Our Dangerous Swagger?

Maureen Dowd begins “Their Dangerous Swagger” in today’s New York Times with this:

It was set up like a fantasy football league draft. The height, weight and performance statistics of the draftees were offered to decide who would make the cut and who would emerge as the No. 1 pick.

But the players in this predatory game were not famous N.F.L. stars. They were unwitting girls about to start high school.

A group of soon-to-be freshmen boys at Landon, an elite private grade school and high school for boys in the wealthy Washington suburb of Montgomery County, Md., was drafting local girls.

One team was called “The Southside Slampigs,” and one boy dubbed his team with crude street slang for drug-addicted prostitutes.

The young woman who was the “top pick” was described by one of the boys in a team profile he put up online as “sweet, outgoing, friendly, willing to get down and dirty and [expletive] party. Coming in at 90 pounds, 5’2 and a bra size 34d.” She would be a special asset to the team, he noted, because her mother “is quite the cougar herself.”

Before they got caught last summer, the boys had planned an “opening day party,” complete with T-shirts, where the mission was to invite the drafted girls and, unbeknownst to them, score points by trying to rack up as many sexual encounters with the young women as possible.

“They evidently got points for first, second and third base,” said one outraged father of a drafted girl. “They were going to have parties and tally up the points, and money was going to be exchanged at the end of the season.” He said that the boys would also have earned points for “schmoozing with the parents.”

His daughter, he said, “was very upset about it. She thought these guys were her friends. This is the way we teach boys to treat women, young ladies? You have enough to worry about as a 14- or 15-year-old girl without having to worry about guys who are doing it as sport.”

Another parent was equally appalled: “I think the girls felt like they were getting targeted, that this was some big game. Talk about using people. It doesn’t get much worse than that.”

Landon is where the sons of many prominent members of the community are sent to learn “the code of character,” where “a Landon man” is part of a “true Brotherhood” and is known for his good word, respect and honesty. The school’s Web site boasts about the Landon Civility Code; boys are expected to “work together to eliminate all forms of disrespect” and “respect one another and our surroundings in our decorum, appearance, and interactions.”


5 thoughts on “Our Dangerous Swagger?

  1. Fort Myers, Florida
    11:25 pm
    It is a fitting irony that your column appears the same day Robert Wright waxes poetic about the metaphorical lessons to be learned from the botched umpire’s call that robbed Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga of a perfect game. For so many men, evidently including Wright, life can’t be fully experienced or understood except in the context of competitive sports. That limited worldview, however lyrically one looks at the bright side, also encourages a sort of reverse metaphor — wherein life imitates sport, & life is lived through the lens of competitive athletics.

    That’s what is happening when teenaged boys invent the “sport” of scoring against unsuspecting girls. It’s what happens when the “solidarity” of the team is more important than the safety of a young woman, who ironically was a team player, too. What else explains Huguely’s teammates’ failure to report his pattern of dangerous behavior? They put sports before life. Period.

    Until grown men learn to put sports in perspective, until high schools, colleges & universities quit putting sports before academics, until municipalities quit funding bigger & more expensive sports stadia, until team owners quit awarding obscene compensation packages to young men who can hit or carry a ball or shoot it thru hoops, until TV networks quit negotiating outlandish contracts with sports teams & leagues, until the President of the United States quits interrupting his real job to congratulate the champs of every known team sport played in the U.S., there will be incidents like the ones you describe.

    This country’s moral compass has been off true North for some time, and the pathological obsession with sports is one of the reasons the arrow is headed South.

  2. Dowd ends her op- ed piece with the following statement. “Time for a curriculum overhaul. Young men must be taught, beyond platitudes,that young women are not prey”.

    I suspect that this outcome is harder to effect at single sex male only schools. Boys in co-ed school are reminded daily that girls have a lot to contribute to the classroom and by extension to the world. I applaud UCC’s efforts to have our boys participate in co-ed activities, and hope that this programming is expanded.

  3. There are so many parts of this that are profoundly disturbing. And Landon is not all that different from any other boys school.

    What is salt in the wounds is the fact that, on top of this monstrous behavior, the boys get points for “schmoozing” with adults. My fear is that, despite our best intentions, we may be raising far too many Eddie Haskels. (Ok. Now I know I am dating myself, but Jerry Mathers turned 62 last week…)

  4. Disturbing, but what about this do you find surprising? You would be hard pressed to find a school web site that did not boast some variation or another on the Civility Code. Real life rears its ugly head here, there, and everywhere.

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