I was just another sweaty Boston College first semester freshman, high off the energy of another week completed and the ever-present lust for the weekend. I am not a huge partier by any means; I’m the type of person who would rather enjoy his weekends alone in the warm embrace and comfort of his sheets, caught in the midst of a Game of Thrones marathon, while going to town on a family-sized bag of Smartfood.
That weekend was different from all the rest. My friends found a lead on not only one
party in Gabelli, but another in the Mods. While they set up a group chat and discussed the outfits they were going to wear, I sat in bed and watched them text back and forth, sensing the excitement in each word. I set my phone aside on the shelf positioned dangerously over my bed.
The sound of notifications drowned out the clashing of steel and the crinkle of my dusty white cheddar cheese hands brushing against the bag, going back for more. I placed my phone on vibrate and its buzz matched the rhythmic clicks of heels and clogs and sneakers outside my door as herds of freshman rushed off into the wild frenzy of Friday night.
I’m bored. Fuck it. I want to get drunk.
I slid off my sheets and grabbed my phone off my shelf. I responded to the group chat
with a strong, but optimistic “whut tha plan,” attempting to hide my desperation. My response was met, albeit with a three-minute delay, and I was told to meet up in the CLFX first floor lounge. I rushed to put on my Friday’s Best, aka sweatpants because it was cold, a Nike Dri-Fit shirt because I was going to be dancing, and retro 80s glasses that scream party at night and taxes in the morning. The clogs and laughter of fellow freshman rushing outside my door grew deafening and only added to my excitement. This night is mine.
I quickly made my way down the stairs and met my friends in the first-floor lobby. I met my ecstatic group of friends, exchanged hugs and daps, and went off into the night.
The air was brisk and cool. The cast iron Victorian street lamps of Boston College cast muddy white light, guiding our path to lower campus. With a full moon outside, the energy of all who dared step out into the wonder of Friday night was palpable. Fellow students stumbled out of buildings. Heading off to parties at neighboring schools, they piled into Ubers and Lyfts whose headlights partially blinded me against the darkness of the night.
The sounds of music and the thumping of bass became louder and more ebullient with each passing step. After waiting for someone to open the door to let us into the building and then waiting for someone else to open the door to let us into the room, we got into the party in Gabelli. A wave of heatgreeted my face as soon as the doors opened. My glasses fogged up, and I was sweating before even stepping foot into the room. The only source of light were blue neon lights haphazardly taped to the ceiling. It was loud, cramped, and someone most definitely grabbed my ass. The sweet smell of Svedka Strawberry Lemonade filled the room, somewhat masking the smell of sweat and of people vaping in the back corner of the dorm. I settled against the wall, slowly but surely getting into the music.
Thirty minutes passed. The heat and the dense vape smoke become too much for my friends and me to bear, so we left. We stumbled down the Gabelli stairs and ended up trudging our way over to the Mods, drenched in sweat. The Mods are Boston College’s senior housing, where the big boys play. The maroon houses greeted us with the bright orange lights illuminating their gates. Yet again, the warming sounds of music welcomed our ears, which caused us to catch a second wind. But, we had no idea where we were going. The buildings all looked the same and the numbers distinguishing them cut and began at different places. We had to find mod X9A, (NOTE: I am deleting the actual number of the Mod) but the building next to Mod X8A was X5A. We paused to rest at a table in the middle of a lawn surrounded by four interconnected Mods to collect our thoughts. One of my friends began to ask, “Where the fuck are we going, bro? We’ve been looking forever…” He continued on, but then I noticed a drunk girl skip past her group of friends, full speed, through the partly open sliding glass door of a Mod and in doing so, her shirt somehow came undone.
What am I doing here?
After minutes of debate with my friends and realizing that maybe I should not be here, we nevertheless continued our search. Thankfully, Mod X9A was thirty feet away. We finally made it, but it seemed this party had its own security detail. There were two men holding Natty Lights by the front door.
