High School “Salute” Spurs Sexism

Owen Labrie and St. Paul’s School

Owen Labrie and St. Paul’s School

Owen Labrie is charged with raping a fifteen year old while trying to “score” in a high school game dubbed “the Senior Salute.”

Whether or not he is guilty, the game institutionalizes sexism. And it’s the sort of thing that can spur assault. 

In their senior year boys at New Hampshire’s elite St. Paul’s School make lists of girls to pursue in hopes of gaining various intimacies, starting at first base but aiming for a home run.

It’s not about enjoying sex so much as boosting self-esteem.

Here’s how it’s sexist:

1) Girls are objectified and valued according to their appeal to men

2) Girls are mere pawns in a game by which guys score

3) Girls are prey to be captured — apparently demonstrating male superiority

4) The game relies on a double standard which expects guys to enjoy sex but expects girls to resist.

Translation of #3 and #4: “I got her to submit to me.” In fact, the game is described as sexual “conquest” and boys talk about “slaying” girls.

If you don’t have a double standard there’s no challenge.

Imagine the game in reverse: “Girls, your mission is to pursue guys to see how much you can get away with: a kiss, touching, or more.”

No contest there.

The pressure to win this sort of competition could certainly encourage sexual assault.

Tradition runs deep at St. Paul’s. Unfortunately, the tradition of patriarchy also runs deep, and is reflected in this school custom.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on August 21, 2015, in feminism, men, psychology, rape and sexual assault, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Good God. Is this archaic custom supported by the school?

  2. This is how young men can convince themselves that it wasn’t rape. Their focus is on the score, not on the partner. If your focus is not on your partner, you’re in no position to evaluate consent. This “tradition” has no place in any school–ironically, it’s a so-called Christian institution. Oh, don’t get me started…

    • “If your focus is not on your partner, you’re in no position to evaluate consent.”

      That seems so key. If you’re distracted by trying to score, and it’s all about you and you’re goal, you’re likely to read things in a way that benefits that goal, without really care about your partner or noticing her, as you say.

      And the Christian school part! Not very Christian, is it?

  3. Really! I mean I can’t believe such things that happens are not stopped by school authorities. !

  4. What a cruel game, dubbed as score, which is just ragging by another name, the only differentiator being it is an act perpetrated on the opposite gender in this case. The school management must be pulled up and asked to make amends. A management turning a blind eye to such perversions has no right to run a school, howsoever reputable it may be.

  5. This is quite shocking! I wonder how deeply the patriarchy has probed in…with teenage boys behaving in this way… 😦

    • We have a Long history of patriarchy — and a prehistory of partnership societies, Which I will write about later. But most of us are so used to patriarchy that it often just seems natural and normal, Unfortunately.

  6. It’s disturbing how much sexual assault in schools has been institutionalized. I know it’s been this way for awhile- and equally disturbing to think that for so long this was all just par for the course. Thank God not anymore, at least by more and more of us.

  7. I think the mishandling of sexual assault cases worsens up the class ladder. Money (and race/gender) confers privilege, which gives the powerful loopholes through the justice system. Owen Labrie happens to be a classmate of someone I went to college with, and I even asked this classmate about her experiences with him- said he was not the nicest, but flew under the radar like most. He has unfortunately gotten away with a crime many POC/minorities could pray to receive Labrie’s sentence. I also know of low-income classmates whose brothers, uncles and fathers spent 10+ years in the system for drug possession- often with little hope of escaping. The prison system and poverty are vicious cycles of entrapment, so it’s very unlikely and difficult for the victimized to liberate themselves. The few who do are very, very lucky- and often quite careful in social situations. Many POC/minorities understand the consequences of drug and alcohol possession, so they face significantly more pressure to follow the rules. The general populace view a walking hooded black man much differently than their white equivalent, so blacks typically opt for more formal wear. The world is not a just, rational and level playing field, sure- but ignoring oppression won’t bring us closer to a solution.

    Owen Labrie’s minimal jail sentence is a disgrace to both women and minorities. I won’t be surprised if he carves out a successful career in finance later on, much like his St. Paul’s classmates did.

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