Forward: This post and several others have been written and rewritten many times in my head over the last two weeks. I will likely continue to formulate it after it is posted. Many others have written similar articles recounting their experiences, and I have gleaned insight from those essays as well. I'll add additional posts later, but this one just deals with the 80's party culture and my own personal experience.
Like many Generation X women, and women and girls of all ages, the last few weeks of Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation hearings have been rough on me, and have brought up a lot of repressed memories and prompted me to reexamine my high school and college years.
I have been very lucky. I have never been raped or experienced any sexual violence beyond cat calls, butt grabbing, frotteurs and flashers. As most of you know, I was a geeky kid in high school and did not go to parties. In college, I was still geeky and mostly went to dorm parties, with the occasional frat party thrown in for good measure. The dorm parties typically had lots of alcohol but also semi-attentive RAs who made sure there were non-alcoholic drinks and kept an eye on things. I surrounded myself with my brotherly gang of male buddies, and typically had one or two drinks. Once I started hanging out with graduate students (senior year) I began to drink more and didn't bring my undergrad buddies with me. In grad school and beyond I partied more. It turns out I like drinking and hanging out with interesting people.
For years my official interpretation to myself is that I was a geeky late bloomer who didn't find high school/frat parties that appealing. There are elements of truth to that, but the last few weeks have made me realize that I was hiding from the 80's heavy drinking culture because I suspected it would not be kind or welcoming to people like me. At best I would be excluded and laughed at and at worst I'd be raped or worse. I grew up in the same culture as Kavanaugh and his peers. As a tween, I watched the same movies and I internalized the same messages that they did as teenagers. Like most of my peers, I grew up watching the Benny Hill Show, and read Mad Magazine and my brother's copies of Playboy and Penthouse. In junior high I snuck into Porky's with Missy and saw "Revenge of the Nerds" and "The Last American Virgin" with my brother. I still have a fondness for crude slapstick humor. I laughed at all the gags and was so steeped in the culture that I barely remember the voyeurism and rape scenes. The only bit of pop culture that actually creeped me out enough that I remember it was watching a Woody Allen movie when I was at a sleepover when I was 9 or 10. My conscious radar wasn't completely broken, but it was severely dulled from the murky messages that I was getting all day, every day from the dominant, Baby Boomer, male-centric pop culture.* Subconsciously, though, I was reading these messages loud and clear, and I was scared and repulsed.
When I got to high school, I didn't party at all. In my sophomore and junior years, as my neighborhood friends started to party more, I withdrew into an eating disorder and isolated myself from the party culture. At the time, I would've said the timing was coincidental and that people weren't inviting me to their parties, but now I'm not so sure. It was just easier to retreat into myself and not deal with it at all. Once I was no longer starving myself, I remained a homebody until I got to college. At first I was kind of judgemental about people partying, until I realized it was actually fun.
People ask why women go to parties if they know they might get raped. Even asking this question, rather than telling men not to rape women or not to go to parties, is a flaming bag of conservative shit, but I am going to answer it anyway. I know the answer, since I have done the experiment. Parties are fun, even for geeky introverts like me. Hanging out with old and new friends is fun. Drinking is fun for many people, including women. When you go to a party, no matter how much due diligence you do, you have no way of knowing in advance if things are about to go south. And even if you never go to parties and don't drink, things can still go south. This is not a "Just say no" or "Don't give in to peer pressure" thing, despite what my mother thinks. I'm very good at doing both those things, but it came at a price. I missed out on a lot of fun and probably delayed my own social development by avoiding parties in high school. To those of you who knew me in high school or freshman year of college, I'm sorry for the times I was judgemental.
I bellieve Chrisine Blasey Ford. I believe Debbie Ramirez. I believe all of my friends and acquaintances and strangers who are now coming forward with their own stories.
* We didn't have a TV at my mom's house when I was a tween/teen, so my TV watching was limited to when we stayed over at my Dad's place or at friends' house. Perhaps this made me less subject to pop culture, and I am kind of shocked by how much I did absorb.