Outside of these gates and far away from College Hill, Brown has received plenty of attention from the media these past few years. Who can forget how the decision to rename Columbus Day "Fall Weekend" caught national attention these past two years? Or two years ago, when a student threw a pie at New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman? Among these past incidents, none was more embarrassing than Bill O'Reilly's segment on Queer Alliance's annual party, Sex Power God.
This Saturday night's SPG marks a turning point for the University. None of the students who will attend, apart from a few '09.5ers, were here back in the fall of 2005 when an undercover reporter taped students at the dance. That year, a record number of students were EMSed due to intoxication, and the University was publicly embarrassed.
Since then, the QA has gotten a lot tighter about security: Only Brown and RISD students can purchase tickets, and students are checked at the door to make sure they do not bring in any alcohol or enter visibly intoxicated. While these policies have been useful in making SPG a somewhat safer environment, there is still a lot more that can be done.
The problem of safety stems from the culture that surrounds SPG. Before I ever came to Brown, I had heard about this wild, crazy sex party. At the time, I had no interest in ever attending, but now that I am on campus I am constantly surrounded by students who want to go just one time — to see what it is like. There is a certain mystique to SPG: those who would never attend a "sex party" are drawn to take part.
The myth of SPG leads students to believe that they are completely unaccountable for their actions. This fantasy should have been safely shattered four years ago when anyone's face could have ended up on national news. Just because you are wearing less clothing doesn't mean that the consequences are stripped down, too.
Many people I have spoken to have told me very explicitly that there is no way that they would go to SPG without being intoxicated. Since the party forbids alcohol, many people binge drink right before entering, risking their health and judgment. The net results are excessive trips to the emergency room and a reliance on substances for enjoyment.
Furthermore, poor judgment in combination with lack of clothes sets the prime conditions for spread of disease. In the age of H1N1, where coughing in someone's general direction is grounds for angry stares, I would hope that students take their health seriously and limit their exposure to other people's bodily fluids — not an easy thing to do at a party like SPG. There is a proper place on campus for parties like SPG. If you truly enjoy naked parties and have no inhibitions about exploring sex and sexuality at a party like SPG, go for it. I agree that SPG serves a purpose for those students who choose not to abuse it.
There are plenty of other ways to spend twenty dollars. The Latin American Students Organization is having a party the same night as SPG at the bargain rate of only three dollars. Call me stingy, but shelling out twenty bucks for a naked, drunken sweat-fest that I don't even plan on remembering is not my idea of money well spent. In these tough economic times, spending such a ludicrous amount of money on one party might as well be downright shameful.
Besides, SPG is not the only party where students make out and dance provocatively. In the scheme of things, it is just a more expensive, more scantily clad version of any other party. Yet in order to justify spending twenty bucks, many students disregard basic safety to have the quintessential "wild sex party" experience. The high price leads to high expectations.
It is time that SPG be a safe space for students to explore and enjoy themselves. Right now, the culture around SPG encourages binge drinking, unsafe sex and poor decision making. When O'Reilly ran his report four years ago, one of the most stunning images was of a naked student being placed into an ambulance. That event was a wake-up call for the University and for the QA to change the culture that surrounds SPG to one predicated on self-respect and safety. While O'Reilly's segment has been eclipsed in the interceding years by plenty of other newsworthy events at Brown, its legacy lives on.
Ethan Tobias '12 had to see what it was like to experience writing this column, just this one time. He can be reached at Ethan_Tobias-at-brown.edu