For the past few weeks, the rumor mill has buzzed with one word. It seems to seep through most happenings and pieces of gossip: swooping. The Kohlberg coffee bar is host to hushed whispers of “did that really happen last Saturday?” and “so was he any good?” (although that might just be me). The looming date of fall break, after which supposedly all hell will let loose on freshmen as the swooping ban ends, lurks in the background, approaching all the more as each day passes. This may seem like a slight dramatization, but the situation as I experience it isn’t that far off. My question is therefore twofold: why all the fuss, and more specifically why the guilt and shame associated with what could just be a cheeky one time bang?
When I refer to swooping guilt, I’m looking at those upperclassmen who maintain that it is unethical to pick up freshmen before fall break since they’re vulnerable as they adapt to a new environment. I take issue, because this guilt presupposes a narrow and ageist construction of sexual dynamics by which older means active, and younger passive. This may seem reductionist, but would swooping really be an issue if a stereotyped sexual situation involved a freshwoman with dom tendencies who, having initiated interactions with an interested junior, calls him her little bitch playfully and is then readily followed back to her room (to the despair of her roommate who was trying to watch New Girl)? The trope at work with swooping guilt has been around for ages, and toyed with for just as long (for any Shakespeare buffs, “As You Like It”’s Rosalind? Gotta love a cross-dressing female lead who calls out her lover’s conformist bullshit). I’m still slightly perturbed by how such a washed-out trope can play such a large role in Swat’s dating scene.
I assume that part of it has to do with the common perception (and in some ways, reality) that freshmen are vulnerable and somewhat malleable as they adapt to a new environment. But can a new bedroom and the reality of pasta bar make you forget that you like holding girls down and hearing them beg for more as you tantalisingly caress the area above her clit? And aren’t ASAP workshops and the likes meant to prepare the freshpeople for the potential dangers of college dating? The most ridiculous story that I’ve heard was a sophomore explaining to a friend that he liked her, but refused to do anything until after fall break. Seriously? I highly doubt that she’ll realise over break that her attraction was an illusion, making a mental note of thanking this guy for giving her time to find her true desires. Sure, what she wants will change with time, but have some faith in her. Her desires most likely won’t change that quickly. Even if they did, she’s a big girl now and can make the decision for herself. Although he could be trying to keep her eager, in which case smooth (middle school) moves, Sophomore Boy. Real smooth.
As much as I sound like I’m calling for a complete overhaul of the concept, I believe there is some validity in the reluctance to “swoop.” If you take swooping literally, and like a bird of prey you dive towards the baby fishies of your dating pool, you should definitely cut that out and stop watching National Geographic. Spotting a new queer boy at the first SQU meeting and convincing him to come find you at pub night the next day for a few laughs, where you proceed to be friendly over a few too many beers before unexpectedly inviting him back to yours, is slimy and for some even coercive. If swooping involves lack of consent, then of course it’s a fucking issue, point blank. The generalisation of the phenomenon into the situation described above is a facet of rape culture and is so not Gucci. Some people in this school apparently need to learn that everyone can give consent, and that they should respect it.
Now I of course speak from the limited perspective of my own situation, some fresher gay boy who arrived pretty happy with what he wanted his sex life to be. Which isn’t to say everyone is in my situation– some people probably appreciate a few breather weeks before they get down and dirty. As the old saying goes, different strokes (or positions) for different folks, and that shouldn’t mean an upperclassman should take a month and a half long chastity vow with a quarter of the campus just to be safe. As scary as it may sound, it looks like some common sense and good judgement might be necessary in identifying who your potential sexual partners will be. And once that’s done, who knows, you may be pleasantly surprised by a couple of tricks these freshers have up their sleeves. We’re all Swatties after all, and we must have been picked for something.