Kingsley’s guest post on our blog about party themes brought me back to my very first college party. I was still in high school at the time, visiting a freshman friend living in the dorms. After a couple of beers, we hit the town so that I could catch a glimpse of the party scene.
Yes, we were underage…now that I’m a bit older, I promise I will never underage-drink again. Or, to put it less cynically, isn’t it scary how easy it is for youngsters to get booze? Anyway, back to the party.
I was completely blown away by what I saw when we went out that night. My high school was small, and the parties weren’t exactly wild. Everyone knew everyone, so the dress and behavior were pretty conservative. Well, this particular night saw us sneaking into a fraternity party (which apparently needed better security), and my young mind spun wildly from the pounding music, the lights, the hot and sweaty dance floor, and above all else, the girls.
I had never seen so many girls in my life! At least it felt that way. And what sent me into sensory overload was what little clothing some of them were wearing. Fueled by hormones and alcohol, I went over to the first girl I saw, who looked like she was dressed for the beach, and started dancing how I thought she wanted to be danced with. I was very very wrong, and let’s just say that my consolation prize was a drink without a cup, if you know what I mean.
Let me be clear: I’m not trying to excuse myself. I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that what I was doing was wrong the moment I sauntered over. Acting on that impulse instead of taking a breath and listening to my conscience was not a good feeling, because I was selling myself short.
Let this story be a parable, a warning if you will. Guessing what a girl wants by her appearance, and acting on that assumption without clarifying, is at best dangerous and at worst it is illegal. I understood very clearly right then that exposed skin does not equal a hands-on exhibit. I absolutely regret my actions, but in retrospect, I’m very glad I learned that lesson early, before college even started.
I wish I could say the same for some of my peers, who had not had a similar experience in the past, or had somehow ignored the lesson. Walking down the street on a Saturday night (or in Isla Vista, any night), some of my friends and acquaintances were prone to remarks such as “Dude, that girl is looking to get laid tonight.” Believe it or not, gentlemen, that girl probably isn’t. She may be headed to a theme party, she may just want to feel sexy, but she is NOT wearing a sign on her neck that says “molest me.” In my view, she deserves respect for braving the chilly, foggy nights, when I found myself shivering in jeans!
So kudos to the ladies out there who wear whatever they want. The gentlemen will respect you regardless of your attire. On the whole, though, the reality remains that skimpy gets more attention than bundled up, all else being equal. It’s largely due to the fact that many men have the following graph in their heads:
Of course the above graph is satirical. Most of my best friends were great guys, as were the majority of my classmates. After all, we had gotten into one of the top public universities in the country, so we had to be doing something right.
If we want to make it so that sweatpants and sweatshirts are the same as lingerie in terms of making a girl popular at a wild several-hundred-person fraternity party, we’ll need to change a lot of things about college parties that are frankly not going to change, at least not soon. But a safe party atmosphere means that no matter how sexually charged the dance floor is, everyone is entitled to their personal space. A girl is never sending “the wrong signal,” or “asking for it.” End of story.
And guys, no one can stop you from looking, but if you don’t know her and don’t have the willingness to get to know her, at least respect her. You would not be happy if someone grabbed your wallet, because it’s stealing. You can be damn sure that grabbing anything of hers is also illegal, and even if it wasn’t, are you really going to be happy looking at yourself in the mirror later? Be a gentleman to every girl you meet, from every end of the clothing spectrum, and encourage your friends to do the same. Who knows, the word might spread that you’re a decent fellow! It worked for me, and unlike getting a drink thrown at you, I promise you won’t regret it.