By Heather O.
This video is circulating around FB. If you’re too lazy to click the link, basically it’s a video made by guys at BYU that shows how easily it is to get a girl’s phone number. Just ask! Yes, two guys go up to women they have never met, say to them, “Put your number in my phone.” And the women do it. According to the blurb on the bottom of the video, only 25% of the girls they approached refused.
It seems absurd, dangerous even, that these women would so willingly give these men their phone numbers. The facebook comments I read talked about how this could be an example of programming women in the church to say “yes” to men, a result of overemphasis on marriage and patriarchy. It’s scary and crazy and indicative of how brainwashed we all really are.
But, but, but…I know that women are saying “yes” to men in other places than just BYU. And that it might not be a bad thing that these women trust these guys not to hurt them.
Let me ’splain.
I attended Boston University as an undergraduate. When I got there, I was fresh faced co-ed from Salt Lake City, whose best friends in high school were all Mormon. I had a boyfriend for two years in high school who was also Mormon, and the craziest thing we ever did was go bowling dressed in our Sunday best. And while I was aware of alcohol and sex, they weren’t an integral part of how I interacted with my friend or peers, or my boyfriend, for that matter. His desire to go on a mission, an overabundance of chastity lessons, and good old fashioned guilt kept us from crossing that line.
The first weekend night I got to Boston, I went out with my roommate and some new friends. We went to a club down by Fenway park. None of my new friends were 21, but two or three of them had fake IDs, and they managed to get drinks. The rest of us danced the whole time. We stayed until the bar/club closed, at 2am, and then farted around the street for a little while as all the clubs let out, hit a Store 24 for some water (hydration is key when you’re drinking, I’m told), and finally ended up at home at 4am. I had told a friend back home that I would call him after my first week at BU. He was shocked when he got my call at 2:30am Utah time.
The friends I was with were the quintessential college girls. Pretty, young, in excellent physical shape (one was an aerobics instructor), and relentlessly flirty. I was told by one of the girls that they had gone out the weekend before, and one of them, I’ll call her Keisha, ended up going home and having sex with a man she met that night. When I was being told this story, Keisha was engaged in some particularly, um, enthusiastic bump and grind dance with an unknown male, and the friend telling me this story was hoping Keisha wouldn’t go home with a guy again, because it had been a pain in the butt trying to retrieve her last weekend, and nobody wanted to spend their evening chasing down her whereabouts.
In the meantime, I was approached by a guy who expressed his interest in me. He asked my name, I gave him a false one. He asked where I lived, I gave him a vague response. He asked where I went to school, and I told him BU, and he said, “Oh, me too!” He kept pressing for details, then kept pressing ME, and when he said, “Can I have your number? I really want to keep in touch”, I literally wiggled out of his embrace and told him my friends were leaving, and went to find a friendly face.
Over my four years at BU, this scenario played itself out several times. I didn’t put myself in the situation often, as dancing as clubs isn’t all that fun when you’re sober, but sometimes even when my friends and I were just messing around, we would get propositioned in some way or another. I remember walking through town one night with three of my friends. A car pulled up next to us, a jeep full of college guys. We didn’t know them, had never seen them before. They told us they went to Boston College, that there was a raging party going on, and did we want to join them. One of my friends immediately squealed and hopped in the car. My other friend rolled her eyes, said she’d go to look after the squealer. That left me and one other girl, and I said to her, “There is no way in hell I’m getting in that car, but if you want to go, I’m fine walking home alone.” She agreed to stay with me, and we waved the other two off. I wondered vaguely if my friends were heading off to be raped.
(They were fine, by the way. A boring time and a small hangover were the main results of the evening.)
One semester, I worked at Pizzeria Uno. While working there, I came to understand the definition of sexual harassment, although at the time I was too young and too dumb to know what to do about it. I was an easy target, I suppose, which is why it happened so much. I was also asked out by one of the waiters, and I told him no, saying I wasn’t his kind of girl. He asked me why I thought that, and I told him that I didn’t smoke weed, I didn’t drink, and I didn’t have sex. His eyes kind of got big and said, “So what DO you do?” When I told him that I was happy to go to a movie with him and maybe out for coke (not a coffee or a beer) afterwards to talk, he said, “Talk. Talk? Really? Yeah, I guess I could talk. Really, just talk?” I smiled and shrugged. He never asked me out again.
Also, the BU hockey team was at its height of success as the best hockey team in the country. That made members of the hockey team literal gods on campus. And there was a name for girls who slept with the hockey team. I won’t write the whole thing here, because this is a family blog, but I’ll say it’s a rhyming term that started with the word “Puck.” Remember Keisha? She was ultimately branded with that title. She had sex with a random hockey player on the countertop of a pizza place (after hours, of course. The hockey team had keys to the pizza restaurant across from the rink, an arrangement I never fully understood).
I write all of this not to paint Boston as a city full of degenerate sex addicts, or even to say that non-Mormon men are demanding sex all the time. Waiter-boy aside, I dated some awesome, amazing, wonderful men who were nothing but absolutely 100% respectful of my beliefs about chastity. I write this to show that women saying “yes” to strange men is happening in more places than at BYU, and in more dangerous ways than just giving out a phone number. I also write it to tell you the mindset I was in when I showed up there.
I took a few classes at BYU the summer before my junior year at Boston University. I did it for a few reasons: 1) I was trying to decide if I really wanted to stay in Boston, and I thought a change of pace might help me decide. 2) I was hoping to study abroad in Germany, and wanted some extra boost to my language skills. 3) I was just curious. What was BYU like?
I roomed with a girl I had worked with the summer before. It was an apartment with 3 other girls, 5 of us total. One night, I was the only one home when there was a knock at the door. A guy stood at the door, asking for my roommate. I told him she wasn’t there, that I had just moved in. He smiled, introduced himself, and said, “Hey, a group of us are going rollarblading, and then out for ice-cream afterwards. Do you want to come?” I started to turn him down, a knee-jerk reaction I had developed in my time in Boston, because I had always felt like with a strange man, you never knew where the evening would end. But I realized that with this guy, this nice returned missionary Mormon guy, he really was asking me to go rollarblading and out for ice-cream afterwards. So I said yes. And we had a great time.
I dated a few guys during that semester at BYU, and every time I felt a palpable sense relief that I was dating somebody who wasn’t expecting something at the end of the night. I said yes to many people I would normally have said no too, simply because I trusted that these Mormon guys wouldn’t do anything too creepy, or anything to hurt me. (Not to say that I didn’t have embarrassing or humiliating encounters. If it wasn’t embarrassing and humiliating, then you couldn’t call it dating.)
I’m not saying that Mormon men never ask for or expect sex. I’m not saying that people aren’t having sex at BYU (indeed, one of my roommates at BYU got as much or more action than my non-Mormon roommates at BU). And I’m definitely not saying that a Mormon man isn’t capable of assaulting or raping a woman. But I’m saying that the cultural taboo of sex before marriage in the Mormon world, for better or for worse, makes it easier to say yes to a cute stranger who asks you for your phone number. And that when somebody says, “Wanna go rollarblading and get some ice-cream?”, the chances are really high that the night will end with you standing on your door step, licking a double scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough ice-cream while the guy gives you a half hearted squeeze around your shoulders and says, “See you next time!”
And that’s not a bad thing.