the right person” and “to make sure you’re comfortable.” These statements come with good intentions. However, the reality is that most students don’t have time to make sure both people are consenting every step of the way when Mr. Applebottom could be back any minute. Due to this unfortunate arrangement, I am sure that by definition a lot more sexual assault goes on here than is talked about openly. The faculty response to this dilemna is to impose stricter parietals guidelines to make sure everyone involved feels safe.
In RoSho, we were informed that when the on-duty faculty checks in (which will be every 30 minutes) we are prohibited from being in a lying down position, and we must come and answer the door ourselves. Residents may as well tell us to set a timer for 30 minutes and “have at it,” but to make sure we’re in an upright position once the time is up. I can guarantee that if we didn’t have parietals at all, sexual activity would increase by 100%. But if we had somewhat looser policies, would sexual assault be less likely? My answer is yes. And isn’t that what the administration is most concerned about when constructing these policies? With more freedom and less “couple shaming” (yes, faculty, we see those judgmental stares you give us when we check in) our school would be taking a step in the right direction in developing healthier relationships and changing the culture at Deerfield.