Administration Won’t Consent to Genderfucking, Yet

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

“Guys wear a dress, girls wear less” may not be the best (albeit informal) slogan for a party with good intentions, even if it has been a pretty accurate description of Genderfucks of years past. And while it even has this year’s planning committee cringing, it is clear Genderfuck is going to have to change more than its slogan if it’s going to f*** anything this year.

At the request of the administration, Swarthmore’s Social Affairs Committee (SAC) moderated a closed meeting Tuesday to discuss the future of Genderfuck – the yearly sex-positive party for gender-bending, gender-fucking, and everything queer. While the group was able to work out numerous ways the party could be better organized to avoid the litany of troubles it’s faced in past years – sexual assault, dangerous intoxication, lewd and violent behavior – the administration is not ready to consent to Genderfuck just yet.

In an e-mail to The Daily Gazette following the meeting, Coordinator of Student Activities Paury Flowers said the administration is not willing to promise Genderfuck will happen until after future discussions between Genderfuck party planners and Swarthmore administrators.

“We fully support a celebration of gender/queer identity. However, whether it will still take the form of this GenderF party remains to be seen, and, as I understand it, without ample members of the planning committee on hand to handle the important collaborative work necessary, it won’t happen,” Flowers wrote.

The necessary collaboration discussed at the meeting includes work with Swarthmore administrators, Party Associates (P.A.s), and student representatives from the Drug and Alcohol Resource Team (DART), Sexual Conduct Advisors & Resource Team (SMART), Swarthmore Queer Union (SQU), and Acquaintance Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) to ensure student safety.

Flowers said she called the meeting to discuss the goals of the event and raise concerns the Dean’s Office has with the party, citing the party’s track record of lewd and crazy behavior along with with reports of sexual assault and property damage. Before she would address whether Genderfuck could happen or not, she wanted to ask what the purpose of the event is.

Genderfuck planner MC Mazzocchi ’12 said last year’s Genderfuck planners were deeply committed to having an open, safe space for students to publicly express queerness and play with conventional ideas of gender. Mazzocchi said some students on campus may still be too shy to enter a closed queer space, fearing it might out them, but can explore gender in a positive way at Genderfuck.

“It’s really tricky waters to navigate for some people. Genderfuck gives everybody an opportunity to explore… It might not mean anything, [or] it might mean the world to you to put on a suit and walk into Genderfuck or to put on a tiny cocktail dress and walk into Genderfuck,” Mazzocchi said.

The term “Genderfuck” was coined in the sixties as a way to describe a person’s gender identity (as in male, female, no gender, queer) or the act of consciously and conspicuously challenging traditional ideas of the gender binary through androgyny, hyperbole, and cross-dressing.

“It’s a provocative word, obviously,” Mazzocchi said. “Anytime the f-bomb is dropped it unsettles a lot of people, and I think that’s part of the party’s nature, which is to challenge people and to think about what’s going on and how they present their own gender.”

Genderfuck Planner Kenneson Chen ’14 said Genderfuck is important to the community because it’s an experience most people may not have again the rest of their lives. It offers a free and safe space for people to explore gender and queer gender.

“It also allows us to enrich our community in terms of what we are presenting and what we condone and what we appreciate in our community,” Chen said.

Flowers said she was not sure the mission of gender identity education and sexual positive messages ever made it into the rhetoric of the event. Genderfuck used to be the after party to the Sager Symposium — the yearly weekend symposium supported by Richard Sager ’73 which draws alumni, faculty, staff, and students together to address current issues in the LGBT community — but the two haven’t been connected for six or seven years. In 2009, The Daily Gazette reported that the Sager Symposium officially separated itself from the Genderfuck party due to its motivations and missions, which it felt diverged from those of the party. Maria Kelly ’10 told The Daily Gazette that the Symposium didn’t feel it had the time to “fix” Genderfuck, which the Sager Symposium committee “didn’t feel was a safe space.”

Since the two split, Flowers said, it has been difficult for her to understand the goals of Genderfuck.

