As I sat in the packed, aptly named Hooker Auditorium at Mount Holyoke College, I wondered how I’d ended up in such a situation. Three Mount Holyoke College students had stripped down to their unmentionables and were gyrating against each other on what typically serves as a desk for panel discussions, all in the name of democracy.
It was the College Democrats’ Annual Date Auction, and while I’m sure the money was going to a good cause, I must say I can’t remember exactly what that cause was, and, judging by the stench of alcohol in the air and the loose reminder that nothing that appeared to be alcohol could be consumed in the auditorium, I’m guessing no one else could either.
It seems as if I’ve been subjected to a number of disturbing events this year, and oddly enough, most of these have been sponsored by student organizations. I don’t consider myself uptight, but having organizations that are affiliated with the college sponsor such events seems a little sketchy. The school funds these organizations after all, and I’ve heard Mount Holyoke isn’t the only college sponsoring such events. As students we’re under a lot of stress, I get that, but that shouldn’t really make us want to jump up on a stage, rip off our clothes, and make out with our friends so we can sell ourselves for twenty dollars more.
I’ll admit I was a willing spectator. When you attend an all women’s college, tales of men parading around in front of you tend to spark your curiosity. People said the date auction was something you had to see to believe, and they were right. I got there right before they ran out of chairs and started seating people on the stairs. It was unbelievably hot in the room and it was clear that quite a few people were already drunk when the auctioneer gave her house rules, one of which was: “No always means no.” An important message no doubt.
Then came the auctionees: women from Mount Holyoke, and men they’d imported from other colleges. It started out innocently enough with a tall, thin girl who stripped off her baggy clothes to reveal a skin tight, but relatively modest black dress, then did a split on the makeshift stage.
“How could you not pay forty-five dollars for that?” our auctioneer exclaimed over the screams of her audience.
As the evening wore on, however, more clothes came off; water guns were employed, and cans of beer were thrown at the auctionees. But the most disturbing moment of the night was yet to come. While one of his friends was being auctioned off, a man who had already been purchased jumped onto the stage in an attempt to be funny. Changing his mind rather quickly, however, he turned to jump off, slipped on the soaking wet stage, and slammed his shoulder into the floor.
The audience managed to seem slightly shocked. The auctioneer paused for a moment; everything seemed to be at a standstill. But, no worries, as soon as a couple of people in the first row began to tend to him, the auction went on. He lay on the ground for a good five or ten minutes as other auctionees pranced back and forth on the stage above him. Then his friends carried him out the back, and our lovely auctioneer later informed us that precautions must be taken when moving about the stage because some guy had dislocated his shoulder.
The public drunkenness and near nudity, I could handle, but I must admit, I was slightly unnerved by the lukewarm reaction of the crowd when our gravitationally challenged friend crashed to the floor. He managed to come out of it with only a dislocated shoulder, but what if it had been worse? If they’d carried him out on a stretcher would we have all just sat there hooting and hollering at the next person up on stage? I’m not saying they should have stopped the auction altogether, but they could have at least waited until he left before bringing out the next person.
Now, I know people on campuses across America would be horribly distraught if I suggested doing away with a time-honored tradition like the date auction, so I’ll just say this: Can’t we dial it back a notch? Let’s just drink a little less, take off a bit less clothing, and try to dry off the stage every once and a while.