The basement is dark except for the spastic, flashing colored lights that cut across people’s shadowed faces. The walls are slick with condensation from the number of bodies packed into a single room, just black silhouettes spilling drinks and moving to the beat of rap and hip-hop. We know this place – it’s as familiar as the academic buildings we spend the day in. The fraternity basements are our night classes. For women, it’s a crash-course in alcohol, men, and our purpose.
No one can deny that frat parties are a culture of their own. It’s a time and place where rules are bent or broken, liquor runs freely, and inhibitions are thrown out of the window. Ethics here are just as blurred as intoxicated Snapchats.
Women, here’s lesson one. It’s the first one we learn, and arguably it is one men learn, too, but a little differently, and that is drinking. For us, it’s a fine line to walk, if we choose to walk it. You must be drunker than your friends, but not drunker than that girl over there. You need to be bold enough to take a shot or slap the bag, and even better, to hang off that brother’s neck and ask for his name. After all, that’s how you move onto the next lesson: men.
They will hang in the corners and against the walls until you interest them enough to move in. Sometimes you see them coming, most times they are just a pair of hands that appear from behind and grab your waist. If you’re lucky, there’s an exchange of names and a brief introduction before you dance. You’ll get a song in, maybe, until you are twisted around like a limp doll and suddenly it’s not about the music anymore. You know the gist from here.
Your mouth must keep sipping those beers and punches. It must smile and speak when a brother engages you, but must remain closed as you dance because that isn’t the time for conversation. It must give in when the dancing turns to making out.
Drink. Dance. DTF? That’s how it goes. No matter your choice at the end of the night, or how you feel about it, you slowly piece together after each party what your purpose is.
Now, I’m not saying you are obligated. I am not saying you must. But that is how it feels, and that’s significant. The frat party is a class, remember? And at Wake Forest, everything’s a competition. Can you drink the most? Dance with the most? Kiss the most? Maybe we aren’t aware of it, but we are all keeping subconscious score.
Boys, your turn. I’ve been grabbed, kissed, bitten – yes, bitten – and touched without my explicit consent, because for some reason, because I don’t shove you off when you dance with me, that means I’ve agreed to more.
Yet, you know the terrible part, ladies? If that kind of stuff doesn’t happen, we think we’ve failed our class for the night. If we haven’t been grabbed, kissed, or danced with, that means we haven’t fulfilled our subconscious purpose. We’ve ingrained in ourselves so deeply that those are the marks of a successful party night that even when we feel uncomfortable, we assume what is being done to us is A-okay because it’s what we should want, right?
Since when did our feelings to the rights to our own bodies, mouths, and wills become as blurry as our drunken Snapchats? Since when has it stopped being black-and-white?
I guess that’s why those fraternity basements are always dark; so you can’t see that line.