“My personal concern is that I’m not sure those particular messages ever made it,” Flowers said. “Those messages and those goals didn’t connect or there wasn’t enough opportunity to engage the campus as a whole to those goals. So what people either operated off of or assumed about it is that it was a sort of free love.”

Flowers said this understanding of the event has led to safety issues in terms of how people handle themselves at the event.

“Having six or seven years of that mutation happening, we sit here now with a lot of responsibilities as administrators trying to pull apart the mutated part of it, if you will, and bring it back to the efforts of what it was supposed to be,” Flowers said.

Flowers said the party needs to be able to explain to the community the context of the event in order to prevent the problems caused in years passed. Flowers said the P.A.s as well as DART and SMART members have felt the mutation. One P.A. at the meeting called last year’s Genderfuck “horrific.”

“I think one of the other things that happens is no one really wanted to take the full responsibility of it. They wanted to plan it and say that they planned it, but then they don’t want to take responsibility for what needs to happen on the ground,” Flowers said. “It really needs 10 to 15 people on the ground that day in addition to the P.A.s.”

Those people on the ground would include SMART and DART members as well as sober escorts and volunteers that would help clean up and make sure the party is safe.

Flowers asked if Genderfuck could happen without alcohol or without students from other campuses, since Genderfuck would only have campus-wide education. Currently, only queer BiCo students are officially welcome to attend while all Swatties are welcome. According to Mazzocchi, this was decided following an incident at Genderfuck in 2006, in which the police were called because of violence between attendees and several Villanova students.

“If alcohol complicates it and alcohol is not part of the goals, then do we even need it at this event?” Flowers questioned. Flowers suggested that Genderfuck could be a model for other parties in the community.

Worth Health Center Director Beth Kotarski said banning alcohol from the party might not be the best route.

“Alcohol does complicate the point but then to say ‘okay, let’s not have it’ can send two messages. One is that we’re not big enough to handle alcoholic issues and also that we’re going to shirk from the idea that this could be an opportunity to say, hey we’ve done it here with Genderfuck, with alcohol, and we’re still standing,” Kotarski said.

Mazzocchi said they were concerned the queer community was being held responsible for sexual assault education and prevention on campus. They said sexual assault is a problem that Swarthmore faces year-round, not just at Genderfuck, and that the planners want Genderfuck to be an environment in which people can drink and have a good time. While sexual assault is an important issue to address on campus, Mazzocchi said asking Genderfuck to address issues of sexual assault would be asking the party committee to steer the event away from its original mission.

“The problems with rape culture and abuse culture and party culture here, I don’t want it to be obscured that while there seems to be an extra release around Genderfuck, this is a year-round problem, and even on the smallest and saddest attended parties on campus we’re having assaults,” Mazzocchi said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to punish Genderfuck for the wider student body and problems that we have.”

The group raised the concern that Genderfuck is different from the rest of the parties on campus because it is focused on sex.

Mazzocchi says the party is unabashedly sex-positive and that sexual abuse emerges from a sex-negative culture.

Kotarski suggested having 20 people commit to work at the party. Part of the responsibilities of that group would be to make sure students aren’t drinking too much, to watch out for harassment, and to clean up when the party is over. Mazzocchi said they also wanted to have sober bar tenders who would be trained to make sure they aren’t serving students who have already had too many drinks. The group suggested creating a safe room during the event in which there would be sober people from DART where attendees can go if they need to talk.

DART Representative Phoebe Hansen ’12 said DART could prepare informational posters on the effects of alcohol around campus before the event as well as provide over 1000 water bottles to put at the front of the party.

The group also raised concerns about dissatisfaction from staff last year who had to clean Sharples after Genderfuck.

Flowers said Environmental Services (EVS) has instituted a $600 fee when there is a robust effort on the part of the host to clean up the party and a larger charge if the staff are required to do more work, such as picking up all the garbage and cleaning the floors.

The group hopes to hold future meetings to plan collaboration across student groups, including a dress code (no nudity) which is yet to be specifically defined.

