Almost three years ago, right before I first came to Penn, the "good luck" and "bon voyage" that I had been hearing all summer from friends and other well–wishers turned into “don’t party too hard!” and “remember, school comes first!” I quickly learned that Penn is wildly known as “the Social Ivy:” the Ivy most affiliated with partying.
I have never been a partier, but I was curious to see the fantastic and potentially debauched social establishments for which my school was apparently famous. So, in the beginning of freshman year, my friends and I did as the Romans do: we stood outside frat houses and waited to be invited in.
During the last party we went to that fall, a friend and I left disinterested after only fifteen minutes. However, as we walked out along the side of the house, we were stopped. A large young man blocked our way and slowly backed us into the dumpster lining the wall.
Staring up at his shadowy form in the dark, I couldn’t help but harken back to that scene in “Alien,” the one where Ripley sees the space monster for the first time. Up until then, she knows that there’s a threatening presence on her ship, because her crew members have encountered it, but she doesn’t actually catch a glimpse until she’s trying to escape. It’s casually lolling in one of the chambers, and it doesn’t notice her crouching-—petrified-—in the hall.
I knew exactly how she felt. But Ripley’s creature hadn’t noticed her, while mine was staring right at me.
His thick arms were folded across his strapping chest and he had glinting studs in both his ears. A fat tongue ring bobbed up and down behind his parted lips, and I could see it clearly, even in the dark, because he was chewing on a glowstick, and this illuminated half his face.
He began to flirt aggressively with us. He pawed at the necklace around my neck and ripped the phone out of my hands. We got away unscathed, but his behavior and the location both seemed threatening. Later, I was disgusted that I even wound up in a place where something bad could have happened, but I mostly hated the culture that facilitated such a risk. I wasn’t drinking, I hadn’t even accepted anything and I didn’t try to walk home alone. I had done everything right and something had still gone wrong.
I have nothing against the idea of such institutions, but, as a girl, I don’t always feel safe or smart frequenting certain parties. While some frats contribute to this reputation more than others, it’s possibly because they operate under this kind of modern party culture. The Animal Houses of old are more known for their bacchanalian shenanigans than anything else, but nowadays it feels like there is a more threatening atmosphere in more widespread territory. The important thing is to be careful—anywhere you go. Because in space, no one can hear you scream.