It is in the wind here at Georgetown, carried in every puff of hurried breath laced with 5 gum, Marlboro or coffee mixed with last night’s Burnett’s. Connotations, insinuations and expectations pour out of every glance; every passing word; every decision on where to sit in class; what level to work on in Lauinger Library, where you are at 2 a.m. on a Friday; and even what coffee order you make the next morning.
Many of these personal trends hardly need to be scrutinized by others for them to extrapolate social casting because the associations are so concretized: “Short Mac” equals unapologetic international who will experience a surging superiority complex when the Corp barista does not understand the order; “Toasted Graham Latte” equals coastal, suburban American who truly identifies with Elle.com when proclaiming that Kendall Jenner’s ability to put on leggings and a T-shirt that do not clash “is everything.”
The connotations of where and at what time you engage in certain life rituals make up the pervasive Georgetown culture, a lens through which we have become so used to categorizing people that we no longer see it as judgment but simply as another manifestation of our type-A behavior. Blacked out on a Tuesday? B-frat. Gets back from dinner at 11 p.m.? Euro. Smokes weed at 9 a.m. on a Monday but is in bed by 9 p.m. on a Friday? Athlete.
Certain schools have their classes in certain buildings, freshmen live in freshman dorms and people who wear a lot of black have a foreign passport — wait, what?
Although these “cultural” markers play a massive part in social life at Georgetown, there is one final factor that is even more coherent when it comes to social perception: sex. As someone who went to a tiny, independent school where I had known most of my graduating class since a perfect cartwheel was my proudest achievement, sexual politics did not play into my everyday, academic life. Those things stayed neatly nestled into weekend coffees, 3 a.m. consultations with my girls in club bathrooms and drunken rants at house parties with our larger group of friends from surrounding schools. This dynamic, I have now discovered, was a valuable convenience. The fact that I liked to dance on tables did not usurp the fact that I could analyze poetry or was valedictorian.
Here, however, no such separation exists. Not only do we, 7,000 guys and girls with above-average eyebrow game and leg day attendance records, go to class together; we eat together, engage in horrifyingly competitive club opportunities together and, the real deal breaker, we live together. That means, basically, that everyone is all up in everyone else’s business. The table-dancing me does not get to be left at The Huxley, and the middle-of-the-night-on-a-Saturday me does not get to stay beneath the sheets. I have been astonished, disgusted and frightened by the way peoples’ sexual appeal can commandeer an opinionated, knowledgeable, quirky personality and box all that away for a handsome face or a shapely butt before anyone even realizes it. Suddenly, mildly douchey but vigorously fun guys who would have been great friends in times gone by are the pretty faces you turn away from in Midnight MUG to avoid awkward posthookup encounters, or at best stare at while engaging in mind-numbing conversations during which they are too lost on what you would look like out of your jeans to articulate how they really feel about fracking or their absentee fathers. Ubiquitous sexualization has erased our ability to forge solid, meaningful friendships with those whom we may, subsequently, have built healthy romantic relationships.
We have constructed, and sustain, a culture of instant gratification. Postmates, Netflix … and sex. He lives just down the hall, right? Again, our type-A need for efficiency has led us away from dating and into a hookup culture that necessitates emotional disconnection. This dictates that if someone hopes to get into bed with you at some point, that person is disincentivized from getting to know you. Resultantly, we have molded a culture where the more sexually appealing you are, the less you are appreciated as a multifaceted human being. If you happen to fall into a category that is particularly easy to see as appropriate for sexual exploitation, a minority or belonging to a stereotypically sexualized group, then this minimization of your person is ever more likely.
I get that we like labels and abbreviations, but our extension of this to abbreviating people is not doing us any good. We get it — it has been said, written and shared on Facebook — Hoyas are sexy. But we are more than our coffee orders and our nightlife habits and our abs and butts. Yes, Hoyas are sexy … but can we please get over it?
Summer Lyle-Holmes is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service.