This article was revised on January 28 to reflect the following: The Daily Gazette originally reported all TriCo students would be welcome at Genderfuck. Only queer students in the BiCo would officially be welcome. 


  1. I’ll say upfront that I don’t really have considered opinions about anything else in the article, but the back and forth about sex positivity versus sex negativity with regards to sexual assault reminded me of a blog post that’s been circulating around the internet.

    It’s short, at just three paragraphs, and the first two paragraphs are certainly worth reading, but I’ll quote the last paragraph here, since it seems especially relevant:

    “Sex doesn’t ‘lead to assault.’ Sex is not the culprit. Silence is the culprit. Shame is the culprit. Educational institutions should teach young people how to communicate, how to express their desires and listen to what a potential sex partner is saying. If young people have no language to communicate about sex, if sex is a furtive, secret, scary thing, then some of those young people are going to assault their peers because it is the only way they know to respond to their physical desires. However, if young people are taught to speak clearly and honestly about sex, and to respect one another, then the sex that does take place will more likely be consensual. It may not be possible to eliminate rape entirely, but the answer is not to put sex back in the closet.”

    (Source: http://sexpositiveactivism.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/166/)

  2. GenderFuck is not the vehicle through which to address or to bring up the issue of sexual assault on campus. As MC pointed out, sexual assault is happening year round. It doesn’t just happen at parties and it doesn’t just happen at big parties – not by a long shot.

    It sounds like the primary issue here is that more planning needs to be put into the event. It sounds like students are stepping up already. There should be consistent, year-to-year standards for such parties… Which we should have anyway?

    Tough that Paury Flowers doesn’t understand the goals of GenderFuck. Can’t say I’m shocked.

  3. There are some factual inaccuracies in this article:

    1. ASAP is not a standing organization, club or group. However, I do hope that facilitators would consider being on call during Genderfuck or helping to work the floor, so that PAs feel they have the support re: numbers they need.

    2. Genderfuck is NOT open to all students of the BiCo. It is a CLOSED BiCo event, meaning ONLY queer students from Haverford and Bryn Mawr may attend. It is open to all Swarthmore students.

    3. Kenneson and I did raise the concern that this party was being targeted because of its explicitly sex-positive message. We also pointed out that this party has been historically run by queer students and obviously deals with queer issues. It seems strange to us that Genderfuck is being uniquely targeted as unsafe. Furthermore, the burden for educating this campus re: sexual assault is fairly explicitly being placed on Genderfuck’s shoulders, as if Genderfuck (and queerness?) are uniquely responsible for sexual assault. The other planners and I have already been discussing how to best combat the issues that rise up around Genderfuck (and every other party), as well as trying to already reach out to other groups and organizations on campus to make the party safer.

    I must admit, I am somewhat surprised by Dean Flowers’s post-meeting assessment of where Genderfuck is at (or, apparently, not at). It is unfortunate that Dean Flowers had to leave halfway through the meeting, but a great deal of conversation, learning and listening happened for the last forty-five minutes for Kenneson and I. We found out about the issues the PAs faced last year, as well as the problems with clean-up. We are confident that with hard work and attention (which all the planners are really excited to be putting into this party) those problems can be solved well before the first Saturday in April.

    The worry that Genderfuck is about “free love” — a phrase which is often derisive at best about any sex-positive community, culture or event — is exactly some of the negativity and shame we’re hoping to dispel around sex. As Sara said, rape is the product of a sex-negative culture.

    It is the product of a culture that demands silence around sex.

    It is the product of a culture where sex shouldn’t necessarily feel good or 100% desired on all engaged parties’ parts. The idea of any compulsory “scripted” activity is not part of a sex-positive culture (and, obviously, not saying “no” to any sexual act is not saying “YES PLEASE!!”).

    It is the product of a culture where survivors are silenced, shamed or questioned on the “truth” of their stories. When survivors are afraid to come forward to authority, that authority is helping to produce rape culture (which, in short, is a system which condones and enables sexual assault).