My group of friends told the impromptu bouncers that we knew someone
inside. “Dancing Queen” played loudly in the background. After another three minutes of
back and forth, we were inside. It was just like Gabelli: hot, sticky, crowded, dark, and suffused with the same sweet smell of Svedka. The difference was that here, a kitchen was filled with half-drunk and emptied red solo cups, the lights hung from the walls like curtains and were bright yellow, and there were upstairs rooms. The music being played was aimed toward a more melanin-deficient audience than myself and I had no idea how to dance to it. I was left, an eighteen-year old freshman, doing the Funky Galileo in the middle of a dance floor. I felt drops of liquid splash against the back of my neck and my hair.
Someone had spilled a drink on me.
I decided to take a break andsat on the couch in the back corner of the mod. I was sweaty and smelled like Svedka. I watched the sporadic movement of people walk up and down the stairway to the rooms upstairs. My friend finished what was left in a half-full red solo cup on the kitchen counter and immediately felt sick. She asked to be helped back to her dorm and her roommate volunteered.
Just like that we were down by two.
I noticed there were a surprisingly large number of women but only a few men at this party. A woman in a Red Sox jersey and a thousand-mile stare sat down next to me, somehow unfazed by the chaos all around her. Something was beginning to dawn on me, but “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” came on and I sprung up and out of my sweaty stupor.
I never really thought about that night again until a few months later, during the second semester. A notification buzzed on my phone. A friend from that night texted that Mod X9A had been drugging women during parties. This had been happening for months, but the news was just now circulating in this second semester. This text was unofficial news, but to me it rang true.
I started to recall odd details from that night. My friend felt sick after half of a drink; the party being full of women, the people walking upstairs, and the few men present in the Mod. Then I started to remember all the facts and statistics I’d learned about sexual assault: one in four women are subject to sexual assault and attempted sexual assault, one in twelve men commit an act of sexual violence, sexual assault healing groups have waitlists, and men have the home field advantage in parties where they control the distribution of alcohol, blame victims for what they are wearing, and push victims into silence. Colleges effectively silence the voices of victims so that everything seems fine when
donors walk through the campus.
I thought of students coping with the stress of midterms and deadlines. Hours of reading in a library, collectively turning into days. Finals turning into an accepted
culture of stress-eating, not taking showers, getting proper sleep, or getting physical activity. All of this tension and stress building up and unleashing on a weekend. This is college, this is normal, this is party culture.
Party culture is a direct embodiment of rape culture. I recalled how my sociology professor in the fall course, From #BlackLivesMatter to #MeToo, had defined rape culture as “a complex set ofbeliefs that coincide sexual aggression and supports violence against women” ( Jean-Charles, Rape Culture & Popular Culture II). This culture pervades colleges around the world. Parties serve as an excuse to gather large groups of women in one area and have men control the proliferation and the mixing of alcoholic drinks. Women do not have control in these parties, but men do, including those who wish to engage in predatory activity. This is sexual violence, the objectification of women , and this is the culture of rape that parties support.
College administrators know of the intersection between rape culture and party culture, through the countless men and women brave enough to let their stories be told. They in turn may provide three-month suspensions for attackers, but may suspend students indefinitely for academic violations. Victims’ stories are silenced by institutional repression and are met by inadequate college support groups.
Boston College is no different.
Those one in four women are our classmates, neighbors, peers, and friends.
Those one in twelve men may sit next to you in Stokes, eat with you in Mac,
and will likely commit those actions again.
Stress of your Portico midterm, calculus quiz, or literary analysis paper assuaged by drugs, dark rooms, and dancing in Walsh. Cut, copy, and paste “Boston College.”
Like it or not, these things are all part of our party culture. Our party culture supports rape culture and is socially normalized due to our need for an outlet from stress and institutionally normalized through silence. It all comes full circle.
Jean-Charles, Regine. Sociology 1511: From #BlackLivesMatter to #MeToo. Dec. 2018,
Boston College, Stokes Hall. Class lecture: “Rape Culture & Popular Culture.”
Lanehart, Lauren M. “Creating Rape Culture: Rape Myth Acceptance and Sex Role
Stereotyping.” PsycEXTRA Dataset, 2006.