DRYER: An alternative to Screw

annelisa freshman screw feb 7 copy
Photo by Annelisa Leinbach.

I was already a nervous freshman. But when my Harvest leader told me what Freshman Screw was, the butterflies in my stomach turned into bats and I briefly considered staying on the farm forever instead of going to college.

The reason I felt so uneasy was that my expectations had already begun to build — in my mind, Screw was a Major Rite of Passage and perhaps even the Biggest Night of Freshman Year! (I had yet to learn about Safety Dance. RIP.) My blind date could be a future significant other, a potentially awesome one-night stand or even a lifelong friend. My thinking was, because Screw can produce all of these great outcomes, if it ends up being a disappointment, I will have missed out on a classic Yale tradition.

Of course, not every freshman gets as anxious as I did about Freshman Screw, or anything for that matter. But we all know that the expectations that build up around this kind of event can lead to many types of pressure — whether it’s the internal kind of pressure that I put on myself, the direct pressure applied by peers or a more general, ambient pressure.

That’s why the healthiest and most fun nights are the ones with options at every step of the way. If you don’t want to go to Freshman Screw, you shouldn’t have to. If you don’t want to drink, you should be able to grab a Sprite. But if you’re not the Global Grounds type and don’t feel like going to the dance with friends, you still shouldn’t have to feel that the night inevitably ends with you and your date in the same bed.

With this in mind, the Freshman Counselors and Communication and Consent Educators teamed up to make the end of the night as option-rich as possible. For example, the Trumbull and Calhoun FroCos and CCEs built a cozy place to hang out in the Bingham Hall rotunda. We set up chairs, sofas, and cushions, ordered more pizza and doughnuts than I have ever seen at one time and in one place, put on a great Spotify playlist and laid out a board of Settlers of Catan. We wanted freshmen returning from the dance to be greeted by an inviting scene full of familiar faces.

It was critical to the organizers of these events to avoid salting anyone’s game. It is just as important to promote fun and enthusiastic sexual encounters as it is to prevent pressured ones. Both projects are necessary to achieve the kind of positive and healthy sexual climate that campus leaders such as Frocos and CCEs are striving to build.

And so, efforts to improve Screw needed to be subtle. Nobody was going to tell freshmen to make room for the Holy Ghost, and the environment had to be relaxed and informal. If two people were both psyched to head upstairs together, more power to them. Go ahead, virile freshpeople! But for those who were unsure whether they wanted to hook up, these spaces provided a moment for them to think about their options while chewing on a Krispy Kreme.

The hard work and care of the FroCos at these and other events cannot be overstated — but the goal was not to make them play chaperone. The logic behind our post-Screw checkpoints was that we could help dissipate all kinds of pressure by giving people the space and time to make the choices they wanted to make. And that’s what we should always strive for — not only at future Freshman Screws, but also hopefully after college dances, Spring Fling or Safety Dance, if it ever comes back from the dead. The CCEs don’t want to be the sex police, as hilarious as the uniform would probably be. We want to help cultivate an environment in which people look out for each other, in which enthusiastic encounters abound and sexual misconduct withers organically before it can even start.

Eliza Dryer is a senior in Trumbull College. She is a Community and Consent Educator. Contact her at eliza.dryer@yale.edu .

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