    It is the product of a culture where little resources or time go to supporting survivors. It is the product of a culture where there is no transparency around institutional process re: sexual assault cases or statistics.

    The planners of 2012 Genderfuck want to see more responsible parties across campus, and we have already been discussing, brainstorming and seriously considering ways to make Genderfuck the safest it can possibly be. Obviously, we can’t make individuals’ decisions for them, but we can provide dry spaces, plenty of trained, empowered ground control and lots of carbs and water to soak up any excess alcohol. We can provide some tabling or other forms of education running up to the event about not only survivor issues and what consent looks like but queer, trans* and gender issues.

    We cannot, however, single-handedly change the culture of parties here at Swat, which is really what seems at the heart of administrative concerns about Genderfuck. I can confidently say that ALL the planners look forward to working with DART, the PAs, SAC, Dean Kotarski and the rest of the administration to begin encouraging these new modes of thinking about parties and community, and I hope they and the rest of this campus will welcome this opportunity for growth.

  4. There seems to be a worrying trend in the news stories from this school year that the administration is incredibly out of touch with the student body. We’re all smart. We work hard. But we’re still in college. We are going to drink. We are going to socialize. And the more that they try to fight that, the worse it’s going to work out.

  5. ayo can somebody de-awful-humor-attempt-ify this article’s title, this isn’t City Paper or Spike, ok thanks

  6. I absolutely agree with Kenneson. Genderfuck is a once-a-year bash where everyone can experiment with presenting however the hell they want. It may be hosted or cast as a queer event, but it serves that purpose for the entire campus, and it’s liberating for the entire student body. In my opinion, getting rid of alcohol is not the solution, because plenty of people (myself included) need that liquid courage in order to throw their gendered instincts to the wind.

    I recognize that the party has been out of control in the past, but I think it creates a space that is too precious to lose. It seems like the only person mentioned in the article who thinks the solution is *stopping* the party is Paury Flowers, and frankly, judging from her comments, it seems like her mind is already made up. This party is not unique. Similar parties happen at our proudly experimental/countercultural peer institutions around the US, like Sex! Power! God! at Brown or DykeBall at Wellesley (not Colgate, though. weird…). Given the superb compositions of the Planning Committee, the PAs, the DART team, ASAP, etc., I would hope that Swarthmore would be able to follow suit with a party that is safe, but still a genderfucking good time.

    On a personal note, the party and the space it creates is dear to me. I’m a senior. Please fix the bad parts, but please don’t take it away.

  7. Why would GenderFuck be taken away? I think it’s an extremely important space for students who, as MC says, wouldn’t feel as comfortable entering a closed space. That’s great! What if GenderFuck is what empowers a queer student to enter a closed space? Anything that celebrates sex-positivity and the embrace of whatever gender one wants is good in my book. As an RA, I know that the party gets crazy… but I’ve dealt with incidents after just about EVERY big party. The administration is, I think, doing its part to deal with sexual assault, but more dialogue is needed, and less “we’re-going-to-get-rid-of-this.” There have been an alarming number of stories about administrative decisions that come out of the blue to Swatties. Can’t we talk about it first? I don’t know. Also, why not put a call out for people to help out at Genderfuck?

    • I absolutely can’t understand how the administration can take issue with GenderFuck and then completely turn their backs on KrunkFest. While you could also make a sexual liberation argument in favor of KrunkFest (though I personally would NOT since it literally transforms intimate sexuality into a spectator sport–what could be more objectifying?) the fact remains that the challenges made to KrunkFest participants are routinely unhealthy and UNSAFE. While Genderfuck has the potential to become a danger zone, there is clearly a strong will to improve that aspect of both the individual party and overall Swat party culture. KrunkFest, on the other hand, explicitly pushes fellow students to put themselves at risk. HOW THE FUCK IS THIS POSSIBLY OKAY?

