Boys Will Be Boys – Sexual Assault and College

vintage collecge poster 1973 photo college student Sally Edelstein 1973

This vintage security poster from Syracuse University in 1973 (L) was ironically directed at protecting your valuables like your stereo more than female student safety. (R) Sally Edelstein Syracuse Freshman 1973

In 1973 Syracuse University promised their  students that college life would provide lasting memories.

They didn’t disappoint.

Vintage Syracuse University Student Catalogue 1973

Vintage Syracuse University Student Catalogue 1973

Even decades later, college memories remain etched deeply in my psyche. Especially, if like me, you were sexually assaulted. More than once.

My freshman year at the university indeed provided remembrances that still linger- the chimes from Crouse college, the freaks playing Frisbees on the quad, making a late night dinglerun, hanging out on M street.  And date raped.

It’s All Greek To Me

Fraternity House, Syracuse University 1973

Fraternity House, Syracuse University 1973

The boys will be boys mentality was in full force in the multiple fraternity houses  that lined the leafy tree-lined  streets of the university.

These gracious stately mansions on Walnut Ave, were the breeding ground for male entitlement.  Raucus, boozy, keg parties were the norm.  So were sexual assault and harassment. These bastions of boys clubs filled with privileged white lads, smirking and high-fiving one another followed in the Bret  Kavanaugh credo – what happened at  Kappa Phi Delta stayed  there.

But it also stayed in my mind.

More than once, I was sexually assaulted.

More than once, I would stumble back to my dorm up on the Mount shaken, upset, ashamed.

More than once, flashbacks of a darkened room, the sound  of  “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” blaring loudly in the background, the weight of being pinned  down against my will, the strained struggle of unwanted groping, the air redolent of pot, and the stale yeasty scent of Genesee beer would all flood back years later at unwelcomed times, so that even today the very smell of beer brings up a wave of nausea.

They’re Just Boys

Vintage Monopoly Card

Vintage Monopoly Card

It went unreported because that was the norm too.

Because boys will be boys it was so easy to brush aside bad behavior.

Because we convinced ourselves it was our fault.

Because no one would believe us. Because we want to forget it happened.

Unspoken of, the pain was  swallowed where it remained undigested for years playing havoc with my psyche and my body. More than once.

This was 45 years ago and yet once again because of  Brett Kavanaugh we are reminded that boys will be boys. It is still a get out of jail free card, a free pass meant to trivialize male behavior their entire life.

We are reminded rape culture still exerts its influence on college campuses and in courts of law.

The  Kavanaugh scandal has unleashed millions of voices in solidarity with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Countless women have similar stories. Often, like me, more than one. From unwanted advances, to forced sex acts, women are questioned, vilified, doubted, and keep their voices silent.

But make no doubt about it, we still live in a culture where much of this behavior is laughed at or excused away.  It’s all part of school hijinks, college capers, drunken parties… boys being boys just trying to “get some action.”

Committing sexual assault is not “getting action.

It’s hard to imagine  there was a time when this sort of behavior was played for laughs.

 

In an era of student power, women were still pretty powerless when it came to their bodies. How much has changed? Playboy Magazine September 1969. Sex on Campus Issue. Playmate Bunny Shay Knuth , a saucy south of the border sweetie, is “one of Mexico City’s comeliest coeds”

College Capers

For better and for worse getting action and college have long been linked.

In this culture of male entitlement it shouldn’t be surprising that Playboy Magazine once featured guides to sex on colleges which was “where the action was.

 

"Campus Action Chart" Playboy Magazine September 1969 illustration by Bob Post

“Campus Action Chart” Playboy Magazine September 1969 illustration by Bob Post

In this 1969 guide for the horny young man, the best prospects for scoring some action was college.

Boola Boola!

Reporting from the front lines of the sexual revolution, Playboys  1969 “Campus Action Chart” rated 25 different schools as it did the year before. Playboy explains “:in descending order of permissiveness- the charts upper reaches being mecca for the scholarly hedonist, it’s lower depths monasteries for the sexually meek.

 

"Campus Action Chart" Playboy Magazine September 1969 illustration by Bob Post

“Campus Action Chart” Playboy Magazine September 1969 illustration by Bob Post. Stanford makes the top 10.

