On the nature of ‘screws’: Promoting a culture of respect

February 10, 2016 by The Williams Record Editorial Board

While varied social events and programming help to ensure a diverse social scene at the College, there are serious concerns about how so-called “screw parties” and events of similar nature can potentially pose harm to students and perpetuate rape culture. Plenty of campus organizations, including the Record, have hosted screw events and, while we acknowledge experiences may vary across these functions, certain unifying themes may jeopardize the comfort and safety of attendees.

Firstly, the screw label attached to these parties reflects an inherently problematic idea: that one either “screws” or “gets screwed over” at the event. Traditionally, screw parties involve members of an organization matching each other up with other members of the College community as dates for the event. Referring to such parties as screws lowers the prospect of someone attending the event with a friend or otherwise platonic companion and enforces the idea that the hosts expect the dates to have sexual encounters with their assigned partner. Abolishing the term screw would help to desexualize the climate of these events and promote respect for the expectations of invited guests and the varying desires of participants.

Teams and other organizations on campus must also consider the consequences of the activities that occur at these events for group members and guests alike. No campus organization ties members’ wrists in the way that many groups bind pairs of dates together at screw parties. Dates are often told that in order to be untied they must finish the entirety of the alcohol presented to them. This is a troubling practice that encourages fast and excessive alcohol consumption while stigmatizing non-drinkers, creating an environment in which non-consensual sexual encounters are more likely to occur. As the College continues to strive toward preventing sexual assault and ensuring safety for all students, the persistence of these practices at screw parties undercuts the hard work being performed within the community to address these issues.

Though screw events collectively share an condemnable history, the College should not ban all matchmaking parties. Rather, it must impress accountability upon student organizations to create a social atmosphere in accordance with the mission and values of this institution. To make such parties safer and more comfortable, organizations that seek to host functions involving dates ought to examine the nature of their own events and implement a series of thoughtful changes. Hosting organizations must ensure that anyone within the group who is engaged in matchmaking understands the expectations of the person or people for whom they are finding a date, and, additionally, that the wishes of the invited guests receive their respect as well.

Furthermore, given the College’s desire to foster a social climate not dependent on alcohol consumption, hosting groups should incorporate more substance-free activities into their events. Leaders of these groups, such as team captains and club presidents, must understand the responsibilities that come with their positions and work towards cultivating an ethos at these events that is reflective of the group’s objectives. Ultimately, a name change alone will not rid screw parties of their overly sexualized reputation and problematic partying habits do not exist exclusively at these events. With increased communication and renewed respect for others, the social climate of the College and its events can fall more in line with the community’s goals for the institution.

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