  8. It’s important to underscore just about everything MC has said (I am so, so glad you were present for the meeting because your articulation of the goals and purposes of the event couldn’t have been more crystal clear and apt), but particularly how the tone of the conversation developed as the meeting continued after Dean Flowers left. I don’t think her absence caused the shift by any means, but it seemed like we all came to a sort of a common ground that the event was tremendously important (for all of Swarthmore, but particularly marginalized groups like queer folks) and that through careful planning, an educational run-up to the event — why we have GenderFuck, what to expect, expectations regarding sexual assault prevention and safety information regarding drinking)– it should continue as an annual event. Some people quoted in this article might need to “catch up” a bit.

    I also think it’s appropriate to keep the event “wet” given the CONTINUED responsibility of individuals who have consumed alcohol to refrain from sexually assaulting others! I think it’s completely contradictory to maintain this line and then prohibit alcohol from the party on the grounds that it “causes problems” (i.e., causes students to sexually assault each other). This tactic undermines the idea that everyone is responsible for their actions regardless of alcohol intake, regardless of the party being called “GenderFuck,” regardless of students dressing provocatively.

    Basically, I guess I’m concerned the decision making and rhetoric coming from the Dean’s office isn’t being as carefully measured as from the planning/student end, especially given how important and dear GenderFuck is for so many (myself included).

    (and if it gets canceled, what am I going to do with all this leather…………)

  9. Ditto everything Holly said. Just to add a point, I think it is pretty upsetting in comparison to something like the Halloween party (which I can pretty confidently say has very similar issues to Genderfuck) the administration asks, “how can we make this party safer and better?” rather than “Is this party going to happen given its issues?” Genderfuck deserves that level of consideration.

    A second thing: don’t make this party dry, please. This is dangerous. The reason I like Swat party culture is because it provides a safe place for alcohol consumption rather than stigmatizing it and forcing all drinking to be done furtively and quickly before the party happens. My concern is that we are going to have many more people going to the hospital if Genderfuck is dry.

    You can’t stop people from drinking or having sex/exploring sexuality/queering gender. You definitely CAN provide appropriate information and attempt to provide a safe nonjudgmental space in which it can occur.

  10. It’s simply absurd for the administration to even consider taking away the biggest party of the semester. The quote about this being a potentially once-in-a-lifetime experience for some students is so true. If the message isn’t getting across, then we need to talk about what to add to get it across, not whether to take it away. Maybe there should be a big sale of cross-dresser friendly clothes. Maybe there should be fashion advise on how to make one’s everyday outfit more feminine/masculine. Also, having someone come to speak about being genderqueer would be perfect for Genderfuck.

  11. Oberlin has a similar party every year. In the week before the party, there are a series of workshops and talks on sexual assault, sex positivity, queerness and other sex and gender related issues. Students MUST attend at least one workshop in order to receive a ticket to the party.

    I’m not sure if this is a workable solution for this year, but it’s worth thinking about. It might educate some folks who wouldn’t willingly attend a workshop–but desperately need to hear the message.

  12. The whole “Guys Wear A Dress, Girls Wear Less” hasn’t been an official tag or whatever for years (if it ever was, at least not while I was on Swat’s campus it wasn’t). It was more of an ignorant comment about the party if anything at all. I mean it’s gender-normative, so no queer-positive party on Swat’s campus would be espousing such a tag. Plus it’s one that I’ve personally heard at college campuses all over the country for similar but dangerously misrepresented “drag parties.”

    In fact over the past few years an effort had been put out there (one that I think was well received) to clarify the exact goals of the party.

    In an email re: last year’s party:

    The most important goal of the party is to create a safe space where all attendees feel free to express themselves in any way that they feel comfortable. Therefore, no one should feel pressured to dress in a certain way. All forms of dress should be play, fun, and self-affirming. The Genderfuck Party is meant to be an unabashedly queer-positive and sex-positive event.

    I’m not sure where PFlowers gets the idea that the original goals had been “mutated” or whatever. Last year’s party is unfairly represented in this article, because I (a queer individual in agreement with other queer individuals who were there with me) felt it was a wild success in terms of genderfucking and creating a safe queer space and taking the party in a very clear direction. Not sure how much worth should be given to a one-word decontextualized “horrific” uttered by a PA, someone whose job it is to deal with the dregs of the party anyway.

