The 159-year-old St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire is an exclusive prep school where sons of Astor and Kennedy families attended, becoming co-ed in 1971. International students now constitute 17 percent of studentry, 10-12 students in a class, and the ratio of students to faculty is 4-to-1. A glittering list of alumni includes State Secretary John Kerry and Doonesbury cartoonist Gary Trudeau.
Harvard-bound Divinity student Owen Labrie paid tuition and living accommodations more than the highest paid CNMI PSS teacher gets before taxes. That’s really exclusive.
An informal tradition at St. Paul’s, a toxic culture of upperclassmen pouncing on bright-eyed entering females, is the “senior salute.” Senior classmen prey on incoming Paulies eager to stretch their experience, and sometimes, broaden their knowledge of anatomy. Male seniors relished the bragging rights that went with the “conquest,” marking on a scoreboard behind the dorm’s vending machine.
Youthful Labrie took a willing lassie to a mechanical room with blanket and prophylaxis but accompanied his enthusiastic embraces with wild bragging. That may cost him 10 years behind bars!
Personal relationships and sexual behavioral patterns have certainly gone the distance, and then some. If one had the courage to hold a girl’s hand when I was 16, one was really being bold. Going on a date in Manila in the ’60s was taking a girl to a movie and a restaurant before or after, and on a first date, one was circumspect not to hold hands unless the girl takes the initiative, an affirmation of her willingness to “go steady.” Accepting an invite involved assumptions.
The rites were spartan of physico-emotional display. When one took a date back to her dorm or boarding house, a peck on the cheek meant one week of not washing one side of one’s face to retain the glorious memory of the experience. Ah, but those were the days. Of course, I was also a country bumpkin.
Labrie took a freshie up the roof of his building and proceeded to show his date how not to ask permission on the use of a condom. A jury judged his Internet bragging as too self-incriminatory. Absolved of the more grievous charge of statutory rape, he was nevertheless found guilty of engaging in a sexual activity with a minor, his acceptance at Harvard Divinity School rescinded, and required to register as a sex offender wherever he lives in the United States.
While the news is media hot, what dramatically brings it to the fore is the realization that the practice at St. Paul’s is hardly grotesque at all. The preoccupation with sexuality is media’s theme of any marketing campaign these days. Sexual metaphors abound in regular discourse, so much so that while I taught oral English in China and encouraged students to listen to English songs, classical and contemporary, a student who picked up ghetto rap for her listening exercise was curious enough to ask if sons really did it that often with their mothers. She let me listen to the piece, and sure enough, motherf****r peppered the lyrics. It does have a different meaning taken out of context from Harlem, the Southside of Chicago, and south L.A.
We forget that Juliet of Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet was not yet 14; Romeo was in his late teens. Romeo in our time would have been guilty of statutory rape had he gone physically amorous. Not in England of the 1600s, though the Puritans’ morals came to permeate U.S. ethics later, frowning on public emotional displays.
An acquaintance on Saipan went behind bars for dallying with 13- and 14-year-olds who, like Pacific islanders, have babies not too long after puberty. When I was growing up, a girl was “passed up” if her womb was still barren at 20. Babies were generally born from 18-year-old mothers.
Anyone who has taught 6th grade elementary understands the power of hormones at the onset of puberty. Labrie was 18 when he led the 15-year-old girl by the hand to the mechanical room, the latter’s participation allegedly violated as her cautioning consent was not honored in what to other cultures is mere ritual. If Labrie was in fact telling the truth and did quit the wrestling out of conscience, it meant that we had an aroused girl, perhaps a worse fate, left hanging. The young lady rightly took Labrie to court.
We do not condone Labrie’s behavior, or hardly unsympathetic to the girl’s plaint, nor dismissive of the discord in Concord. With everyone looking at ones’ self in the mirror a universal obsession, covered by powder, rouge and mascara, and hormones titillated at every turn when lured to buy something, physique and sex are the paramount lure of marketing magnets. Add a spice of drama, mostly violent to get the sweaty palm or the heart throbbing, and one gets the formula for every visual pull the market offers.
West Point cadets went violent in a traditional pillow fight in a sports field this week. The drama at Concord is, indeed, tragic; unfortunately, it is also rather common.