Playboy continues:

“As our campus action chart reveals politics hasn’t usurped the attention of all students. (Not all students were out protesting the war, anti establishment). The survey imaginatively illustrated by Bob Post, Playboys assistant art director, proves that far friendlier extracurricular activities are also on the rise. Many male students, we found, prefer to occupy coed beds rather than administrative buildings but each school imposes its own restrictions on undergraduate freedoms.

"Campus Action Chart" Playboy Magazine September 1969 illustration by Bob Post

“Campus Action Chart” Playboy Magazine September 1969 illustration by Bob Post

The 25 schools span a cross-section  of types ( Ivy megaversity, state, small, sexually segregated, etc) and represent every demographic area of the US.

"Campus Action Chart" Playboy Magazine September 1969 illustration by Bob Post

“Campus Action Chart” Playboy Magazine September 1969 illustration by Bob Post

Each schools ratings was derived from a number of variables some tangible ( dorm hours, availability of women on and off campus) and some intangible ( mod of the students atmosphere generated b the faculty etc). What we’ve done is save you the trouble of plowing thru sociological journals to extract pertinent nuggets.

Depending on your personal proclivities and your academic status at the moment, a perusal of the chart will tell you where to go to college or where you should have gone if you had known.

Interspersed with the articles are some good hearty college laffs:

vintage Playboy cartoon Sex college football players

“Don’t any of you leave until you each promise not to tell.” Vintage cartoon Playboy Magazine Sept. 1969 by Buck Brown

Sex in Academe

illustration 1960's sex in colleg

Playboy Magazine September 1969 illustration Bob Post

Revolting

In that era of free love , and student revolting,  sex was often not so free and often had a steep price to pay, the haunted memories lasting a lifetime. It was revolting.

1969 fashion ad men and women

Be Prepared. Vintage ad Mr Hicks Casuals from Playboy Sept. 1969

It is only now that young  women can give voice to the rapes and sexual assaults that have been occurring for decades on college campuses.

There was no name for “date rape” but how many women of a certain age are haunted by memories of waking up in a stranger’s room, naked, disoriented, realizing they’d been sexually assaulted. Hungover from a boozy party they blame only themselves and the alcohol for the assault that was perpetrated on them. There was no outrage because no one would  listen. In an era filled with protesting, their voices of protest were ignored.

In an era of student power, women were still pretty powerless.

The hallmark of a rape victim.

#BelieveSurvivors

Copyright (©) 2018 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved

 

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12 comments

  1. Pierre Lagacé

    Boys Will Be Boys….

    If that’s how some people NOW explain this kind of behavior…

    Sad!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. bernesemtdog

    My neighbor, mother of 2 daughters defended Kavanaugh with, “Boys will be boys.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. bernesemtdog

    Well said, Sally, well said. And she is a big supporter of Trump.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kim

    Thanks for posting in the NYT and thanks for this piece. I also went to Syracuse, 30 years after you. It hadn’t changed much. Hopefully now things are better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I believe in recent Syracuse had some major problems with different fraternities and those fraternities were eventually banned. But I have to think the climate in collge has changed and certainly now this with the MeToo movement and what is going on with Kavanaugh has opened up a dialouge

      Like

  5. Cre8tive Clyde

    You wrote:

    But it also stayed in my mind.
    More than once, I was sexually assaulted.
    More than once, I would stumble back to my dorm up on the Mount shaken, upset, ashamed.

    I have to ask a question—what was the desperation that caused you to return to the “scene of the crime” multiple times? Because, clearly, it wasn’t just the ‘boys will be boys’. I knew many young women who would never have tolerated that environment and would have absented themselves from it. I know my comment will be taken as blaming you. I’m not. I blame the System, so to speak. But, we all have responsibility to choose whether to stay inside that System or leave it. There ARE good men out there. Lots of them. Find the environments where they already exist. Don’t expect it to exist in a Frat house—which is why I never belonged to one, a GDI my whole time in college getting two degrees. And never, ever forced myself on women. Married now with the same woman for 57 years and four sons.

    I am deeply sorry for your experiences. Clearly they messed up your life in known and unknown ways.

    Like

  6. Pingback: Cosby Goes to Jail… Goes Directly To Jail | Envisioning The American Dream

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