The air is thick with weed smoke, blue razz vapor, and 2000’s throwbacks. This has to be another Berkeley High School (BHS) party, and it all seems like innocent fun as “Beautiful Girls” plays on maximum volume through the sputtering bluetooth speaker, but is there a more sinister angle to this gathering? If you’ve ever been a part of organizing a party, you’ve probably heard the phrase “the ratio” brought up — probably by a guy — and used as a barometer for the state of the party. The ratio of boys to girls is the quantifiable measurement of fun or failure, and many guys would say success is when it’s as many or more girls than guys. Why? Is it because straight guys don’t dance without girls to match? It’s more likely that our party culture, and especially straight men, obsess over the idea of spontaneous sex, and in the process dehumanize whoever they’re looking for and suck a lot of the fun out of partying.
It’s not hard to notice the division of genders at most high school parties. If you go to wherever the music is playing you’ll see girls, with the odd guy in there, congregated and dancing together. On the other hand, most guys hug the wall: drinking and talking, but with their attention focused inward. The scene resembles a herd of prey huddling for protection while salivating predators look on. You could argue that this is just because of guys being awkward or girls wanting to dance, but you can’t deny the split in the dynamic. This division, combined with an abundance of alcohol and drugs, can lead to a very uncomfortable time for everyone involved — especially the girls.
It seems that most students at BHS have accepted that this is what parties are going to be like. To have a good time, you have to give in to unwanted touching, catcalls, and guys squinting at girls up and down like they need their vision tested. Plenty of girls who go to Blowout, the twice a year BHS party with a high admission fee, say that it’s gross and they feel unsafe, and then proceed to go to the next one. And who can blame them? Teens want to have fun and jump around to some loud music with their friends. The ones at fault are the guys who break boundaries for peer approval and think they deserve something from girls just for showing up. In this dynamic, people looking for a hook-up reduce themselves to consumers and products, and you don’t even get to choose your role. Girls who enter a party feeling like they control where and with whom they go can lose that agency once they fall into these roles, and guys who might rather wait for attention are pressured to pursue it. One way to restore some balance is through simple, active consent. Asking if someone would like to dance with you is an easy prevention to the hurt one can cause by just trusting their instincts.
Having an opportunity to hook up at parties is not the root of the issue here. The problem is that for many people, besides being intoxicated and maybe dancing, a chance at something sexual is the main draw to go out at all. It’s this atmosphere creating an expectation of sexual activity that can ruin the fun. The focus is moved away from conversation, games, or dancing, and towards guys and girls looking at each other as opportunities, not people. This expectation makes some feel unsafe, some feel special, some feel left behind, and makes partying a lot less enjoyable for everyone.