Boys will be boys: Engendering the inexcusable

MIKE LITTWIN

April 14, 1993|By MIKE LITTWIN

I've been watching this Spur Posse story with more than a little interest. You've probably heard about it. High school boys in suburban, middle-class L.A. kept score of their sexual conquests -- one point for each girl, whether or not the issue was bTC forced.

The reaction is the scary part. The boys, belonging to a popular crowd who call themselves the Spur Posse, are basically heroes back at old Lakewood High and, as if local fame were insufficient, get interviewed on national TV. Many of the parents defend their sons as red-blooded American boys (as in boys who will be boys).

Meanwhile, the girls who were being counted get labeled "sluts."

Remember sluts? We had one in my high school I'll call Mary Jane. She was a not-very-good-looking, not-very-popular girl who was rumored to have a fondness for the back seat of anybody's car. I remember I couldn't wait to get a car.

That's what's so eerie about this story: the time-warp factor.

How did we suddenly get back to 1965?

In our era of the so-called politically correct, this is a throwback to the days of the double standard when young boys were encouraged to sow their wild oats and young girls -- good girls, anyhow -- were encouraged to keep their knees placed tightly together. Hormones were strictly a male preserve.

I've been watching this story because I have my own story. It's not quite as sordid, but it's sordid enough.

When I went to college in the late '60s, my school was all male. For female companionship, there were a half-dozen or so all-women schools, then called all-girl schools, within a 60-mile radius. If you visited one of these schools, it was known as going down the road.

We went down the road as often as possible.

And in my freshman dorm, somebody came up with the idea of a contest. Hey, you couldn't study all the time. What we decided was that those on one side of the third floor of Bonnycastle would compete with those on the other side -- one point for each night down the road, with each contestant putting at risk a six-pack of beer.

You didn't have to make any conquests. You didn't even have to get a date. Just making it onto a campus got you your point, if not necessarily anything else.

We won, thanks to Jim, who averaged -- yes, averaged -- four nights a week over the entire second semester in pursuit of the opposite sex. This was a guy who never had a date in high school and was determined to make up for lost time. He was also a guy who, on a blind date, would typically ask the woman to pose for him. If she turned around, and he didn't like what he saw, end of date.

Jim was, yes, a pig, even for that era. As I remember it, though, we were all fairly piggish, with some simply more piggish than others.

The thing is, our behavior was encouraged. At this same college, there was an honor code. If you cheated, stole or lied, you were kicked out of school. As simple as that.

In many ways, it was a great system. You could keep your door unlocked. Exams were not proctored (although there was more cheating than anyone wanted to admit). There was a sense on campus that honesty was actually a policy worth pursuing.

As for lying, well, that's where the system unraveled. As freshmen, we were brought together in dorm-sized groups to discuss the honor code. I don't know how the code was actually worded -- we were college students; you didn't expect us to read -- but I know what we were told. We were told that the lying section did not pertain to, uh, dating.

You could call any girl beautiful if you wanted. You could say you would respect her in the morning. You could ply her with liquor. You could do whatever you wanted, and it would be met with a wink.

The typical male behavior was captured perfectly in the movie "Animal House" when Otter got himself a date by pretending to be the fiance of Fawn Leibowitz, who, he knew, had just died in a kiln explosion. Fawn's sympathetic roommate said she would go out with Otter, who then, through tears, popped one of the most famous questions in cinematic history: "And could you get three dates for my friends?"

That was then. This is now. Now, men are supposed to have learned to respect women and to recognize that there is more to life than the demands made by their hormones.

That's what they say, anyway. I wonder: Is anybody keeping score?

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