    Also go Beth Kotarski.

  13. It seems to me that everyone tells themselves they’re engaging in enlightenment and getting beyond gender, but with many students wearing virtually nothing, they in fact highlight their bodies and further objectify themselves. This party needs to call it quits.

    • So…if I show more of my body, that is equal to objectification?

      So…clothes magically keep my body from being objectified?

      So…it’s never how other people treat and view me that constitutes objectification?

      So…I’m responsible for other people treating me like I’m not a person merely by what I am or am not wearing?

      • As a follow-up (tw: references to sexual assault, rape)

        Although the above comment by Thatcher does not actually go so far as to imply that what someone wears has anything to do with whether they will be assaulted or not, I’d like to highlight the concept of “what I wear determines whether I’ll be respected as a human being” that is definitely present in Thatcher’s assessment that wearing less necessarily means objectifying oneself.

        (A concept which also places the responsibility on the person being objectified, and not on anyone who views that person is an object.)

        An ad that ran in Scotland at some point recently does a succinct job at showing why what someone’s wearing does not change their right to not be assaulted.

        Not Ever

  14. I heard the “Guys wear a dress, girls wear less” slogan several times during orientation as a way of describing the party. I actually didn’t realize Genderfuck was anything more until reading these articles.

    To be fair, I don’t get out much.

  15. Bad phrasing on my part. Other commentators have articulated this better–but what I meant to say is that students sometimes lapse into what they think they ought to wear (or not wear) at this party and, hence, reinforce norms and the potential for objectification. For instance, I went out ready to go to this event in years past and was criticized for “wearing too much.” I was really thrown by this and have avoided GenderF– since.

    • I experienced the same thing! I went to GenderFuck wearing a dress that was less revealing than most other females’ outfits and got criticized endlessly for “wearing too much.” Keep in mind that the dress I was wearing still showed more skin than I normally would have been comfortable with. Since then, I haven’t gone back.

      This is a serious problem. If it is common for people to get criticized for “wearing too much,” then this the opposite of female empowerment. As Joan expressed so well in her Gazette article, the (unofficial) slogan has got to go. The original intent of the party is important and valuable, but the majority of the campus doesn’t seem to take the actual intent to heart. Unfortunately, a large percentage of the student body considers the slogan “guys wear a dress, girls wear less” as the rule of thumb for the party. This mindset isn’t challenging the gender binary. It is doing the opposite.

  16. The administration can ignore Krunkfest because it is in no way attached to it. Gender-F is planned with the administration, funded by administration accounts and supervised by PA’s. I’m not surprised that they are backing away from an event with copious under age drinking and rampant sexual assault. Swatties do not have a “right” to break the law, regardless of intention for sexual liberation or such, and should appreciate the priviledge of regular parties. While a few bad apples may spoil the event, it is impossible to remove them. While I do enjoy Gender-F, the administration would be foolish to continue to permit it.

    • Because KrunkFest has never involved breaking the law? Aside from all of the illegal substances, the fact that it’s outside makes 9/10 of the event public indecency. Worth is right the genderFUCK next to public safety. You would have to be pretty stupid to miss it. The fact that public safety doesn’t bust up the party, despite its regularity and prominent location, is essentially a tacit acceptance of the event. You don’t think that there’s some aspect of protection coming from the blind eye of the administration? Virtually everyone participating in KrunkFest in a given year could quite easily be arrested, and I think it’s only through the good will of public safety and the administration that KrunkFest police raids haven’t happened.

    • @Concerned Individual’s idea of a sensible administration:

      Student: “I want to have a party that explores sex-positivity and expression outside the gender binary. It has had issues in the past, so let’s adress them instead of canceling the party, like we do with other large parties on campus.”

      Administration: “I’m sorry. Underage drinking is against the law. You’re only allowed to break the law for ‘regular parties.’ Fuck you.”

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