Much of the quintessential Boston College experience is rooted in accomplishment. Academically, many of us strive for GPAs that will land us some prestigious salaried career or a spot in a competitive graduate school program. Athletically, we hope that the football team can pull off another upset that would rival a certain game three years ago (we beat USC, in case you forgot). Socially, we hope we’ve forged lifelong friendships with some incredible people, be it over Walsh jungle juice or from in-depth discussions in our PULSE and Perspectives classes. For seniors, the pressure and stress that comes with this need for accomplishment is compounded by deadlines, job interviews, and a host of “lasts” – the last tailgate, the last snow day (fingers crossed), the last time we see many of our classmates. There is a sense of urgency to accomplish what we have left. Unfortunately, many students have set their eyes on sexual conquests as a legacy-marker, manifesting in the “senior five.” While I consider myself to be quite a sex-positive person, I hesitate to dwell on the concept of a senior five, as it encroaches into a culture of objectification and exclusivity.
This past weekend, a group of students launched a senior five Facebook page on which students can anonymously post the five people they would most want to sleep with out of the class of 2018. It’s seemingly innocuous in the sense that the anonymity imparts a sense of flattery on students named on the page. It creates some conversation and laughs, but at some point, there’s likely be an instance in which some students may feel uncomfortable in knowing that an anonymous person sees people as member on their lists of prospective sexual conquests as opposed to, I don’t know, people. This is where the concept of accomplishment can get toxic.
In characterizing people as sexual objects to be “completed” before the commencement address in May, students are undoubtedly reinforcing a culture that the inherent sexual nature of a person implies they are something to be “attained.” It reinforces a culture that encourages people to stop at nothing to achieve a set of goals, which should be cause for concern, especially on a college campus. In the past few years, the federal government has taken steps to combat rampant sexual assault on college campuses, where a fifth of young women and numerous young men will endure some form of sexual assault or intimate partner violence at some point during their undergraduate career. The harrowing statistics should not lead anyone to believe this kind of violence does not occur at BC, especially at a university where sex is viewed from a scope of entitlement. Reinforcing unhealthy attitudes towards sex and treating people as another a tick on the checklist is reductive and particularly harmful to vulnerable students, as seen a couple years ago at an elite New Hampshire boarding school.
On a more personal note, as a gay man scrolling through the senior five Facebook page, I was left feeling excluded, not because my name wasn’t included in anyone’s senior five (I’m pretty secure in my own physical attractiveness), but because it reinforces a heteronormative hookup culture that treats heterosexual sex as something more socially acceptable to talk about. I cannot even count the number of times my straight friends have recoiled at my sexual history, only to continue going into great detail about their own. In determining what is and is not acceptable conversation, the heteronormativity of a senior five perpetuates the notion that BC is not a safe place for queer people to come out, especially when no adequate resource center exists on campus. It fosters the notion that only one type of sex is validated, making queer sex seem wrong or out of line to the general student body, which is particularly damaging to students desperately grasping for social acceptance, something many LGBTQ students do not receive here.
I do not necessarily have a problem with peers musing about the people they want to sleep with – hell, I do it all the time. However, creating a concrete list with intention to carry it out wades into predatory waters, where entitlement drives desire. It isn’t that creating a senior five checklist is necessarily bad, but rather, it reinforces archaic notions about what is and is not acceptable in regards to sexuality. The lists may be in jest, but if one person is harmed in someone’s quest to cross another name off their list, is it worth it for BC students to continue reinforcing the behavior?