The work Stand with Survivors partakes in oftentimes revolves around sexual assault on college campuses– I founded this organization after my own appalling treatment at my college after reporting my rapists. But recent headlines have drifted away from college hearings and focused in on a previously disregarded social strata: prep school.
This week, 19-year-old Owen Labrie is standing trial for several felonies involving sexual assault of a freshman girl at his prestigious New Hampshire prep school, St Paul’s, a mere three days prior to his graduation.
We will not get into the details of the assault– those are online in other forums if you are interested, but we believe that it is a survivor’s right to tell her or his story, rather than having the details of their trauma broadcasted across the internet due to an affidavit.
Today we will be focusing on this issue of “sexual scoring” and how it perpetuates rape culture.
According to Labrie, St. Paul’s senior males take part in the “senior salute,” a competition to sleep with more younger students than any of their other classmates. Each conquest earned them a tally, kept on a whiteboard on a wall behind the washing machine and then on an online forum. Labrie admitted to police that he did have the intention of having the highest “score” of his senior class, thereby winning this challenge and apparently the misogynistic respect of his male peers.
2011 St. Paul’s Aluma Carolyn Forrester commented on this pervasive rape culture at her alma mater: “This incident felt both out of the blue and like it had been waiting to happen for a long time.” She also stated that many aspects of the case appeared to be “business as usual” for the St. Paul’s student culture.
Sound familiar? It turns out that “scoring” culture is a strong sexual script for men, pervasive in almost every level of society. Sexual scripts provide cultural expectations and guidelines for sexual behavior— how people are supposed to approach the subject and how they are supposed to have behaved within said acts.
When we’re examining this scandal at St. Paul’s, however, we see this sexual script of “scoring” taken to a predatory level. Seniors only gained social credit when they had sex with freshman and sophomore students, presumably below the New Hampshire age of consent— 16 years old.
So what happens when sexual scripts collide with predatory, illegal actions such as sexual assault? Our stance is that while this may help explain the prevalence of sexual assault in prep schools, as well as other social settings, it does not excuse one’s actions whatsoever.
We at Stand with Survivors are sincerely hoping that administrators and adults in these students’ lives are taking the time to have conversations with them about the subjects of consent and sexual assault. If you have a child or other young person in your life, use this story as an opener to start an ongoing conversation about these things.